With the backdrop of protests against the Mandal Commission in 1990, a clutch of journalists in Delhi get ready to report on a hanging. All of a sudden, somebody realises that the condemned man has escaped. The police and the politicians rush into damage control mode, and the reporters realise they have a scoop of a lifetime. The comic play, Front Page, is an adaptation of a classic production of Broadway. It is being presented in Hindi by Dramatech, a theatre group founded by ex-IITians in 1985. Director Sanjiv Agarwal, whose day job is also of a Director, but at a factory in Faridabad that makes cutting tools, says, “Doing this play scared me a lot because there are 22 actors, about half of them engineers, recreating a story that has been staged at many places and turned into a film.” Agarwal has directed four plays for Dramatech, including A Streetcar Named Desire and Arsenic and Old Lace. Excerpts from an interview:
Kudos and criticism
I decided on this play for two reasons. One is that a lot of journalists have come under attack and have even been killed in recent years. This play is a homage to them. Secondly, it looks at the seamy side of journalism because not all the reporters come out smelling of roses. Of course, our hero does.
Chicago to Delhi
The play was written by two reporters from Chicago, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArhur, and first produced in 1928. We have adapted it to Delhi of the 1990s and included the politics of the anti-Mandal Commission protests. Adapting the play was challenging, not the least because there is a character of a Sheriff, who is an elected officer as well as a law enforcer or a policeman. In India, we do not have that. We have managed to get around this. How? You’ll find out.
Interpreter of maladies
The stage is designed like a rundown media room, with a few chairs and a table. At any time, there are 10-12 people on stage. We have used the whole play, with things happening all over the stage. We have reporters belonging to different parts of India, from Bengal to Bihar. The editor is a sardar.
One of the reporters in the play keeps playing the banjo. And, we had to get Bollywood. There is a small item number also.
At Shri Ram Centre on October 20 and 21. Tickets priced Rs 1,000, Rs 500, Rs 250 and Rs 150 are available at BookMyShow