After a long absence, it was refreshing to enter my favourite theatre space, Ranga Shankara, once again, this time to watch a Hindi play, “Rocky Ka Insaaf”, staged by Mashaal.
The play has been expanded from a ten-minute vignette that was staged as part of the “Great Galata Festival” at Ranga Shankara in 2013.
The main protagonist, Rocky, takes a journey into the world of the common man today; a world where “development”, while raising the standard of living in material terms for some people, leaves others untouched in India. Rampant corruption, the me-vs.-you attitude of the government when it comes to Indian citizens– all these, and more, are situations Rocky faces.
The play was full of allegory and some subtle reference to current events. (Eg, “I have one real father and four stepfathers”) Who knows, perhaps these references are timeless, as the same scandals surface again and again in different morphs? Is Rocky a dog, or is the dog a symbol for other things? The concept of “holes” and their being dug, was used as an effective representation of various aspects of contemporary society. Two squirrels also often interacted with the “dog”.
The acting skills of the cast were uniformly good, and through the 60 minutes of the play, I only heard one slight fumble.
The stage choreography was something that was outstanding. Watching the actors on the stage was sometimes akin to watching ballet, as they either synchronized their movements or executed their own independently of the others. It has definitely taken quite a bit of practice to get this right on stage.
Another impressive part of the production was the lighting. At several points, the lighting was on the floor of the stage instead of the usual lighting from up above. Actors were highlighted to enhance their dialogue and the denouement. Different scenes were evoked by changes in the area of the stage that was illuminated Dimming and sometimes blacking out the lights was used to good effect.
The costumes of the cast were also both contemporary, and thought-provoking at the same time. Hoods on the jackets, pulled or on off, changed the allegory sometimes; the loose flowing legwear allowed the cast great freedom in their sometimes acrobatic movements on stage.
The stage setting was minimalistic, and several bundles of newspapers, and large cubes formed the only stage props. These were used very creatively.
The sound, including both the dialogue and the music, was well executed, too. Of course, the good acoustics of Ranga Shankara helped, but in general, sound effects blended seamlessly into the production values. Initially, though, “Rocky”’s dialogue was delivered a little too fast, and was not clear enough. I thoroughly enjoyed the Bengali lullaby that opened the play, and wondered why, when the play is in Hindi, a Bengali song was chosen. Was it anything to do with the fact that the singer, Champa Saha, might be a Bengali?
If I have a nit to pick, it is that I felt (along with my friends who watched the show) that too many issues were raised for the short duration of the play, and they could not be dealt with except in a cursory manner. But in spite of this, the play held the audience completely engaged. To expand a production from ten minutes to sixty is not an easy job!
The direction was excellent in that the major part of it had been done before the actual stage production, and was minimal and not obtrusive during the performance. The dialogues were pithy, and many lines drew audience appreciation and laughter.
Alas, though the troupe’s FaceBook page and online advertisements carried a good resume of the play, no brochures were given out. The cast and crew were introduced, but too rapidly for the audience to really take in the names. A brochure, with a small tear-off-and-return part where a member of the audience can give his or her name and contact details, generally helps a theatre group build a dedicated audience base. But I suppose each group has its own methods!
One very unusual line that impressed me in the adverts was:
“No One Turned Away for Lack of Funds as long as tickets are available – please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org”.
I do not know any other group which is willing to forgo the monetary remuneration to ensure that more people engage with their production. Congratulations on this, Mashaal!
In all, a production that I would strongly recommend for an evening’s entertainment. Good going, Mashaal, I hope to see you evolving further as the years go by.
I have not spoken about individual names as I am listing the cast and crew below. Thank you, Kim, for responding promptly with the list as I asked, though it must have been difficult to do it just post-production. I had got the names from the FaceBook events page,but it referred to the production in October 2013, and it was helpful to have the names as they appeared in the production I watched.
“Rocky Ka Insaaf” (Hindi). Duration: 60 minutes
Writer & Director – Ashwini Kumar Chakre
Lights designer – Parthasarthi S
Sounds designer – Karen D’mello
Movements director – Priya Kaul
Rocky – Pratyush Singh
Gilhari ki maa – Champa Saha
Chowkidar – Amjad Prawej
Lead Spy – Anshuman Acharya
Gilhari – Anju Alva Naik
Neta – Abhinav Kimothi
Shows at Ranga Shankara on the 17th and 18th September 2015.