Mr. India (a grand musical) by NAATAK – Play Review


 

Written and directed by Sujit Saraf, this grand production, interspersed with dances and ear catching lyrics, is truly amazing.  Very special kudos to Dance Director, Niharika Mohanty and Music Director Nachiketa Yakkundi for bringing to life this grand musical in a very memorable way.  Although the dialogues and lyrics are all in Hindi, timely and apt English translation appears right above the stage so non-Hindi speaking people are not likely to miss a single dialogue.
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It starts with a story of Gopal.
कौन है ये गोपाल? उसका जवाब नाटक से ही लेते है. दिल्ली में है लाल किल्ला उसके पीछे यमुना की धार, उसकी बगल में है गोपाल पांडे की छोटी सी दुकान. छोटासा एक चाय स्टोल, आगे लगी लंबी कतार.  Half blind, bumbling tea seller, Gopal Pande is a simple man.  But he gets caught in the historical events that unfolded following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in India, in 1984.  Her assassination led to the country being thrown into chaos of anti-Sikh riots.  खून का बदला खून से लेंगे, हर सरदार के रुपये दस. wp-1474043149576.jpg

This play is a hard hitting satire on democracy.  Churchill once argued that democracy “was the worst system except for all the others.”   Churchill also said, “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”.  Indeed in the current election season in the US, we can see how divisive the country has become and how easy it is to sway the public, so that the polls tip the balance in favor of one candidate one week and the next week, numbers are reversed.

wp-1474043149572.jpgSo how does a humble tea seller get caught in the momentous events unfolding in India, after the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi.  There was a need for a strong political leader to unite the country and bring calm but instead the election resulted in a hung parliament in 1989.  Set during that turbulent period in history, the play depicts, ultra right BJP and left leaning Congress in bitter rivalry.  BJP is spreading lies about Congress and vice versa.  हम करते इंदिरा विरोध , समझे उसको मूर्ख अबोध, मुसलमान को देती किरपा, हिंदू मर्दों को निरोध.  Forces on the left and right are seeking to find a right leader to back, who could be manipulated and also who would be most easily acceptable to the public.

naatakThis foolish, uneducated simple man, Gopal becomes their object of attention.  We can see some parallels with the current elections where someone widely deemed unfit has become nominee of one party.  Sujit Saraf is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant directors.  Natraj Kumar in the role of Gopal is outstanding.  Also very special mention to Production Designer, Snigdha Jain for her vision in depicting the set as one big mural.  And kudos to Props Director, Savitha Samu and Sets Director, Ashish Divetia.  It is one of the best and one of the most complicated set I have seen on stage at Cubberly.  With a huge cast, complex set, big music and dance teams, the performance was flawless.  Shows are playing to sold out audiences.  If you don’t have your tickets then get them fast at www.naatak.com .

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