After 35 years, the Gujarati play Santu Rangilee is seeing a revival by director Dinkar Jani and producer Chandan Oza. This, however, should not come as a surprise since it is an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s revolutionary piece Pygmalion, which was about a low class flower girl’s attempt to rise up in society with the help of a professor. Pygmalion was made into the iconic film My Fair Lady and has been adapted as a play into many languages, including Swahili.
Thirty five years ago, director-actor Pravin Joshi and the Indian National Theatre brought playwright Madhu Rye’s adaptation Santu Rangilee to stage. Incidentally, this was also the performance that shot veteran actor Sarita Joshi into the limelight. Now, Jani is reviving the play with actors Sujata Mehta and Darshan Jariwala. He chalks the longevity of the piece to its relevant themes of language and societal disparity. He says, “This is an evergreen play that makes a telling comment on the social divide. Though the original was about the English language, it dealt with issues that all languages and facing even today.”
Jani, whose other directorial credits include the popular serial Shaktimaan, first became acquainted with Santu Rangilee in its original run when he was an assistant director to Pravin Joshi. The current producer, Oza was part of the backstage crew then. Jani says that both of them were so enamoured by the play that they decided to revive it. In its second run, he has kept most of the writing intact. He says, “The beauty of the play is its language. Except for a few superficial changes to modernise the piece, we have not changed much.”
Despite Pygmalion’s successful run and many adaptations, Jani is not burdened by expectations. He says, “The play has been done in different languages and styles. It has fared well every time it has been performed. This piece is not only about the Gujarati language but also deals with universal themes of class conflict and man-woman relationships.”
Jariwala, who plays the title role of the professor, has always had an affinity for languages. He says, “The original play was written when England was in the throes of change. The class difference was more entrenched than pronounced. This lends itself beautifully to Gujarati culture owing to the sudden confusion in societal structure that has risen with the nouveau riche. This is a timeless play due to the clash of characters.”
Even though Jani insists that he was not on a nostalgic trip, many of those associated with the current production were also part of Santu Rangilee’s original run. Sadhna Patel, a member of the original cast, is now designing costumes, Bhola Sharma, the set designer, was an assistant to MS Sathyu who designed the sets for the first production while Jariwala’s mother Leela was also part of the earlier cast. The play’s music director Uday Mazumdar is the son of legendary Ninu Mazumdar who wrote the songs for the original Santu Rangilee.
On: Today, 7.45 pm
At: YB Chavan auditorium, Churchgate