Shastriya Natya Mahotsav
- Ramdas V Pawar
April 16, 2017

Classical Drama Festival 2017 was organized by National School of Drama in collaboration with Dept of Dramatics, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathawada University (BAMU), Aurangabad. The four day festival that took place in the University Auditorium from 22nd to 25th March 2017 was inaugurated by Prof. Kamalakkar Sontakke, senior dramatist of the country in the midst of dignitaries Prof B.A. Chopade, Vice Chancellor, Dr Satish Patil, Director, BCUD, Dr. Pradeep Jabde, Registrar and Dr. Jayant Shevtekar, HOD, Dept., of Dramatics, BAMU.
It was a visual treat for all of us, theatre enthusiasts and the rasikas. It was a great opportunity for the audience of Aurangabad to witness the performances of internationally acclaimed Indian classical plays. We in India have a well defined structure of presenting a play. Sage Bharata in his Natya Shastra, a treatise for drama and dance, mentions detailed construction of our dramatic performances. Since 1970s, Indian theatre directors started experimenting with our own language of theatre and Indian theatre activity is considered one of the oldest in the world. The classical dramatic performance incorporates all the elements i.e., dance, music and drama. Shastriya Natya Mahotsav is an attempt to make people realize what is our own.

On 22nd March, the festival opened with Bhasa’s play ‘Urubhangam’ depicting the plight of Duryodhana and his subsequent defeat performed by the actors of Chorus Repertory Theatre, Manipur.  ‘Urubhangam’ is one of the famous plays directed by world famous playwright Ratan Thiyam. Every frame in the play is constructed with great emphasis on its music, visual quality and colours. Though the play was in Manipuri language, after the opening ensemble it was not very difficult to connect with what was happening. The audience was thrown into the midst of Mahabharata war.

In the fourth scene when the royal entourage of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari enter the stage in search of Duryodhana, every frame thereafter is crafted like a painting. The mourning of his queens and Gandhari elevates the play to creative heaven. It was very difficult to decipher the language but the visual impact was enough even for a layman to connect with the performance.


On 23rd March, the great stalwart of Sanskrit plays, Kavalam Narayana Panicker’s company Sopanam from Kerala presented the evergreen love epic ‘Shakuntalam,’ a well-known romantic play by Kalidasa. The play was in Sanskrit language; they used combination of Mohiniattam classical dance and martial arts of Kerala. The character of King Dushyanta played by actor V. Gireesh carried the play singlehandedly. The play had some beautiful moments, but with better cast and emphasis on detailing, it could have made it a great treat. It was a good performance, simple to understand because of its storyline but the performance showed the absence of Late Panicker.


On 24th March, Hindi adaptation of Godayan, the play ‘Bhagvadajjukiyam’ designed and directed by Surya Mohan Kulashreshtha by Nipa Ranmandali, Lucknow, the farcical style dance drama portrayed using the dance style Bharatanatyam was first presented in 1991 with recorded Hindustani music. It was an interesting play supported by very strong performances and being in Hindi, it connected very well with the audiences. The play had only one major dramatic moment “the change of souls” yet the strong performances and narration through dialogues saw the play through. While watching the play, one feels the usage of Bharatanatyam is a little out of the place because this dance form has its dos and don’ts and when we talk about classical performance we follow the rules, but the play had some commendable performances by Vikas Bajpai, Nitish Bharadwaj and Guru Amrit Sinha in the roles of Saint, Shandilya and Yamadhoot.

Mohe Piya

On the concluding day of the classical theatre festival, ‘Mohe Piya’ was presented, designed and directed in Hindi by Prof. Waman Kendre, Director of National School of Drama. This play written originally by Bhasa in Sanskrit is a story of Bhima, Hidimba and Ghatotkach from Mahabharata. The performances of main characters were brilliant mainly by Rutwikk Kendra in the role of Ghatotkach, Suhas Suryawanshi of Bhim and Renuka Bodhankar of Hidimba character, all actors of leading theatre organization Rangpeeth, Mumbai.
The special feature of the festival was the scholarly discussion on the plays presented. Every day, the performance was followed by a discussion of the previous day’s play under the guidance of special guest of the festival, Prof. Kamalakar Sontakke and senior scholars from the field of theatre in the premises of Dramatic dept., providing a great learning opportunity to the students as well as rasikas who attended the discussion session. Erudite deconstruction of the performances and efficacy was done in detail which simplified the play further. The students as well as experts expressed themselves without inhibition. It was a treat for many to revisit the understanding of Indian dramatic performance.
I’m sure looking at the great response of the audience and jam packed auditorium on all four days, the Dept of Dramatics and BAMU will organize many more such events in future.

Ramdas V Pawar is a writer, playwright and educationist, Aurangabad