By Manju Sampat
Dr. Shankar Shesh’s musical satire ‘ Are Mayavi Sarovar’, which has been directed by the very talented Salim Arif, was recently performed at St. Andrews auditorium in Bandra, as part of the pan-India Dr. Shanker Shesh Natyotsav. The script cleverly draws on colourful Indian mythological motifs. While using these as the mainstay of the play, it makes powerful comments on the differences between the lives of men and women, gender inequality across all stratas of society and other relevant topics of modernisation and power struggle.
The play is set in ancient times and features King Ilavalu (Paras Gandhi) and his beautiful wife Sujata (Simran Tandon), who is the mother of his hundred sons! Both of them are very convincing in their respective roles. There are some hilarious and incongruous scenes that juxtapose the old and the new. Queen Sujata loves taking “selfies” with her cell phone and talks of ‘Game of Thrones ki Theme party’ for her ‘kitty’! At one point her husband, the king takes, her to the temple town of Sabri Narayan. The queen intuitively feels something terrible is about to happen in this strange place where ‘trees hang upside down’ and ‘donkeys sing raag Bhimpalasi and cows eat meat’! And sure enough her worst fears come true! The king insists on taking a dip in the beautiful ‘Mayavi Lake’ and once he does, he emerges as a beautiful woman! This role of the Lady Raja was played to perfection by the very talented Harshad. The Mayavi Sarovar, is of course a symbol of human desires, wants and temptations. The moral being that giving in to these illusions of progress and achievement, can only cause further problems.
Depicted through a musical, the play requires its audience to indulge in a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’, as the Lady Raja falls in love with a Brahmin guru, marries him and bears his child! In the meantime it is Sujata, the original Queen who rules the kingdom! Later in the play she returns to the forest to get King Ilavalu’s advise on State matters, but he is more interested in asking her for recipes! Soon the light-hearted banter between them turns into a debate that discusses whose child will be the rightful heir to the throne, the legitimate queen’s or the king’s who has assumed a woman’s body. But ‘life must move on’, says the sutradhar (Sunil Upadhyaya), and so it does when Big Boss of the well known TV show sets matters right again! Using liberal doses of humour and satire, this musical dance drama manages to entertain its audience at all times. The interesting fact about this production is, that most of the actors were performing for the first time. The musicians on stage were excellent as was the dancing by the cast. Credit for that goes to Shreekant Ahire, the choreographer.