One of the three plays that was staged at the NCPA Ananda Hindi theatre festival this year was RAMSAJEEVAN KI PREM KATHA. The play, adapted by Saurabh Nayyar, is based on a short story by the contemporary Hindi writer, Uday Prakash. Ramsajeevan (Ghanshyam Lalsa), the hero of his love story, is like any other young person in love and his story may even read straight out of a romantic melodrama thwarted by class differences. But there is more than meets the eye. Ramsajeevan, it turns out, is not the usual hero at all, and the projected love story is actually more of a ploy; a device to underscore one of India's grimmest socio-political realities. In Ramsajeevan's unrequited love, lies the greater story of India's gaping class divide, further exacerbated by the hegemony of caste.
But what might have been an interesting play, devolved into a production of lost opportunities. The staging was dull, even as there was a hint of irony at the beginning of the play to project an Indian village with the typical nationalistic sentiment, reminiscent in the musical strains of post independent Hindi cinema of the socialist-melodramatic variety. But it is only later that you might glean the underlying cynicism, for to all appearances, Ramsajeevan's story enfolds in the predictable manner of a love story that does not fructify. It is possible to however start reading between the lines very soon as Ramsajeevan emerges to be a student revolutionary at his University in Delhi.
He has distinct and strong political views; he is a Marxist exponent, critical of capitalism, which he feels, is only making India's poor, poorer. Ramsajeevan's Marxist ideology is even extended to his elusive love for Anita Chandiwala (Masha Pour), who lives in the girls' hostel, which is opposite his boys' hostel in the university campus. The dream-like, unattainable, Anita Chandiwala comes to represent the epitome of Ramsajeevan's ideology- in her figure, lays the freedom from all differences of class and caste, and even gender. Even the sexual innuendos that the watchman makes with reference to Anita Chandiwala's beauty are perceived by Ramsajeevan to be the gross and degenerate values of a capitalist society that sees the woman as a commodity. But Anita herself is also obviously the personification of the capitalist society that Ramsajeevan is critiquing.
It is possible to appreciate this subaltern text underlying the main narrative, only up to a point therefore. It is best to see Ramsajeevan's ideology in the limiting context of his story. Socio-political issues are certainly more complex than they seem, as are the ideologies for or against them. The sub-text is sensitive and compelling, but it also raises serious questions to debate. D for Drama's maiden production, co-directed by Saurabh Nayyar and Nitin Bhardwaj, makes us see that there is more to the text than that which is readily accessible, thanks largely to the inherent strength of the story. Like the staging, the performances are lustreless, but the young actors appear capable of delivering better. Ajitesh Gupta's Shirish, Bhushan Vikas' Kalyan and Nitin Bhardwaj's Aslam are the three friends who support Ramsajeevan, and who lead us through the story from time to time.
The singular merit of the production lies in its story. It is problematic but it has a distinct creative bite to it that makes you want to think and argue. Uday Prakash, who is also a painter, journalist and filmmaker is regarded as one of the best, contemporary writers of Hindi Literature. It is not always easy for readers in English to access regional writing, and mediums like theatre and film can be great intermediaries. They can also infuse new creative life into the writing. The new Hindi theatre group, D for Drama chose well but the production falls short of wholesomely exploring the text. It's a promising start though.