Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Friday, Apr 02, 2010
DIWAN SINGH BAJELI
"In NSD Repertory's “Doobi Ladki”, director Bhanu Bharti draws elements from three of Gogol's brilliant stories to create a subtle socio-political statement.
Credible performances A scene from Bhanu Bharti's “Doobi Ladki”.
Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), Russian novelist, dramatist and humorist, is considered to have laid the foundation of the great 19th Century tradition of Russian realism. His novel “Dead Souls” and short story “The Overcoat” are masterpieces of world literature. As far as Hindi theatregoers are concerned, the adaptation of his play “The Government Inspector” (I836) in different styles is immensely popular for its scathing attack on municipal corruption. His short stories like “The Overcoat and “The Nose” have also been staged by different directors with varying success. Now in “Doobi Ladki”, discerning theatregoers have the opportunity to watch a play which draws thematic elements from three of Gogol's stories — including the above mentioned two and “A Night in May”. A creative reconstruction with insights, the narrative has a beginning, a middle and an ending, capturing the aesthetic vision of Gogol: grotesque, tragic and satirical, with emphasis on the little man as the hero. Presented by the Repertory Company of the National School of Drama, the production has been directed by Bhanu Bharti.
The script, jointly written by Bharti and Asif Ali, has the focus on a village ruled by a corrupt and unscrupulous village head and haunted by a maiden who is tragically drowned by her stepmother, a witch, in the village pond. We meet all the major characters from the three great stories that continue to prick the conscience of humanity. The son of the village head Nanhe (Levko) falls in love with Gul (Hanna). The romance of the young lovers unfolds against the backdrop of the tragic story of the Doobi Ladki, the drowned maiden, and the witch-haunted pond. Beneath the surface there is a conflict between the forces of corruption and evil represented by the village head, the witch and dark night, and the forces of freedom, love and hope embodied in the lads of the village.
Bhanu Bharti, one of our front ranking theatre directors, who has achieved eminence with his discovery of a distinct idiom for the contemporary Indian theatre, has produced yet another fine play for the NSD Repertory Company. In the past he has directed for the repertory plays like “Chandrama Singh urf Chamku”, “Yumgatha” and “Aks-Tamasha” which were acclaimed as masterpieces of theatrical art.
Real and surreal
Bhanu appears to have followed two styles in his directorial treatment of “Doobi Ladki” — the realistic and the surrealistic — to create the two worlds of humans and of spirits. The real world is inhabited by the degenerate village head and his victims rotting in poverty and decadence and accursed by the drowned maiden.
Light design by R.K. Dhingra is highly stylised and creative. He could project a pond with waves on the surface, a dark night of the new moon plagued by the dread of young girls who have become victims of the witch, who herself is playing with them in the garb of a beautiful maiden. The offstage sounds deepen the haunted effect. The lighting evokes an enchanting atmosphere of a night lit by the moon, which provides a poetic backdrop for the lovers to meet and express their ardent feelings. Here in this mysterious world, our bewildered and lonely hero, the little man, tries to solve the mystery and free the world from the devil.
The visual emotive structure transforms the whole production into a metaphor with a subtle socio-political statement — the inevitable triumph of love and freedom.
Bharti has conceived the sets in a manner that provides spaces for action in nearly I2 places on multi-tier structures with different heights. These structures create a rural landscape suggesting class differences.
Lucknow-based composer and singer Ravi Nagar's music is imaginative enough to produce powerful emotional impact. The music score for the lyrics rendered by Nanhe and his friends is remarkable for contrast tunes, contributing to make the chorus entertaining as well as reflective of sad musings.
Bhanu and his cast have thoroughly rehearsed the production, the performers trying their best to reveal various layers of their inner and physical world. Boloram Das as Nanhe, the son of the village head who revolts against his father, defeats the sinister design of the witch and liberates the village from the curse of the drowned maiden, acts with conviction. Rakhi Kumari as Gul who falls in love with Nanhe creates a romantically delicate portrait with a touch of vivacity. Sahidur Rehman as the drunkard Sachche whose land has been expropriated by the village head, Dwarika Dahiya as Aalim, the lowly and utterly poor copyist, Kamini Dubey as the Doobi Ladki and Anoop Trivedi as the village head give credible performances.