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On World Theatre Day, Newsline takes a peek into the journey of 3 city-based theatre groups that redefined the drama scene in Pune.

 A scene from Ghashiram Kotwal staged by Theatre Academy. (Express archive) A scene from Ghashiram Kotwal staged by Theatre Academy. (Express archive)

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
Established: 1951

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 that the last production of PDA was in November 2012 titled Ardhuk, written by Sameer Mone and directed by Dilip Vengurlekar.

Theatre Academy
Established: 1972

For the birth of any new idea, the inception of its germ is pertinent. When PDA was in the process of staging Ghashiram Kotwal, a major disagreement took place between its members. Its senior members Satish Alekar, Shridhar Rajguru and Jabbar Patel broke away from PDA and formed Theatre Academy in 1972. The group went on to produce Ghashiram Kotwal the same year.

Theatre Academy has the credentials of being rebellious from the very beginning; and the group made it obvious in their productions too, all of which made a comment on the social fabric. Since the time it was established, Theatre Academy has staged several plays that received rave reviews across the country. The plays include Mahanirvaan, Begum Barve and Teen Paisacha Tamasha among others.

However, of late, Theatre Academy hasn’t been producing plays for the same reasons cited by other theatre groups. “There are good actors who are keen on doing theatre but once they get work in television, they are forced to step back from theatre, simply because television industry is too demanding and artistes cannot devote time to both,” says Prasad Purandare, president of the group.

Though the group may not be active in terms of producing plays, it has kept its focus intact on all things creative. For the last five years, Theatre Academy has been holding a musical one-act play competition titled Rangasangeet, which is organised in six cities of Maharashtra. While every centre has a primary round, the final round is conducted in Pune, where altogether 12 one-act plays are showcased — two from each centre. “The younger generation comes up with its own music to express and perform, and the final outcome is phenomenal and impressive,” adds Purandare.

Indian People’s Theatre Association
Established: 1992

“Since the time IPTA Pune was launched in 1992 by its founder member Ramesh Tilekar, it has only staged plays that give some social message. Be it our first play Madaan (1992), or Agneepath (1994), Mee Mantri Zhalo (1996) and Chitaai (2001),” says Ravindra Deodhar, general secretary, IPTA Pune. While IPTA based in other cities across the country staged plays in other languages, IPTA Pune primarily did Marathi plays. However, after successfully staging several plays, the production of plays was stopped at IPTA Pune in 2002, the same year the office of Maharashtra IPTA was shifted from Mumbai to Pune.

From 2002 to 2008, the group remained active in conducting inter-college street play competitions in association with the SP College. This activity too was stopped in 2008 for a period of three years, and was restarted in 2011. The group has staged three drama festivals so far — in 1998 (Madaan and Ghashiram Kotwal), 2002 (Raat and Tajmahal Ka Tender) and 2013 (Chalta Hai Yaar, Hee Vaata Doora Jaate and Talyat Malyat). In 2001, the group’s production, Chitaai (by Deodhar), which portrayed the story of a man who worked in a crematorium, won as many as nine awards at state-level theatre competitions.

“Since 1992, IPTA Pune has also produced three films. While its latest film, a documentary titled Rangabhashakar directed by Amrut Samak, was screened over a week ago at NFAI, the other two films are Dharti Ke Lal (1946) directed by Khwaja Ahmed Abbas and Kahan Kahan Se Guzre (2012) by Masood Akhtar,” says Deodhar.

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
Established: 1951

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 that the last production of PDA was in November 2012 titled Ardhuk, written by Sameer Mone and directed by Dilip Vengurlekar.

Theatre Academy
Established: 1972

For the birth of any new idea, the inception of its germ is pertinent. When PDA was in the process of staging Ghashiram Kotwal, a major disagreement took place between its members. Its senior members Satish Alekar, Shridhar Rajguru and Jabbar Patel broke away from PDA and formed Theatre Academy in 1972. The group went on to produce Ghashiram Kotwal the same year.

Theatre Academy has the credentials of being rebellious from the very beginning; and the group made it obvious in their productions too, all of which made a comment on the social fabric. Since the time it was established, Theatre Academy has staged several plays that received rave reviews across the country. The plays include Mahanirvaan, Begum Barve and Teen Paisacha Tamasha among others.

However, of late, Theatre Academy hasn’t been producing plays for the same reasons cited by other theatre groups. “There are good actors who are keen on doing theatre but once they get work in television, they are forced to step back from theatre, simply because television industry is too demanding and artistes cannot devote time to both,” says Prasad Purandare, president of the group.

Though the group may not be active in terms of producing plays, it has kept its focus intact on all things creative. For the last five years, Theatre Academy has been holding a musical one-act play competition titled Rangasangeet, which is organised in six cities of Maharashtra. While every centre has a primary round, the final round is conducted in Pune, where altogether 12 one-act plays are showcased — two from each centre. “The younger generation comes up with its own music to express and perform, and the final outcome is phenomenal and impressive,” adds Purandare.

Indian People’s Theatre Association
Established: 1992

“Since the time IPTA Pune was launched in 1992 by its founder member Ramesh Tilekar, it has only staged plays that give some social message. Be it our first play Madaan (1992), or Agneepath (1994), Mee Mantri Zhalo (1996) and Chitaai (2001),” says Ravindra Deodhar, general secretary, IPTA Pune. While IPTA based in other cities across the country staged plays in other languages, IPTA Pune primarily did Marathi plays. However, after successfully staging several plays, the production of plays was stopped at IPTA Pune in 2002, the same year the office of Maharashtra IPTA was shifted from Mumbai to Pune.

From 2002 to 2008, the group remained active in conducting inter-college street play competitions in association with the SP College. This activity too was stopped in 2008 for a period of three years, and was restarted in 2011. The group has staged three drama festivals so far — in 1998 (Madaan and Ghashiram Kotwal), 2002 (Raat and Tajmahal Ka Tender) and 2013 (Chalta Hai Yaar, Hee Vaata Doora Jaate and Talyat Malyat). In 2001, the group’s production, Chitaai (by Deodhar), which portrayed the story of a man who worked in a crematorium, won as many as nine awards at state-level theatre competitions.

“Since 1992, IPTA Pune has also produced three films. While its latest film, a documentary titled Rangabhashakar directed by Amrut Samak, was screened over a week ago at NFAI, the other two films are Dharti Ke Lal (1946) directed by Khwaja Ahmed Abbas and Kahan Kahan Se Guzre (2012) by Masood Akhtar,” says Deodhar.

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