Jinku Ya Dahahi Disha
Direction : 
Starring : 
Rajan Shankarbane
Paresh Bhosle, Prassana Bhende, Rajan Shankarbane, Deepak Kadam

Deepa Punjani

Now it hardly needs to be reinforced how such restructuring and positioning of history can have a direct correlation with the politics of a party like the MNC which purports to be secular and youth oriented. The party’s manifesto is not yet released but in many ways despite its present claims it still very much courts the philosophy of Marathi nationalism as its parent party does. As the outward façade of the play wore thin this inherently separatist and militant ideology was exposed more than once. For instance consider Maharao’s characters. From the 17th century Shivaji who was more of an able ruler than anything else the canvas shifts to 19th century Phule, then to Shahu Maharaj and last of all to Dr. Ambedkar. Noteworthy people but all of them Maharashtrains. Clearly the choice of these personalities also helps in re-emphasizing the criticism of caste. And right till the end of the play two issues dominate- A rebuff of a caste ridden society and the spirit of nationalism. Even if one were to keep the context of the performance aside and see it only from the play’s point of view, the feeling of everything being too obvious and overstated is more than justifiable.

Caste undoubtedly remains a crucial issue even in this day and age in India. Its stronghold and its consequent repercussions is one of the greatest obstacles for the progress of the country and its citizens. And that is the only good point that the play repeatedly makes. It is best exemplified through shahir Atmaram Patil’s verse: "Ekaa Dharticha Poti Nana Prani Jnma Geti/Tyaat Maansavani Khoti Jaat Miraychi Nahi/Baap Aadhar, Aaee Dharti/ Eka Raktachi Karati/Pan Jati-Bhed Koti Naundh Miraychi Nahi.../Pardi, Pendari, Gardi, Bhandari, Khetri, Varadi..." The many castes and sub-castes of Maharashtra find representation in this song and the futility of it all instantly drives home. The shahir Krishnakant Jadhav sang it with gusto and I along with the audience shouted for an encore which sadly didn’t take place.

The scenes which belonged to the select figures were more in line with the powadas that are part of the art form of Tamasha. The powada typically takes on a historical or a social figure and elaborates on their exploits. Meanwhile you may wonder what happened to the sutradhar and the young boy. Well their role is reduced to that of being mere observers. You can forget about the problems of today’s youth. If the play were to be believed then issues like joblessness, undue pressure on the young people of today, the gaping divide between the rich and the poor, etc can best be solved by going back to the lives of people like Shivaji and by the examples that they set.

The main text, facile as it is, is clearly obliterated; so much so that the actors who play the Sutradhar and the young boy evidently feel out of place as history dominates. While the two actors are amateurs, it is quite evident that they also don’t seem to know what to do with themselves. The relentless emphasis on a casteless society in the play is also in line with Prabodhankar Thackeray’s philosophy which Raj Thackeray’s party wants to be identified with. Along with the saffron colour, the blue colour which is part of the MNC’s flag apparently stands for the inclusion of Dalits while the green colour stands for the Muslims. The party has also held its meetings in Dalit and Muslim areas, previously ignored by the Sena.

How true such lofty thoughts are only time will prove but the precedents are hardly reassuring. On the very day of the show in fact I had a senior Shiv Sena member sitting next to me who now is part of the MNC. He was quick to tell me how there are Muslims in the Shiv Sena but when I asked him about the party’s alleged role in the 92-93 riots which followed the Babri Masjid demolition, he instantly rubbished them as ‘politics.’ When I asked him about the MNC’s manifesto he said it is yet to come but indicated that the MNC is bound to be more or less like its parent party. He further appeared very very happy when I surprised him as a non-maharastrain coming to watch a Marathi play. His “very good” was followed by an earnest reassurance that I will have no trouble learning the language as it is very simple. The gentleman like most of the pre-interval audience clearly enjoyed the play and was engrossed in it.

Post Interval the crowd thinned. For all the initial enthusiasm the most ardent supporter of the Sena-MNC ideology was after all also a theatre audience whose entertainment quotient was being minimized. Even he must have found the play to be very long. It is unnecessarily so and can do with some drastic editing. There is a lavani sequence which while fitting in with the form of a Tamasha is quite unrelated to the play’s themes and it is longer than the longest Bollywood number. The historical scenes are however played out by competent actors. For instance the director of the play, Rajan Shankarbane also plays the character of Jyotirao Phule and he plays it well. The characters’ costumes too appear historically accurate.

The group of shahirs is a mixed group of strong and weak singers. Set design is minimal but hardly imaginative. It also wears the ragged look, typical of the sets that are recycled endlessly in proscenium styled theatres. JINKU YA DAHAHI DISHA despite its partly successful good intentions rings as hollow as its pompous title (it is worth marking that the title is quite in line with a party slogan) would otherwise have us believe.

*The writer is Editor of this site, a theatre critic and an academic keenly interested in Theatre and Performance studies.

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