Lucknow ’76 at Ranga Shankara

” Lucknow ’76”,staged at Ranga Shankara on 2nd and 3rd March, 2007, is written and directed by Abhishek Majumdar. The play draws comparisons between the historic events of 1876 and the Emergency imposed in 1976, and looks at the way event impact the lives of ordinary people.

It was obvious from the very first scene that we were privileged to have a cast of really fine actors, who acquitted themselves extremely well indeed. They held us with the power of their acting right through the evening, and the delivery and diction were excellent.

The music was by Kallol Dasgupta, and if he was the person sitting to the side of the stage, singing extremely well, but strumming an off-pitch guitar, he did a great job as well. (Though how such an excellent singer can leave a guitar tuned off-pitch for an 90 minutes is just beyond me.) Here he is (I think…because he was not introduced.)

singer kalloll lucknow 76 020308

The sound was by Ram Ganesh Kamatham, one of our really talented young playwrights, who was also on the stage this evening. The lights (Mallika Prasad, Shivkanth Kumta), the set design (rather minimalistic, but with a very interesting floor collage) by Soumitra Ghosh), and the designs/ paintings by Pallavi Krishna, were all very good indeed.

Here are two of the cast on the intriguing stage display:

cast of lucknow76 and sets RS 020308

I invited the Sastry family home after the play to discuss their opinions of it, and between Shiv Sankar, Shashi, Pooja and Neeraj, we explored what the evening denoted to each of us.

All of were unanimous that we liked the play, and this was certainly due to the good production values. Shiv and I felt that the out-of-tune guitar really pulled our attention away from the action onstage!

Shashi and Pooja both felt that the narraitve got a bit jumbled, and the costumes did not demarcate, clearly enough, the distinction between the “1876” characters and the “1976” characters. Also, all of us could not see the relevance of the scene (though they were quite powerful on their own) in Bengali and Malayalam, in as much as sections of the audience could not follow the languages. Nor could Shashi and I understand the significance of the shadow-play in some of the scenes. But in spite of this, the play was very absorbing.

I felt that the play drew a neat parallel between the political conditions in 1876 an 1976; but Shiv and Shashi were both unanimous that when the play dealt so much with the incident of the massacre, it was anti-climactic that the narrative seemed suddenly to lose its focus on that incident and the play ended with Rini Memsahib and Adil moving out of Lucknow instead.

Another problem was that there was no introduction of the cast or crew post-play, and no discussion either. I was not given a brochure, either, before the play, even though I told the ticket person clearly that I was going to be writing a review (perhaps he didn’t care too much for reviews!) I managed to borrow a brochure from a neighbour, and have it before me…but I have no idea who played what…and Ram Ganesh Kamatham is not mentioned in the cast at all! The dramaturgy for 1876 is by Boerbel Aschenberg, but nothing more is mentioned.

All of us felt that unless the cast is introduced at the end of every performance, and some amount of discussion/ audience interaction is initiated, the audiene will often leave without any sense but that of passive watching. There will be no sense of interaction, of participation, or even information about the cast and crew. The contact email id given is that of Vibgyor Entertainment but I am not sure if this is the name of the theatre group itself.

Here’s the entire cast taking their bo

I was struck by the youth of the playwright/director as he came forward to take his bow after the performance. Abhishek Majumdar is definitely a name to watch in Bangalore theatre circles!

All in all, a vibrant, absorbing evening of fairly serious, well-exectuted theatre…but the guitar strings need a little tuning still, literally and figuratively!

1 Comment so far

  1. nilanjanpc on March 16th, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

    Hi

    Read your comments with interest and glad to find that you enjoyed the show. I was part of the 1876 cast and in case of the remote possibility of any further interest in the play – do let me know at nilanjanpc@yahoo.com

    Regards
    Nilanjan



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