The Common Man turns 125

Ajit Kelkar's play based on RK Laxman's famed cartoon character has managed to tickle many a funny bone over the last five years. Still going strong, the play is set for its 125th show, this Saturday

A few years ago, an auditorium in Nagpur meant to seat just 500 people was crammed to bursting with 700 people. The occasion was the staging of Ajit Kelkar's iconic play RK Laxman's Common Man.

Ajit Kelkar in RK Laxman's Common Man

The play ended with the national anthem and was followed by shouts of Bharat Mata Ki Jai from an emotional audience. This incident is just one of the many anecdotes about the overwhelming response to the play.

For half a decade now, the one-man play with a humorous take on India's socio-political scenario, has managed to endear itself to audiences. Now, with its 125th show in the city, it is all set to cross another milestone.

"The character of the common man is very popular and close to the hearts of Indians," says Ajit Kelkar, who has been reading RK Laxman's cartoons from a young age. "Perhaps that is the reason the play has been so well accepted," he adds.

The play was initially written in Marathi by Anil Joglekar and was translated to English by Gautam Joglekar. Ajit Kelkar decided to produce the play in English.

"RK Laxman's language was English and I felt that people could relate to it a lot more if the play was in English. Besides, I could take it to different parts of the country as well," says Kelkar. The play was first staged in 2007 and has since travelled to Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Nagpur, Hyderabad and the US as well.

Slice of life
Apart from translating some of RK Laxman's cartoons on stage, Kelkar also incorporated certain anecdotes from Laxman's autobiography in the play. "Laxman was threatened during the Emergency and warned that he would be put behind bars. He then met Indira Gandhi who told him that he need not worry," says Kelkar.

He recalls another amusing incident where Laxman had sketched Nehru in a few cartoons and there was a buzz that Nehru had started resembling the caricature. With incidents such as this incorporated into the play, Kelkar has taken a funny yet witty look at the political situation of our country.

"I have also used songs from Bollywood that suit the situation and incorporated a number of gimmicks as well," he adds.

Towards the end, the play tries to tell people not to be silent spectators, but to actually take on the onus of doing something to change the existing situation.

"When I was staging the play in the US, almost 80% of the Indian audience was close to tears. They told me they missed their homeland," Kelkar signs off.
On: January 28, 5 pm
At: Swatantryaweer Savarkar Smarak Sabhagriha, Swatantryaweer Savarkar Marg, Shivaji Park, Dadar.
Tickets: Rs 200, Rs 300
Available at the venue and
Call: 9819253511 / 9820596796

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