One of the most popular as well as controversial Marathi writers, the late Jaywant Dalvi, continues to inspire theatrical productions even today. SARE PRAVASI GHADICHE is the dramatized version of his popular eponymous novel, and has been adapted by Shafaut Khan. The story is based in a small, picturesque Konkani village way back in the 1930s.
Apu (Parag Bedekar), a well-to-do Mumbaikar re-visits his quaint hometown. As he lands in the village, he is accosted by the ghost of the family servant, Shankar. Together they trek down the memory lane to Apu's classroom full of unruly boys and a strict school teacher- Bagayatkar master who wouldn't spare the rod and lash out at his errant students, especially Naru who would object to redundant teaching methods like the math sum which found its example in a leaky tank being filled with water. Naru (Nitin Jadhav) would ask his teacher as to why anyone would fill water in a leaking tank and get beaten in return!
Apu also remembered the petty squabble between his father, Aaba and neighbour, Babuli Seth that had blown out of proportion into a raging feud between the two. So much so that their rivalry led to the dismissal of the local cop. As fate would have it, young Apu fell head over heels in love with Babuli's daughter but all his efforts at wooing his pretty young neighbour were met with stern opposition. Babuli Seth quickly had his daughter married off. And Apu migrated to the city.
Snapping out of his nostalgia, Apu is faced with the harsh realities where his ancestral home has been neglected by the caretaker priest, his sweetheart - now widowed was back in her father's home and his best friend Naru is forced to beg for a living. Somewhat disillusioned and heartbroken, Apu tries to take stock of the changing circumstances. And when he receives an unexpected parting gift from the neighbour's house, Apu becomes optimistic and takes the overriding changes in his stride.
He decides to return to the place of his boyhood memories yet again. Notwithstanding a lesser known and all male star cast, the play in itself is thoroughly engaging and it keeps the viewer engrossed in the proceedings. The simple and easy-flowing narrative touches a chord and evokes a distinct sense of nostalgia. Although set in the 1930s, the characters and the situations in the play are relevant even today. Pradeep Mulye's detailed and mobile backdrops lend a lively feel to the play. The classroom and Apu's ancestral home are erected quickly and effortlessly. Dilip Kumhne's illustrations bring Konkan alive just like Mario Miranda resurrects Goa with his drawings.
Ajit Sameer's music and the impromptu dance sequences like the one in the bar, induce an exhilarating feel. All the 18 male members of the cast pitch in spontaneous performances - especially Parag Bedekar who doubles up convincingly as young Apu and as his authoritative father Aaba. Nitin Jadhav's endearing characterization of Naru is memorable. Kudos to Director Pradeep Mulye for keeping up the tempo of the play sans female actors! A commendable effort. Never mind the predictability of the story, the play pans out in a most entertaining fashion.
The optimistic note on which the author concludes the play is definitely inspiring. I am sure, every viewer after watching SARE PRAVASI GHADICHE will resolve never to sell their ancestral homes. The memories of the times bygone are certainly worth preserving and that's a lesson worth learning.
*Deepa Ranade is a film and theatre reviewer. She has been an entertainment journalist for over fifteen years.