Even before the curtains rises up,the play Raja Aur Rani is sure to draw a packed house at ICCR next Monday. Written by Rabindranath Tagore and performed in India by a Mauritius-based troupe,since it is among Tagores lesser known works,curiosity will naturally be high.
The play is an effort to promote Hindi language and Indian culture through the medium of poems,stories and rama. The play was staged at the Capital earlier this week to a packed hall.
Director Balraj Ramphul,a drama coordinator with the Rabindranath Tagore Institute in Mauritius,chose Raja Aur Rani over Tagores legendary works like Chitrangada,Chandalika and Shyama,because the theme of King Vikrama being so much in love with his wife that he neglects his royal duties and subjects finds a contemporary echo in self-seeking politicians. Tagore wrote this play in a month and played the role of King Vikrama in a family production,which also included his wife and sister-in-law. Raja Aur Rani is also considered to be the most Shakespearean of Tagores oeuvre,with plenty of violence,contrasting characters and a sub-plot packed with intrigue.
Ramphul,whose ancestors migrated to Mauritius 175 years ago,however,chose to play it safe. So,the audience who expected a mingling of Mauritian and Indian elements in the performance had to be satisfied with just another plain Hindi play where lacklustre acting complemented a garish set. While Santaram Choollun as King Vikrama intoned every dialogue from love to wrath with the same expression,Goonmantee Kodai as his Queen was trying just too hard. Weve come to learn,not to teach, said Ramphul. The play symbolises a cultural meeting point between the people of Mauritius and India. In the years to come,we will become bolder in our productions.