The Journey Continuesby Deepa Gahlot January 14 2016, 6:23 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 14 secs
Hindi Theatre does not have it easy in Mumbai, still some groups are carrying on with dedication. Om Katare?s Yatri, that was one of the groups that was formed when Prithvi Theatre started in 1978, the beautiful gem established by Shashi and Jennifer Kapoor. This year, Yatri celebrates its 37th anniversary and as always, Katare has put together a 13-day festival of their old hits and a new play. The popular plays include Chinta Chhod Chintamani, Gaj Foot Inch, Hadh Kar Di-Aapne and Chandu Ki Chachi; Yatri?s rambunctious folk farce Raavenleela celebrates its 100th performance during this festival. The new play Jeene Bhi Do Yaaro, written by Katare himself is also a comedy, a genre most preferred by audiences these days. Raavan, dressed in patent leather and lame, speaks with a pronounced Punjabi accent and throws tantrums. The village Ramleela is just not what it used to be, Raavanleela, written by Kusum Kumar, could be a comment on traditions that are kept alive, when clearly neither the audience, nor the players have any interest in them. In the old days, the nine-day Ramleelas staged in towns and villages all over north India (Mumbai too) used to be done with a sense of devotion. Today, in a break in the proceedings, in Raavanleela, the harried organizer brings on a dancing girl and invites the sponsor to make a speech. The audience (some actors seated amidst the actual audiences) throw tomatoes and bhindi at the farce going on before them, and the man collects then in a basket, since vegetables are so expensive these days. The costumes are deliberately ghastly, the actors are clowns the play is funny in parts, but it remains at the level of a things-going-wrong and petty backstage squabbles level, when it could have been sharper satire on contemporary society. It was also too loud for a small auditorium--a lot of the scenes could have been played without the shouting and falling about, because the humour did not really need this kind of uplift. Chinta Chhod Chintamani, based on a Vasant Kanetkar?s Marathi play, is a quaint family social that is not seen too much in Hindi theatre these days. Maybe that's why it got a encouraging response everytime it is performed. Family audiences, enjoy the comedy that must have reflected their lives in some way. The beleaguered father of three grown-up kids (Katare), belongs to the 'sandwich' generation, who has to understand the quirks of his old parents, as well as the ambitions of his children. Katare thinks that the audience identifies so much with this play, because in every home today, there is an aspiring actor, a wannabe cricketer, and maybe one kid on a pseudo spiritual trip! Plus grandparents trying to make sense of a changing world. Hadh Kar Di Aapne, is also a comedy about a 50 year old man living with his wife, a 25-year-old daughter and her husband. And one fine day his 45-year-old wife announces that she is pregnant. The news understandably causes an upheaval in the household. Yatri has, over the years, emerged as a leading Hindi theatre group in the city. Katare says that in the past few years, the group has not just held workshops and staged plays, but also introduced a "new concept introduced to promote products/services through the medium of theatre. This has been used both for launching new brands, as well as promoting existing brands. This is a revolutionary new approach to market consumer brands, and has been a runaway success." Katare is also doing a lot of children's plays, like Laddoo Gopal, Nakchadhi, Chandu Ki Chachi and Mummy Please! ? a few of which have been published. He has conducted theatre workshops for adults and children and trained numerous aspiring actors. And, more importantly, carried on his work with enthusiasm and good cheer, dealing with obstacles and challenges on the way!