Poll Vault

Who should I vote for?” asks the young actor in Pukar Azad Bharat Ki. “For your religion,” says one. “For the party your parents support,” comes another voice.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Published: February 28, 2009 11:42:04 pm

Theatre groups gear up for Elections 2009 with a stinging repertoire

Who should I vote for?” asks the young actor in Pukar Azad Bharat Ki. “For your religion,” says one. “For the party your parents support,” comes another voice. “For someone educated,” is the third,as Theatre Factory,the drama division of the Jagan Institute of Management Studies,Mathura Road,tries to capture the quandary in which India’s young electorate finds itself. A more senior group,Pandies Theatre,echoes a similar sentiment prevailing among adult India in its new play Jab We Elect,which was staged at the Shri Ram Centre over the last few days. Politics has always fuelled the dramatist’s imagination,and the countdown to the general elections is throwing up a profusion of plays that mirror current reality through multiple perspectives. Earlier in March,Tanzil Theatre presented poll politics through the prism of satire called Praan Jaye Par Rajneeti Na Jaye.

“We needed to talk about matters that matter. Jab We Elect is not about whom we elect but how we elect,” says Sanjay Kumar,the director. The play,which is likely to travel to Pakistan early next month,unfolds through a collage of episodes,explores issues like globalisation,the nuclear deal,religious fundamentalism and economic troughs from the snail’s eye perspective,dissecting the effects of national policies on the common man. “Where are the intellectuals who waxed eloquent about free market?” cries a newly unemployed character in the aftermath of the economic slowdown,as a street urchin muses about how all he’s ever seen is “unemployment,ever since my father lost his job when I was a child”. The play is peppered with poetry and humour to maintain audience interest throughout the 75 minutes. “Some episodes are purely Utopian,” says Kumar. “One scene shows goons getting beaten by stiletto-weilding women at a Mangalore pub. This was our way of saying that the positive forces have enough strength in them to dominate the show.”

UTV Bindass,a youth entertainment brand,is giving campus theatre a national platform through their recent initiative,Naatak Kar Desh Badal,in which college groups present their plays on voting and elections. Among those who participated during the Delhi edition on Thursday were JIMS,Lady Irwin College,St Stephens

College,School of Planning and Architecture,NSIT and Hindu College. “Youth constitute 30 per cent of India’s voting base but only 12 per cent actually voted in the last Lok Sabha elections. This surprised us,” says Zarina Mehta,CEO of Bindass. Shri Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce provided several answers to youth apathy “We don’t know our politicians,” said one exasperated character. “Sixty percent of our leaders have criminal records,” said another as they bowed out after evocative scenes showing the voting system slumped under the leaden weights of unemployment,corruption and illiteracy.

For Tanzil Theatre,the stress was on entertainment. Praan Jaye Par Rajneeti Na Jaye revolves around elections among divinity — Indradev,Kamdev,Pavandev and Menaka. “The protagonist,a corrupt politician from earth,has a deal with all the contenders. If Kamdev wins,he will be appointed Home Minister,if Pavandev wins,he gets the ministry of his choice,if Indradev wins,he becomes Dev Mantri and if the divine damsel Menaka wins,he can assume the throne of the Lord of Kings,Indradev himself,” explains Viral Arya,the director of the play. The play,which contains wry references to incidents like brawls in Vidhan Sabha and party defections,“makes the point without even refering to the forthcoming general elections. We just showed Indian politics as it is and left the comments to the audience.”

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