Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Great show

Date:30/03/2007 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/fr/2007/03/30/stories/2007033001790300.htm

Performed again nearly two decades after it's debut, Mukhyamanthri nevertheless had a contemporary resonance

SOME FAULTS Even a bang-on execution could not camouflage the glitches

Kalagangothri, one of Bangalore's oldest amateur Kannada theatre groups, recently performed one of their oldest and most popular plays "Mukhyamanthri" at Ravindra Kalakshetra. Translated to Kannada by T.S. Lohitashwa from the original Hindi text (written by Ranjit Kapoor) nearly two decades ago, the play has since been performed regularly since then by Kalagangothri. What's more, veteran actor Mukhyamanthri Chandru has played the protagonist in every staging of the play.

The play begins at the end of the story, with turmoil in the political circles of Udayachal state. The chief minister Krishna Dwayapalana Kaushal (Mukhyamanthri Chandru) loses the confidence of his party, at the end of his five-year term. He is, however, retained as "Caretaker" Chief Minister for a period of 48 hours, after which voting in the next elections begins. From the start, it is clear that Sudharshan Dubey, the president of the party, plots to overthrow Kaushal and become the next chief minister. But not wanting to give up, Kaushal launches a series of well-planned schemes to hold onto power. Directed by B.V. Rajaram, the play is a study of political intrigue, highlighting the strategies employed by the chief minister to win back confidence within 18 hours.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the play's storytelling is the ease with which audiences have been able to relate it to contemporary politics over the years.When the play was first staged, it was considered a commentary on the life of the then Chief Minister Devraj Urs. Now, the same is said regarding the present Chief Minister. This clearly speaks of the currency the play evokes even today, despite being written nearly two decades ago. Although it manages such a powerful universality, however, the play does not have many abstract political discourses and is rather fast paced in its movement, showing the most crucial day of the leader's life.

The cast is off and running from the beginning, working a nice staccato between them, despite the play being rather verbose. Mukhyamanthri Chandru as the Chief Minister easily holds attention as he segues from one conversation to the next with impeccable comic timing .

Kalagangothri Kitti performs well as the prodigal son of the Chief Minister, as do Srinivas Meshtru as Durgabhai, M.S. Vidhya as Suhasini and Krishne Gowda as Dubey.

However, even a bang-on execution could not camouflage some noticeable glitches. Many of the other artistes in the play, although having small roles, betrayed a lack of effort in both characterisation and delivery. Also, seeing actors turn to the wings for instructions was rather disturbing. These difficulties did not much reduce the effect, however, as audience members were heard holding forth on current political intrigues much after the curtains dropped.


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