Under the direction of K.K. Raina and conception, script and presentation by Ila Arun, Shabd Leela was presented at Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai.
This two hour long event was an amalgamation of extracts from the works of Dr. Dharamvir Bharti, the award winning novelist, poet and playwright. The play was presented as a dramatised reading and enactment of his works from Andha Yug, Kanupriya and Ek Sahityik Ke Prem Patra, a personal collection of letters to his (second) wife.
The only book I read was Kanupriya and it was a long time ago.. during school days. I think it didn't impress me.. may be because it used scholarly Hindi language and/or I was too young to comprehend the story in details. Well, the main intention for me to watch this play was to see Ila Arun performing. I only knew her as the singer of 'Mera assi kali ka' and it was in those days one of my favourite dance songs! Ila Arun performed the role of 'sutradhar' or compere/narrator and then she also interchanged her role as Pushpa Bharati and Gandhari.
The concept is brilliant. The wife-husband duo, Rajeshwari Sachdev and Varun Badola did a fabulous performance as Pushpa Bharti and Dharamvir Bharti. I am totally biased towards Rajeshwari Sachdev after seeing her mesmerising performance in Lillete Dubey's Gauhar at Prithvi theatre last year. I was hoping she would sing again and I was glad that she was given tUhe opportunity to use her sweet voice. The rest of the cast, including K.K. Raina, kept the audience engaged. As an International Development professional, ask me how much I hate PowerPoint presentations. It is obvious that I disliked the idea of using slideshow/projected visuals in the background. I think it is becoming a trend to use slideshows in theatre performances as if the audience is creatively idiot to visualize the image/situation, therefore the need to feed them. Perhaps, it might be true ;-)
This drama nicely interweaves the romantic lives of Bharati and his second wife; though, little is shared about his first wife. That's where I've a problem in conceptualization of this play. Yet, the overarching idea of showing Radha from Kanupriya kind of merging nicely in the storyline. The letters are nicely read - and I kept wondering if at all any of my boyfriends ever dare to write to me such heavy letters it will be 'the end' before beginning of our love story - and Ila Arun pulls my mind back from wandering away.
She nicely mentions in her dialogue "Imagine how Dr. Bharti would've written these letters in WhatsApp age - with all the hashtags! These among many other tits-bits are integrated also through Mahabharata epic war in this drama to make the plays, stories and letters as relevant as possible to today's political circumstances.
Overall, a relatively good experimentation of using different mediums - letters, biography, personal stories, and books of Dr. Bharati.