Purushottam Karandak: Quality of one-act plays deteriorating over past few years
The Purushottam Karandak – hailed as a stepping stone for a career in professional theatre and currently in its 57th year – is seen to be losing sheen
The Purushottam Karandak – hailed as a stepping stone for a career in professional theatre and currently in its 57th year – is seen to be losing sheen as the quality of one-act plays staged at the competition is deteriorating. So much so that this year, the judges did not consider any play or person fit to be awarded the Karandak, raising concerns about the future of Marathi theatre among the fraternity.
Milind Shintre, actor-director and observer of the Purushottam Karandak for the past 30 years, said, “If television is being idolised with the aim of getting instant fame, it is killing theatre.”
“I have been part of this Karandak since college; it is what made me and gave me a platform. But for the past 10 years, the quality of plays has been going down. One can blame Covid-19 and two years of isolation for theatre is all about teamwork, but what I have observed is that students don’t want to work hard and work on their talent or on the play as a team,” Shintre said.
Citing the reasons for the same, he said, “The first thing I have noticed is that there is no one to guide the students as despite the organisers holding free seminars, students don’t take advantage of the same. The other reason is that they are not serious about the plays. The students look at the Karandak as any other ‘fun day’ in college. Drama/theatre needs more perseverance, hard work and also talent, which is lacking in some.”
About this year’s Karandak, Shintre said that while there were 51 plays in the first round of the competition, only nine were selected for the finals out of which only one or two stood out which shows the poor percentage of good one-act plays coming out of these competitions.
Well-known theatre and film personalities including Dr Patel, Vikram Gokhale, (late) Mohan Gokhale, Sonali Kulkarni and Praveen Tarde swear by the institution that is the Purushottam Karandak. Kulkarni considers herself a product of the Karandak. “I am a Purushottam prodigy; had it not been for the encouragement from the judges, I wouldn’t be where I am. I feel that the judges this year were harsh and though it was a brave decision, they could have given the students the benefit of doubt. After all, when we were students, we too made mistakes, faced humiliation and disappointment when college seniors did not allow us to participate. Instead of brooding however, we worked hard including working backstage. I even did the lighting design and that helped me learn more. I feel that the students will give their best performances, but it is also up to the judges to suggest and encourage the students’ experiments on stage. Besides, I feel that no one has the right to say that not a single play is up to the mark. I have been an honorary judge at the 50th Purushottam Karandak and I thoroughly enjoyed the plays that were presented. Perhaps it would have helped the students if such a discussion on the quality of plays had been held after the first round itself. That would have given students a chance to bring out their best. Theatre needs good plays and they are nurtured here while in college and during such Karandaks,” Kulkarni said.
Only nine colleges participated in the first ever Purushottam Karandak in 1963 with B J Medical college winning with a play written by Vijay Tendulkar and directed by Dr Patel. Gradually, the number of colleges participating in the Karandak increased to 15 and now, there are 51 colleges participating in the Karandak, with 25 colleges on the waiting list.