One Theme, Various Plays: A Review of Astitva's Marathi One-Act Play Competition

- Sudeep Modak.


Inter-College and other one-act play competitions have always served as a platform for young talent to exhibit their potential. Astitva's 'Kalpana Ek Awishkar Anek' is one such platform, which tries to unearth the abundant store of creative ideas in young minds throughout Maharashtra. In fact it tries to channelise ideas in a certain direction by giving a one-line theme to be developed upon, thus encouraging young writers to write new plays. It may sound like a tough proposition but it urges students to think, imagine and execute rather than finding an easy way out (such as staging the script of an already established writer). Though this does not guarantee quality, it gives an opportunity to the participants to experience the process of theatre to the fullest.

This year, the theme suggested by Ratnakar Matkari, a well known Marathi writer, was apt to test the boundaries of imagination. 'Kaashasa zaala asta tar..'(If it would have been this way) provided ample scope to the participants to think out of the box and experiment. But not all managed to go beyond a certain limit. The plays were of various genres, commenting on different issues such as politics, society, the individual, etc. While SKETCH (Production: Artivhitis, Thane) spoke about the complexities of a patriarchal family, living without the patriarch, VEL KHEL (Production: Theatreholics, Mumbai) potrayed the meaninglessness of life through two people stuck on an isolated island. BHU BHU (Production: Yavnika Theatres, ) spoke about the good, the bad and the ugly childhood memories while DAVA ANGTHA ASTA TAR (Production: Sakas, Mumbai) was a hilarious Loknatya style modern interpretation of the 'Eklavya - Dhronacharya' relationship. While all these plays had a lot to say, they didn't quiet communicate. Some were victims of bad acting , some suffered over dramatization while some threatening to make a point, never managed to do so.


However the highlights of the evening were TATHASTU and TAATKALEEN SATYACHE VARKARI. TATHASTU (Production: Sanhita, Pune), written by Dhananjay Mhaswad and directed by Mandar Deshpande spoke about the never ending human needs and the resulting dependency on materialistic possessions. A couple decides to lead a life with only those things which are most essential for survival. However in the process they discover that the list of the basic needs in this era has extended far beyond food, clothing and shelter. Though an amateur production the script had an impact and made the audience think for a moment. TAATKALEEN SATYACHE VAARKARI (Production: Abhinay, Kalyan), written by Prashant Shembekar and directed by Abhijeet Zunzarao, provided a bird's eye view of the corrupt political setting in India. It unearthed the complex structure of destructive Politics and its consequences. The strength of this play was in the way its characters were written; each having a distinct character graph which kept fluctuating throughout the play, thus providing different perspectives to the issue tackled in it. A good script supported by fine light design and performances made this the stand out play of the competition.

'Kalpana ek Awishkar Anek', which is being held every year for the past six years has been a stepping stone for many theatre groups all over Maharashtra. It is primarily an opportunity for writers to display their talent. Unlike most inter-collegiate competitions where all the focus is on winning trophies and the glamour attached to it, the plays in this competition did well to stay away from clichés, pretentious gimmicks, dishonest theatricalities and the overshadowing influence of commercial Marathi Theatre.

*The writer is a young theatre person with interests in other media. He has worked with Ramu Ramanathan, Chandan Roy Sanyal and has done production work for THE PROPHET by Naseeruddin Shah's theatre group Motley, amongst other things.

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