Direction : Pritesh Sodha
Writer : Sejal Ponda
Cast : Paresh Vora, Shivang Thakkar & Dr. Hemlata Shingala

MANCHHA Play Review

Pratik Kothari

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After having given the Gujarati stage plays like KORAT and PRAMEY, Utopia Communications comes up with MANCCHA. The play recently premiered at the NCPA Centrestage festival 2013.

The narrative of MANCHHA adopts the 'play within a play' format and combines it with elements of horror to make it an intriguing watch. The story is told from the point of view of a young lawyer who once happens to visit a late client's haunted haveli in Lakhpat - a small village on the outskirts of Bhuj in Gujarat.


While the last rites of his client are being performed he sees an ugly lady 'Manchha' dressed in black who is supposed to be the evil spirit. The spirit continues to haunt him while the time he is in the haveli. Though there are warnings about the spirit the villagers are otherwise very tight lipped about the bad omen. Samrat Bhatt, the lawyer, wants to take the story to an audience but it is traumatising for him to tell it. So he engages Jackie, a director, to role play him while he enacts the other characters he encountered in his journey. These aspects add to the thrill. Sejal Ponda's writing is deft.

The play is complex yet minimalist in terms of its execution with only 3 actors enacting different parts. Also many things on the set are left to the actor's conviction and audiences' sense of imagination. Director Pritesh Sodha plays ace by setting the tone right at the start when Jackie explains Samrat Bhatt that the audiences are smart and you can make them imagine the things that are not on stage. The sound design (by Ojas Bhatt and Rishit Jhaveri) and the light design (by Digambar Acharya) have a significant role to play. The use of amber and blue tones helps the play immensely.

The play is shouldered mostly by two actors, Shivang Thakkar (Samrat Bhatt; he also plays a multitude of characters) and Paresh Vora (Jackie - the director who enacts Samrat Bhatt). Both the actors are full of energy and have striking presences. Shivang Thakkar faces the challenge of bringing alive a lot of characters and the actor does it successfully with his body language. When an actor is committing to a geography or an object, that imaginary space should be respected. This has been frequently neglected on our stage. Also, on the average, Gujarati theatre when it uses English suffers from poor pronunciation of the English words. It is high time that these aspects are taken care of. The play somewhat suffers in these quarters too. Dr Hemlata Shingala as 'Manchha' doesn't have much to do. But the build up is such that she terrifies the audiences by her mere presence. On the whole the play is quite a watch with its ability to thrill and surprise.

*Pratik Kothari has a Diploma in Acting from Barry John's acting studio. He has worked with theatre groups like Manoj Shah's Ideas Unlimited and Salim Arif's Essay Communications. He has also acted in films and is currently assistant director on Shyam Benegal's TV Series 'Samvidhan'.

Please click here for the preview of the play

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