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Produced By Aarambh Mumbai
Helmed by Purva Naresh (a playwright and theatre producer), Gopal Dutt (actor and lyricist) and Naresh Saxena (a noted Hindi poet), Aarambh Mumbai is a theatre group that has, for the last five years, been continuously putting up productions in Hindi that have gained national and international recognition. Their productions have been invited to all the best theatre festivals in the country including META, Bharangam, Prithvi Theatre Festival, Centre stage Festival NCPA Mumbai, Adi Vidrohi Festival Bhopal and Bharat Bhavan. Aarambh’s repertoire includes Aaj Rang Hai, Ok Tata Bye Bye, Preth, Tunni Ki Kahani and Umrao.
Afsaneh is a story of two singers, one a nautanki singer and the other a baithak [classical] singer. Both performers relive days of their glory and have witty anecdotes to tell of escapes from kings palaces, slapping British officers, getting kidnapped by the local rangeeley zamindars, refuting lovelorn nawabs and getting duped by charming and conniving men in the name of love and marriage. Each anecdote is accompanied by a musical and a dance number. Each anecdote is exploration into time and seeing things with a revived and perhaps revised perspective. For example a, manglacharan written in english during the British times, in respect of Queen Elizabeth. It is hilarious and yet also a piece of history. Afsaneh is evocative, nostalgic, romantic and full of music, humour, pathos, relevance and has the potential to glam up. It has all the makings of being a crowd pleaser and theatrically strong as well. It does have the amazing capacity to make people laugh, think, stun them and to bring them to tears in the end. The theatrical potential is immense as we traverse time and perspective throughout the narrative. As we explore the lives of the two women we touch upon some golden moments of the history of performing arts through time. Traversing in time through memoirs can be tricky. Because one always remembers the past as a combination of how it happened and how it should have happened. The desire to superimpose ones desires on time is inevitable. The lives of the two women are not lessons in history but life as well.
Produced By Aarambh MumbaiMore Info+
Directed By Purva Naresh
Ipshita Chakraborty Singh
Niharika Lyra Dutt
The Daily Pao
7th October 2017
‘BANDISH 20-20,000HZ’ PLAY REVIEW: PURVA NARESH’S MUSICAL IS A MEDLEY OF MULTIPLE IDEAS
Director: Purva Naresh
Cast: Anubha Fatehpuri, Nivedita Bhargava, Danish Husain, Ipshita Chakraborty Singh, Hitesh Malukani
Language: Hindi, English
Dualities are at the heart of director-writer Purva Naresh’s Bandish 20-20,000Hz, starting with the play’s title. Bandish, which means ‘restraint’, is also the word for ‘composition’ in Hindustani classical music; the suffix 20-20,000Hz refers to the frequencies the human ear is capable of hearing. Then, there are the two main characters, sprightly nautanki singer Champa (Fatehpuri) and frail thumri and ghazal exponent Beni (Bhargava), respectively called the “dekhni wali” and “sunne wali” in the play. They’re being honoured at a function organised to mark 70 years of India’s independence, and are paralleled by a pair of younger counterparts, reality TV contest winning singing sensation Kabir (Malukani) and playback singing star Moushumi (Chakraborty Singh), who are to perform at the same event.
Champa is appalled at the idea of taking the stage and not performing, and insists she will present at least a line or two. In contrast, Beni makes it clear at the onset that she will not sing. After news breaks that Kabir performed in the “neighbouring country” and he is branded an “anti-national”, he is asked to drop his act but refuses. Moushumi, on the other hand, refuses to sing when a power cut prevents the use of in-ear monitors.
While rehearsals are underway for the evening’s extravaganza, Champa, Beni and their common Man Friday Munnu (Husain) regale Kabir and Moushumi with anecdotes from their past, which are played out through a series of musical flashbacks. Traversing from Pre-Independence days to post-colonial times, these include tales in which Champa slaps an aggressive British governor, and Beni laments breaking up with a Hyderabadi royal because he wants to break away from India.
In this way, Bandish 20-20,000Hz shares a similarity with Sunil Shanbag’s Stories In A Song, a series of mini plays conceptualised by singer Shubha Mudgal and tabla player Aneesh Pradhan. That production marked various points in Indian history through music and included a contribution from Naresh. Mudgal has composed most of the music we hear in Bandish. But unlike Stories, which provides the viewer with exactly what it says on the tin, Naresh’s new work feels like a play that strings together multiple ideas for musical interludes rather than a cohesive narrative that seamlessly weaves in songs.
To be fair, many of these ideas are interesting, such as the perceived differences between entertainment and art; concepts of honour and image and what they mean to an artist; and the role of social media in both creating and destroying celebrity. Perhaps the most significant of her considerations is the true meaning of independence, which is especially relevant in India right now when personal freedoms are increasingly being threatened and trolls are given free reign. There’s even a reference to whether we’ll be celebrating 70 years of independence prematurely this year, given that there’s a school of thought that believes true freedom only came with sovereignty in 1950.
In packing the play with so many points to ponder, we are left with only a sliver of a plot. Post-interval, the general joviality of the proceedings take a slightly more sombre tone and Bandish becomes a study of internal conflicts, some of which are too superficial for the audience to feel any sense of empathy. It doesn’t help that we aren’t given a moment to really feel for the characters. The tunes come thick and fast, as many as seven before the interval. Some of these are fun to watch – there’s a bhajan dedicated to Queen Victoria, a tune that ridicules an English officer who doesn’t know any better – but sadly Chakraborty Singh doesn’t quite have the vocal chops to make them truly memorable.
She is tasked with the difficult job of portraying three roles, as she also plays the younger avatars of both Champa and Beni. Husain, on the other hand, essays both the younger and present-day Munnu and this disparity requires some leaps of imagination on behalf of the audience. The actor, who seems to the first choice for a fast-talking, truth-speaking character, is as good as we’ve come to expect but watching Munnu, whose dialogue is made up almost entirely of one-liners, is occasionally tiring.
Even then, the most enjoyable parts of Bandish are when he’s light-heartedly sparring with Fatehpuri who as Champa displays perfect comic timing. There’s a hint of what Bandish could have been when Bhargava and she confess their envy of each other, and we finally see them as individuals instead of constructs of their pasts. Alas, this moment is fleeting.
17th September 2017
It was after a long time that you have seen such perfected play having social message and extremely engaging them of pre independence ERA. Some of the characters will go down your memory for years together. One of the rare plays which I would love to see it again, generally once looks enough. In fact, whole of our family enjoyed it and those who missed are not looking forward to next shows
29th May 2017
Script - 4.5/5
Production - 4.5/5
Lighting - 3/5
Sound - 4.5/5
Acting - Female Actors - 4.5/5, Male Actors - 3.5/5
9th August 2017
The play was brave. Danish Hussain was great. Sound and Light was good. Play got a little bit slow in between but altogether enjoyable expression of the story. The casting was spot on and great. There couldn't have been better 'Munna' in the play. Harsh Khurana was great in play. Last but not the least, Poorva Naresh, she has the tangent which can reach to the sky.
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