Before the curtain falls

Updated: Jun 12, 2019, 23:23 IST | Snigdha Hasan

Ahead of Kaumudi’s show in the city, Kumud Mishra on essaying the role of an ageing thespian for six years, and the shrinking space for debate

Before the curtain falls
Kumud Mishra (in red), Sandeep Shikhar, Gopal Datt and Shubhrajyoti Barat in scenes from the play

AN actor who has ruled the stage for decades is in his twilight years. He is losing his eyesight, and is preparing for his final three performances. But in this play within a play, there is another layer of emotions at work — those shared between Satyasheel, the ageing thespian, and his son and actor Paritosh, who has grown up grappling with the void created by an absent parent. The estranged father and son portray Eklavya’s ghost and Abhimanyu respectively, but that’s not where the reference to the Mahabharata ends. For, throughout the production, the moonlit night when Krishna delivers his sermon to Arjuna is used as the central trope. That’s the premise of Abhishek Majumdar’s Kaumudi (moonlight), a play that opened in 2014 and is Bengaluru-based Bhasha Centre’s longest-running production.

Mumbai theatre

To present the complex layers of the plot, a fitting cast was a prerequisite. The four characters of Kaumudi are essayed by Kumud Mishra, Sandeep Shikhar, Gopal Datt and Shubhrajyoti Barat. And Mishra, whose presence on the stage and before camera has received critical acclaim, doesn’t mince words when he says, “Essaying Satyasheel has been my most challenging role. Even after all these years, I have only been able to give it my 10 to 15 per cent, while the rest remains to be explored. I am not saying this out of humility. Abhishek gives you so many possibilities in a character that the actor within you is never satisfied.”

The script is inspired by Anand’s (novelist Sachidanandan’s pseudonym) Malayalam novel, Vyasam Vigneswaram, and Jorge Luis Borges’ essay, Blindness. It asks pertinent questions on caste dyanmics, whether personal ethic is more important than public ethic, if we make art or art makes us, and whose life is more valuable — an older or a younger person’s.

Having worked with Majumdar in Muktidham, and now in his upcoming play Kisaan, Mishra tells us about the playwright-director’s process. “It’s almost like school. There is an intense rehearsal of eight to 10 hours for at least one and a half months. And there is homework, too. Research material is duly mailed to us and you reflect on what you have done in the course of the day, and write it down. So, all emotions that had gone dormant return to you,” he says.

Abhishek Majumdar
Abhishek Majumdar

With an epic making its way to a modern setting, the conversation veers naturally towards Girish Karnad’s exploration of the present through a mythological prism. “Reflecting on contemporary problems by going back to our myths was Karnad’s way of creating space for debate,” Mishra says. “But we are living amidst a generation that’s most distracted and takes offence easily. Its understanding of the Almighty and religion is limited to calendar art. The space for debate is shrinking.”

On: June 15, 5 pm and 9 pm and June 16, 4 pm and 8 pm
At: Prithvi Theatre, Juhu.
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Entry: Rs 450

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