This isnt a run-of-the-mill school play. The New English School (Ramanbaug) principal,BS Purandare,has bigger plans. He envisages 2,500 people on stage,comprising students,faculty and staff,performing Jaanta Raja,a seminal play documenting Chattrapati Shivaji Maharajs life till his coronation. This feat could earn this production a world record,says the principal.
Students from various grades have been divided into small units. Each unit is responsible for the completion of a certain task or a certain role on stage. A group of VII graders are busy practicing koli nritya,the traditional fishermans dance. They will perform their routine as men and women holding oars and fish-baskets respectively. I will be wearing a lungi,a vest and a bandana on the final day and bear an oar. He will portray a woman and carry a tokri on his head, says Kunal Bapurenuse pointing at his classmate Abhishek Khirid in jest.
The schools strong NCC troop will be carrying out the fight sequences in the play. The boys have been training regularly with their coach,NCC Second Officer Rajendra Ramachandra Pawar. The muscular,handlebar moustache-wearing Pawar will play the role of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj. I have been reading biographies on Shivaji and watching films on him to gain deeper insights into Shivajis persona says Pawar,who spent the summer break practicing dialogues. While Pawar has been dabbling with sword-fighting and horse-riding,English and Science teacher Sumita Kharad is mastering facial expressions and posture to pull off the journey of Jijabai from youth to old age.
Ravindra Satpute,a language teacher,is teaching the actors the science of acting and drama. I have 15 years of experience in theatre as an actor and director, he says,adding they he will also be handling stage play and design.
The world record of 2,500 people on stage,though tempting,is not the plays only goal. The 10 months of rehearsals that will culminate in the finale in December,will be educational, says Purandare. These 10 months,to him,are one long event; during which students will learn art and craft and also be educated in managerial skills.
We arent spending any money on this production, says Purandare. Every piece of prop and costume is being made by the students. Before and after classes,the children sit in activity rooms making swords out of plastic boards and traditional Maharashtrian turbans with papier-mâché,among others. They are also getting a glimpse into the Maharashtrian culture. For example,they were recently taught to tie a turban the indigenous way, says Purandare.
He claims that by indulging in group activities,the children are learning basic managerial principles. The administration,during the course of rehearsals,is imparting skills of communication,leadership and motivation to the children. They are learning the most from Shivaji, says the proud principal,adding that the Pratapgarh war teaches unparalleled lessons on planning motivation and teamwork. Purandare hopes his students will imbibe benevolence,honesty and respect towards women; traits that marked Chattrapati Shivaji Maharajs conduct.