Marathi Sangeet Natak, which tastefully combines prose with poetry and has often been touted as the Indian Opera, has very few takers today. The art form, which was started in the 1840s and boomed during the British Raj, has been languishing, as it demands actors to act as well as indulge in classical singing. However, Nehru Centre in Worli, Mumbai has been striving to keep this art form alive by organising the Marathi Sangeet Natak Mahotsav for the past 20 years. This year, the three-day event starting from February 26 will feature plays produced by Nehru Centre along with productions from Goa and Pune.
Latafat Husain Qazi, director of Nehru Centre’s cultural wing and the brain behind the production Sangeet Prarabdh Parva, which will open the festival, says, “Despite Marathi Sangeet Natak being a dying art, we get a good response every year. This has encouraged us to bring interesting productions to audiences. This time, it took us about a year to do research for our play as we wanted to present a fusion of classical and folk music.” He describes Sangeet Prarabdh Parva as an interplay of mythology and the human psychology that delves into the minds of Mahabharata characters Hidamba and Subhadra and the vacuum in their lives after they lose their respective sons Ghatotkach and Abhimanyu.
Pune-based theatre company Kalapini will perform Katha Hi Bilaskhanithodichi on the second day. Director Anjali Karadkar describes it as a play that highlights the generation gap between Hindustani classical musician Tansen and his son Bilas Khan. “Our play also explores the skirmish between classical and semi-classical music as Tansen was a traditional Dhrupad singer while his son wanted to explore new forms of music,” she explains. The production was first staged at Nehru Centre two months ago as part of another festival. Karadkar adds that in order to be a part of Marathi Sangeet Natak, they changed the lyrics from Hindi bandish to Marathi.
Kala Academy Goa’s Sangeet Alakniranjan will mark the end of the festival.