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Memories Of Another Day

Wednesday, October 24, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Marathi theatre frequently revisits old classics to introduce these plays to a new generation. Some of those plays transcend time and are as fresh as when they were first staged. Some, unfortunately look and sound dated.

The interesting thing about the new production of Ratnakar Matkari’s Aranyak, which has been revived after 44 years, is that three of the actors in the old production are acting in the new version too. So it is a thrill for the audience to see Dilip Prabhawalker, Ravi Patwardhan and Pratibha Matkari together on stage again.

Aranyak was written by Matkari (who is also the director) in blank verse and the language is music to the ears. It is set at the time after the great Kurukshetra war has ended, leaving behind unimaginable devastation and elders of the Pandava and Kaurava clans suffering the grief of losing sons and grandsons.

In the first act of the play, the Rajprasadkhanda, set in the palace, Yudhishtir has to endure the agonized screams of Yuyutsu, the only Kaurava left alive. He was Dhritarashtra’s (Ravi Patwardhan) son by Gandhari’s (Pratibha Matkari) maid, so not considered a legitimate Kaurava; also, he fought on the side of the Pandava, because he considered them to be righteous. In the presence of the elders, including Vidur (Dilip Prabhawalkar), Yuyustu commits suicide. After this, Dhritarashtra is advised by Vidur to take up vanaprastham and retire to the forest. Gandhari, Kunti, Vidur and a loyal guard, Pratihari, decided to go with him.

The second act, Aranyakhanda, is set in the forest where the elders spend their days in trying to reach a sense of peace after the tumultuous past.
The actors, and an eight-member chorus, are competent, with clear speech and an economy of movement; the production, however, cannot escape the kitsch that television mythologicals have adopted. The use of projected sets and garish LED lights somehow did not go with the gravity of the text. It would, perhaps, have appealed more if done in the style of the period in which it was first staged, to give a new audience a feel of classical theatre. The decision to use modern technology was probably taken because the production (by Zee Marathi) will also be televised.

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