Sukhmanch theatre performs Rajesh Kumar's Gaaye

by vaibhav Srivastava
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Sukhmanch extends the cow issue in its satirical take of Gaaye to the Delhi audience. With relevance in the remote parts of India, where human rights are being violated in the name of cow protection Shilpi Marwaha brings the play to the capital.
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Theatre director Shilpi Marwaha brought to stage Rajesh Kumar’s socio-political drama Gaaye. The satirical comic performance of the actors reflected the hypocrisy prevalent in the Indian society. The experimental spirit of the theatre group proved to be a driving force behind audience understating the subject of the play. The aim of the theatre group runs parallel to its name ‘Sukh-Manch’ i.e. to share with the people a platform for happiness. After years of interaction with theatre, Kumar’s dramaturgy and Marwaha’s directorial skills brought to life the concept of casteism and mindless violence.
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In Gaaye, Rajesh Kumar’s early days as a theatre practitioner act out at the forefront. A veteran in the street play movement since 1976, he is founder member of Aara’s theatrical institution Yuvanniti, Bhagalpur and founder of the dramatic institution of Shahjahanpur.
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Gaaye opens with two characters Gobaranand and Paltu Mishra who are at the center stage of Gobaranand’s family home. A cow is placed under the spotlight closest to the audience. Gobaranand’s wife and his daughter represent the rising voice of Indian women in the house of a patriarch. Gobaranand had sent Paltu Mishra and company to a search and destroy mission for people who take cows for slaughter and beef in their tiffin. Dialogue between the actors during their inspection of the kebabs and the biryani is full of spite for the minority groups of India but only in a roundabout fashion. Politicizing and satirizing of ‘selfies and atrocities’ are some of the hopeful attempts by Sukhmanch Theatre to make good socio-political theatre. Shilpi Marawaha’s own presence came in the later parts of the plot as lower caste sewage cleaner ‘Badmiya’. She portrayed the living conditions of the lower classes and their pleasures. There are glimpses of Sukhmanch’s influence from street theatre movement in the chorus. There were instances of flickering lights in moments of rage especially when the chorus is presented before the real action of the play. The ventriloquism of the actors and their improvisation came at unexpected spots. The dramatic structuring of Gaaye was primarily in articulating the issue of wrong doings by the “Gau Rakshaks” of Indian Society. The play also covered themes of power structures when the antagonists prove their own safety. They are guaranteed a refuge from the mandates of the law by the keepers of law. Ideas of widespread depression due to an illogical nation state policy are somewhere kept subdued when they should have been made most prominent. Instead there was an absurd dance sequence spread all over the stage. The viewer is left with an incomprehensible definition of society as a force in the life and liberty of an individual. The repercussions of revealing key facts in the atrocities against minorities is undoubtedly severe. Sukhmanch definitely foreshadows courageous acts in the theatre world. Using aspects of street theatre culture, Marwaha picks up the drama with the zeal of an activist. Street theatre like chorus shows that casteism, violence and social disintegration is at work with the rebellious youth. All socio-political dramas are aimed at making social change. The end result is worth a watch since the evolution of Gaaye is currently in the making in our own society.
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Gaaye was performed at Lok Kala Manch, New Delhi on June 10, 2018

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