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Theatre buffs, its playtime! An ode to the fantastic playwright Gopal Sharman

Akshara Theatre to celebrate its founder Gopal Sharman’s birth anniversary with four of his stories, which will be directed by four contemporary theatre personalities.

art and culture Updated: Aug 17, 2018 19:34 IST
Henna Rakheja
Henna Rakheja
Hindustan Times
Akshara Theatre,Gopal Sharman,Sunit Tandon
A scene from the play Full Circle, which is directed by theatre personality Sunit Tandon.

Have you ever written something and then witnessed it magically coming true? The thought is not just surreal but also scary. However, for the eccentric protagonist of the story Full Circle, it was pretty normal to write and post letters to himself, and then travel to different parts of the world to receive them. If you thought this man is mad, then meet another one who plants himself in the soil to feel like a tree!

These stories of humans along with stories inspired by mathematics/numbers are the creation of author and playwright late Gopal Sharman. Ahead of Sharman’s birth anniversary on August 19, Akshara Theatre is organising Playtime. The evening will have four plays, by four directors, who will dramatically narrate four stories by Sharman, namely Two and Two, Full Circle, The Language of Illiteracy and This And That And Zero.

A scene from the play Two and Two, directed by Jalabala Vaidya and Vidur Mohan.

Full Circle, was originally a solo piece performed by thespian and Sharman’s wife, thespian Jalabala Vaidya. She recollects the time from the ’60s and ’70s when she narrated these stories on the stage, under Sharman’s direction. “It was the time when The Beatles (rock band) was formed, and we had taken our first production, Full Circle, for a tour to Europe. I used to speak on the stage, and Gopal would put a song — in Hindustani Classical— here or there in the performance. Now, we have asked other people, associated with theatre, to present these stories. And each has interpreted them differently,” says Vaidya.

“What I will present is an ensemble piece with 15 actors doing what Jalabala used to do alone (laughs),” says Sunit Tandon, known theatre personality, who has directed the new adaptation of the play Full Circle. He adds that he chose to direct this story because “it’s operating on many levels, one of which is fantastical”.

Tandon adds, “I have tried to give an orchestrated theatrical action to all that’s happening in the play, Full Circle while retaining the story’s musical nature, humour and poetry. Also, the act of letter-writing can be a metaphor to how all of us invest so much effort in keeping ourselves happy.”

A scene from the play The Language of Illiteracy, directed by Vikalp Mudgal.

The play, The Language of Illiteracy, explores the story of the man who becomes one with nature, so much so that he digs himself in soil to live like a tree. “The title has a paradox in itself, and the play questions the whole value of literacy. The protagonist says dialogues such as ‘I use words that grow on trees’,” says Vikalp Mudgal, director of the play.

Mudgal also marvels at the fantastical writing style of Sharman. “Gopal sir always wrote out-of-the-box… In movie, one can use special effects, but showing his abstract story on the stage is what I enjoyed because it was both challenging and exciting. We have used dancers, and will be moving boxes on the stage to narrate the tale,” adds Mudgal.

Two of the plays have numbers in their titles. Vaidya has directed Two and Two with Vidur Mohan, and will act in This And That And Zero directed by Nisa and Dhruv Shetty. She connects Sharman’s flair for numbers with his love for music. “Sharman was a musician, too, who used numbers. Since a rhythm is numerically driven, I think that would have led to Sharman’s fascination for numbers,” says Vaidya.

  • What: Playtime
  • Where: Akshara Theatre, 11B, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, next to RML Hospital
  • When: August 18 and 19
  • Timing: 7pm and 6pm
  • Nearest Metro Station: Patel Chowk on Yellow Line

Interact with the author at Twitter/@HennaRakheja

First Published: Aug 17, 2018 19:33 IST