They hail from cities spread across the state. What’s common to the group of 250 people is their faith in the ideology of social activist Narendra Achyut Dabholkar, who was murdered last year during his morning walk.
On August 20, the first death anniversary of Dabholkar, 250 artistes from across the state will come together to stage 20 Marathi short plays. The initiative is not only a tribute to Dabholkar but also an expression to protest the activist’s assassination.
The idea was conceived about six months ago when city-based theatre artiste Atul Pethe met Dabholkar’s son Hamid. “My association with Dabholkar began over a decade ago; I used to often accompany him to places where he would hold campaigns against superstition, while I conducted workshops for the same cause. When I met Hamid, he asked me how I could contribute to the cause of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS). Coming from the creative field, I felt I could use theatre as a medium to propagate the ideologies of MANS,” said Pethe.
About three months ago, Pethe and his colleague Raju Inamdar conducted a three-day workshop at Islampur in which 60 people participated, including followers of Dabholkar’s views and people from the field of theatre. There were discussions on superstition and related issues. The participants were in six groups, each having 10 members. “We asked each to write songs that reflected these issues.
They were guided about various aspects of theatre – writing script, dialogues, characterisation, voice culture and presenting issues through stories,” says Pethe, adding that in the last two-and-a-half months, similar workshops have been conducted in Kolhapur, Jalgaon and Solapur. People from nearby villages and towns also participated.
The workshops, he says, resulted in formation of 20 groups comprising 250 artistes, who came up with short plays to be showcased under Ringan Natya by Maharashtra ANIS Lok-Rangamanch. “Every group has been rehearsing,” says Pethe. The groups will gather for a performance on August 10 in Satara.
On August 20, the group will gather at 7.30 am at Omkareshwar Bridge, where Dabholkar was murdered. “After presenting a song, we will march to PMC and Erandwane. At Manohar Mangal Karyalaya, Erandwane, we will perform 20 short plays ,” says Pethe.
The process will continue. “The groups will keep performing at various venues, reaching out to people. We hope to reach out to about 5 lakh people in a year’s time and make them aware about the philosophy of MANS and misconceptions about Dabholkar’s views related to superstition,” he adds.