If one feels that offbeat subjects, bold dialogues and contemporary themes have marked Pune’s theatre scene only in the recent times, one needs to delve deeper into the decades gone by. The city boasts of theatre groups that came into being when artistes were looking for a medium to break away from the conventional and conservative expressions of theatre. Standing strong against initial criticism, these groups and those associated with it were determined to find their feet, and they did. Within a short span, the groups not only carved a niche for themselves in the city but also in the hearts of drama enthusiasts. Here we unfold the artistic sojourns of three city-based theatre groups:
Progressive Dramatic Association
Nearly 63 years ago, six friends — Late Professor Bhalba Kelkar, Dr Shriram Lagoo, Taramati Gharpure, Keshav Ghule, Jayant Dharmadhikari and Shridhar Limaye — who were keen on doing something different in the field of theatre, became instrumental in founding the Progressive Dramatic Association (PDA), a name that went on to gain fame for staging experimental Marathi plays.
“The group was formed with the ideology of presenting something new to the audience other than traditional plays. All the plays done by PDA were new in all aspects — be it artistes, subjects, set-up or other theatrical elements,” says PDA secretary Shashikant Kulkarni.
Till date, the group has staged as many as 80 plays, which have witnessed altogether over 2,000 shows in not just Maharashtra but also in in cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, Jabalpur, Ajmer, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Kolkata, Delhi and many more. More than 25 productions by PDA were staged at state-level theatre competitions and won laurels. A couple of them were also showcased internationally in countries such as South Korea and Canada. Among its several productions such as Vedayacha Ghar Unhat, Jagannathacha Rath, Prema Tujha Ranga Kasa, Sati, Sahasrachandradarshan and Tu Veda Kumbhar to name a few, the most acclaimed play is Ghashiram Kotwal, penned by Vijay Tendulkar in 1972. “PDA was the first group to perform Ghashiram Kotwal in 1972,” says Kulkarni.
For the last 20 years, PDA has been conducting three-week theatre workshops for college students between May and June. The group invites experts in the field to share their knowledge on acting, lighting, make-up and other aspects with the participants. “Besides, for the past 35 years, we have been producing one historical play every year based on prominent figures of Peshwai period. The play has two shows — one at Parvati and the other at Mrityunjeshwar Temple,” says Kulkarni.
However, the pace at which PDA produced experimental plays, says Kulkarni, has slowed down a bit. “People, who were interested in theatre, are getting inclined towards television. There is no dearth of theatre artistes, but there is a shortage of artistes who can devote themselves completely to theatre,” complains Kulkarni, adding continued…