“Raj ki baat samajaun sangnar natak, nakki Mumbai konachi?” (A drama that reveals who Mumbai belongs to) screams the promotional tagline of Marathi play Ayatyavar koyta.
“Marathi asmita japanar natak” (A play that evokes Marathi pride) reads the advertisement of another, Bhaiyya haatpay pasari (Bhaiyya expands his base).
Bhaiyya may sound familiar to the Marathi and the non-Marathi speaking population; it’s a common nickname for north Indian migrants. The Maharashtrians though would probably understand the subtlety of “Raj ki baat” better.
Some theatre regulars said on condition of anonymity the current situation would boost ticket sales further. While Ayatyavar koyta, a two-month-old production, will stage its 25th show on February 10, Bhaiyya haatpay pasari did 125 shows in less than a year and is still running full throttle.
It might appear that the stage, literally, is set for a clash similar to those the city witnessed most of this week between workers of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Samajwadi Party.
Like Raj, whose supporters are battling on streets to assert their rights as true sons-of-the-soil, Marathi theatre is echoing Raj’s line: I’m of Maharashtra and Maharashtra is mine. The two plays depict how enterprising north Indians have allegedly seized business opportunities in Mumbai and neighbouring Konkan.
The big difference is that these plays, that have been staging full-house shows since much before Raj raked up the migrants’ issue, are not necessarily about “bhaiyya bashing”.
“The plays don’t tell us to fight the north Indians on the streets,” said Mumbai resident Sanket Dalvi, who has seen both repeatedly. “They advise us to work harder and make most of the opportunities that come our way.”