Time to break tradition?

Sep 03, 2013, 09:00 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

Unhappy with final results, students ask organisers of popular inter-college one-act play competition Purushottam Karandak to change the time-honoured jury system

One of the city’s most prestigious cultural events, Purushottam Karandak, is facing heavy criticism from students after the traditional jury system caused the elimination of several deserving plays.

Organised by Maharashtriya Kalopasak, Pune, the 49-year-old competition declared its final results of the Pune centre on Sunday. But the list of the chosen nine plays caused severe dissatisfaction amongst student groups.

Three cheers: Students motivate their college teams at Purushottam Karandak theatre competition

Vaibhav Lonkar, Student Secretary, VIIT (Vishwakarma Institute of Information Technology), a participant college said, “Our play Punarjanma was extremely well-received at the preliminary round. So confident were we that we had already started practicing for the finals. We were shocked when we weren’t short-listed.”

This is not the lone case. Says Rishikesh Tekade, cultural secretary of BJ Medical College, which also participated in the competition, “Hardly five of the nine chosen plays in the final round were worth watching.”

Pratik Chaudhari, General Secretary, AISSMS-CoE for Purushottam Karandak said, “I feel sad, not only for us, but also for many other deserving plays that didn’t get selected for the final round.”

According to the traditional jury system, 3 judges watch the 51 plays in the first round, out of which nine are chosen for the final round. In the final round, three other judges watch these nine plays and choose the top 3 plays. The best play gets the prestigious title of Purushottam Karandak.

While they might have lost out this year, the few good ones still get a stage to showcase their talent, thanks to Dreams2Reality (D2R), a proactive group of youngsters who have been through the same situation when they were in college.

D2R showcases the 3 best plays that couldn’t make it to the final round, at Bharat Natya Mandir. Founder Kushal Khot said, “When we had participated during our college days, we too had lost out in the preliminary rounds, despite being good. We know how it feels and that’s why we’ve been doing this for the last five years.”

Students feel that with increasing number of participants, the traditional system of judging needs an overhaul, as several good plays are missing out on the opportunity.

Said Khot, “Next year, the competition completes 50 years. I think it’s time to adopt some changes. For example, many dignitaries of the theatre and film industries attend the competition. Maybe their opinion can also be considered, apart from the judges’ points of view, to declare the result.”

Firodia Karandak, another prestigious competition has introduced a pre-primary round to filter out the bad from the good. Students feel that this too could be emulated at Purushottam Karandak.

Another option was to increase the number of judges in the preliminary rounds, said students. Mostly, students want transparency in the results. They feel judges should openly discuss and give feedback as to why a play lost out and on what parameters was it eliminated.

But the organisers have an answer to every question. They say that a change in the jury system does not figure in their plans.

Rajendra Thakurdesai, Secretary, Maharashtriya Kalopasak, which organises the competition, clarified, “At least 10-12 teams that were dissatisfied with the results, spoke to the judges after the preliminary round. The judges’ decision is final and binding.”

He further explained, “We can increase the number of judges from 3 to 15. But it’s very difficult to manage the dates of so many eminent personalities. It’s not possible to get them to attend a month-long event.”

Making his stand clear on transparency, he said, “Kalopasak had introduced open discussions between judges and the audience after the results were declared. However, this led to ugly fights. Hence, we had to stop it.”

Number's game
51: No of participating colleges
60: No of plays performed
800: No of participating students
750: Audience per play

What the veterans say
The competition has nurtured and produced several actors, many of whom are now veterans of the Marathi theatre and film industry.

Vibhavari Deshpande: I understand the fire and the zeal to win among the participants. At the same time, they should understand that the judges are more experienced and knowledgeable. They are qualified enough to differentiate the good from the bad. By introducing options like audience polls and viewers’ choice, this prestigious competition shouldn’t be converted to a commercial reality show. But I do agree that we can increase the number of rounds to make sure deserving colleges don’t lose out.

Subodh Bhave: I performed at Purushottam Karandak from 1995-99 and we never won in those five years. But I learnt from my mistakes and this competition has a great contribution in making me a better actor. This, I feel, is far greater than bagging the first prize. 

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