Watch a play that celebrates RK Narayan's memory lane in Malgudi

May 08, 2018, 07:02 IST | Shunashir Sen

Watch a play that takes the audience around the famous town that celebrated Indian novelist RK Narayan created for his stories

The cast and crew of Malgudi Revisited"
The cast and crew of Malgudi Revisited

Malgudi - the famous fictitious place that RK Narayan created - has a certain sense of innocence that seems incongruous with the fast pace of life in a city like Mumbai. It offered the characters a chance to enjoy the simpler pleasures of life, be it a young boy following the journey of a paper boat down a nullah or chucking pebbles into a lake. But now, people here can also get a chance to spend a day in the laidback town, as Tantra Theatre Group brings it to life in a series of short plays called Malgudi Revisited.

In it, a narrator will take the audience around different locations, making them meet the locals who populated Narayan's much-loved book. The day begins early, at 8 am, with a visit to the school where Swami - one of Narayan's most iconic characters - studied with his friends. Their exploits were of an everyday nature. And yet, there were lessons embedded in the story that are relevant even today, such as how a wall of conflict can be broken down with just a bit of empathy and understanding.

The short play featuring the astrologer
The short play featuring the astrologer

Then, around noon, the audience will be taken to a chowk where they will meet "the talkative man", who narrates a story called Old Man of the Temple. It deals with how the talkative man had once encountered a ghost while driving by a roadside temple, who possessed the spirit of the young man at the wheel. Krishna Battar, the ghost, was the one who had built the temple. But his spirit refused to leave the area even after his death, since there was no one else to take care of the holy place. Eventually, the talkative man convinces Battar that it is important to let go of the past, no matter how tough that is. And in the end, it seems that Battar has understood this point, because the next time the man comes around to that temple, the ghost is nowhere to be seen.

Later in the afternoon, the scene shifts to a bank, where a watchman is sitting outside the gate. This watchman tells the audience about how, after retiring from his job, he had discovered a talent for making paper dolls. He had received a lot of love for the same, but one day, he got a registered letter from a bank whose manager had been one of the recipients of his dolls. Now, back at that time, receiving a registered letter invariably spelt financial doom for a person. So, the watchman cursed himself for giving the manager his gift, and the insane fear he felt about opening the letter finally made him lose his mind. The irony, though, is that the envelope had contained a sum of `100, which the manager had sent the watchman, elated with his gift.

Soumitra Acharya
Soumitra Acharya

After that, in the evening, the audience is taken around to a marketplace, where they meet an astrologer whose quick thinking saves him from being pummelled by a man he had once tried to kill in his village. And finally, the narrator notices that a light is still switched on in the bank, so he goes to find out if someone is still working there. In the process, the audience comes across the character who was the protagonist of a story called Forty Rupees a Month. This man had decided to quit his soul-crushing job to spend more time with his family. The sum of Rs 40 was not completely peanuts back then. But it still didn't allow him to take his wife and children out for movies, for instance, and so he decided to hang up his boots. But at the last moment before submitting his resignation letter, he found out that he had got a pay hike of `5, and that made him change his mind about packing up his working life and calling it a day.

Soumitra Acharya, who directed and wrote the short plays, and also essays the role of the narrator, reveals this plot structure to us. He also points out how relevant Narayan's stories continue to be. "For instance, the main character in Forty Rupees a Month might well be me, where instead of taking my family out for a movie, my ambition could be to take my parents on a foreign trip. So, like him, even I am stuck in my comfort zone, and refuse to get out of that rut come what may," he says, pointing out how some issues remain constant through the years, and some places like Malgudi - fictitious as it may be - have a sense of timelessness that persists through the ages.

ON: May 13, 7.30 pm
AT: Whistling Woods - Andheri Base, Link Road, Andheri West.
ENTRY: Rs 350

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