Sartre and Rancho inspire Sai Paranjpye's theatre comeback

The play Aalbel marks two merry comebacks for Indian theatre. First, noted film and theatre director Sai Paranjpye returns to the stage and second, NCPA inches towards forming its own repertoire with their maiden production in 20 years

It is perhaps a good thing that septuagenarian Sai Paranjpye was hounded by fans after two of her plays Jaswandi and Sakhe Shejare were revived earlier this year. After watching the plays, theatregoers approached Paranjpye to tell her how much they missed her brand of Marathi theatre.

Shrikant Dadarkar, Bhairav Bhuipod and Umesh Jagtap play the three
convicts in the play. Pics Courtesy/Harkiran Singh Bhasin

"Everybody kept asking me why am I not working on a new play. Eventually, I got fed up of giving them reasons so I decided to start working on a new play," she said at a press meet organised by the NCPA, which is hosting the premiere of the play and also producing it.

Luckily for Deepa Gahlot, head of theatre and film programming at NCPA, the thespian's frustration boiled over at the same time that she was looking for plays that could be produced by NCPA. "We wanted to move away from being just another venue-for-hire and create properties and productions of our own," Gahlot explains.

In keeping with the plan, Gahlot has developed three new theatre festivals for NCPA over the last year and now with Paranjpye's play, Aalbel, the organisation takes a step toward building their own repertoire. "Now apart from audiences coming to NCPA to watch plays, we'll be taking our productions to them.

It is the first step toward building our own repertoire. We do aim to have actors and directors and the whole jing-bang, not immediately, but eventually," Gahlot says. Before the repertoire is formed, NCPA hopes to be able to produce three more plays one each for their upcoming Hindi, Marathi and English theatre festivals.

As for Aalbel, the play is rooted in French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre's classic No Exit, where three dead souls all sinners are doomed to a single cell and become each other's 'agents of hell.'

In contrast, the protagonists in Aalbel are alive and prove to be each other's redemption. The play's positive outlook influenced its title, which is a twisted version of the now popular term 'All is well' from the film 3 Idiots. 

On December 24 and 25, 6.30 pm
At Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point. Call 22824567
On December 26, 4 pm
At Shivaji Mandir, Dadar.
Call 24304566
On December 28, 8 pm
At Dinanath Auditorium,
Vile Parle (E). Call 26125568

If you are in town and if you don't manage to get tickets for Aalbel, head to KR Cama Hall near Kala Ghoda for a show of Girish Karnad's classic Hayavadana. In fact, we suggest you make time for this play, directed by Pushan Kripalani and Arghya Lahiri either way. Watch out for some brilliant performances and slick production standards.
On December 23 to 25 and December 30 to 31, 7 pm At KR Cama Hall, opposite Lion's Gate, Kala Ghoda. Call 9820745916

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