Theatre Review: Munshiji Ki Gudgudi

I watched Munshiji ki Gudgudi, a play based on stories written by Munshi Premchand, performed by Ekjute – Nadira Babbar’s Theatre Group. Now, as an author, Munshiji needs no introduction as one of the greatest writers of Hindi Literature, one of the biggest proponents of Progressive Literature of his times, a man with rock-solid hold on the nerves of Indian society, especially the middle class and rural families. What we often miss while reading his serious satirical works, is the immensely witty and humorous side of his personality, as can be seen in some of his stories.

This play is a set of four short stories – Darogaji, Bade Bhai Saheb, Rasik Sampadak and Aansu ki Holi. With the exception of the last one, the first three can be put in the genre of comedy. The last is a quintessential Munshiji story with sarcasm, messages, comedy and a dash of rustic brilliance.

Darogaji – It’s the story of a daroga (inspector’s) encounter with the husband of her ex-lover, when the old flames are being reignited at her house. This particular story had five major characters, of which the protagonist (Darogaji) performed average, while most of the other characters (barring the lover’s husband) were below average. The performances seemed very loud at times. However, the narrative and the underlying plot are quite hilarious, which saves the play. And this can be considered true of almost all the stories – average performances, some hilarious moments, good narrative.

Bade Bhai Saheb – This particular story will always suffer with the problem of comparision. The last I saw, it was a part of Katha Collage-I, where Naseeruddin Shah and team performed this story. The performances of Jameel and Imaad, under the direction of Naseer had taken the play to glorious heights. However, this particular version, directed by Sanjay, was hugely influenced by Naseer’s version. The body language, the histrionics, the actor’s way, the narrative – it all seemed to be a desperate attempt to ape the protagonists of Naseer’s version. While the lead actors did put in a good show, the younger brother seemed out of place, since he did not look younger than the older brother. More importantly, when a 13-14 year old is narrating the story from his viewpoint, his playfulness and body language go hand-in-hand with the way he looks. This is why cast selection is extremely important to the success of a play, movie, sitcom.

Rasik Sampadak – Good one. About an old magazine editor, who is a widower finding solace in the company of women. It’s about the editor stretching his imaginations to such extent where he paints the picture of a woman in his mind based on some mindlessly sensuous poetry written by her, only to find himself in a rather embarrassing situation once she actually lands at his office. In this particular play, the protagonists were quite good in terms of performance.

Aansuon ki Holi – The last one, probably the best (but the least comic) was a story dripping with Munshiji’s style and substance. A strong satire on the people who stretch festivities to such level where they forget what real occasions in life are. They forget the values that they stand for and the reason these festivities exist in our lives. The story is about a certain individual who does not celebrate any festivity (such as Diwali, Holi, etc.). However, now that he is married and his brother-in-laws are visiting him on Holi, he has a tough time warding off the threat of being submerged in the holi colors. The story takes a sudden towards the climax where Srivilas (the protagonist) explains why he stopped celebrating festivals. Good performances overall in this play as well.

Few global comments about the play(s) – I think the cast selection could have been better. There were places where you could see the role of protagonist being played better by one of the other guys. In almost all the plays, the directors chose to be the lead themselves, which I think is a serious mistake when you are young and amateur. My guess is that it becomes increasingly difficult to monitor the overall setup unless you stand outside and have a look.

The second flaw was the lighting and stage setups, which was far from being optimally utilized in many cases. Even in a play like Bade Bhai Saheb, where the distinctions between the older and the younger brother are quite clear, a stage contrast should/can be created to highlight the difference in people/ideologies. But then, what do I know about theater after from being a loyal visitor.

The third flaw was the duration – Unless you are sure why a story should be a 20 minute story or a 30 minute story, you should not stretch. One got a feeling at times that the play could have been shortened a bit at certain places, and delved deeper into at certain places.

The biggest positive – it’s a play directed and enacted by young theater enthusiasts who are still learning the trade. If they are able to do this good a job so early in their learning curve, I am sure they will become good theater personalities.

The other big positive is the choice of stories. Its difficult to find stories that fit your sensibility as well as your style of narration. To that extent, I think the team had done a good job.

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About Amit
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

2 Responses to Theatre Review: Munshiji Ki Gudgudi

  1. madhvi munshi says:

    hi there…saw your play in 2007 and really enjoyed a hindi play after a long time…. the stories chosen were absolutely delightful. I throughly enjoyed the poem narrated in between the plays relating to studies and different subjects. My son has a hindi elocution coming up and i was wondering if you could lend me this poem…it still brought a laugh to my mind and i thought that if it had such an impact it really is perfect.
    Congratulations once again for having such a lasting memory in your audiences mind!!!

  2. lalita says:

    joke bahut he aache hai…..mun ko gudguda dete hai

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