On Saturday Zee Theatre showcased ‘Agnipankh’ at Bandra’s Rang Mandir hall. This is a period drama set in a newly independent India. It’s protagonist Durgeshwari, is a proud, wealthy Maratha Zamindar, who is referred to as ‘Baisahib’ by one and all. Making up for her husband’s inability of looking after the family name, she runs her zamindari household with an iron fist. Being a true matriarch, she takes all decisions in the household, including the ones that involve property and finances and even the personal lives of her family members. Mita Vashist plays the role of this strong matriarch and we see her essay her role with great ease as she underplays her strength initially, but ends on a high note, taking complete control with her powerful performance. Others in the cast include Raksha Shetty as her daughter Indira, who falls in love with their servant’s grandson, Yashwant, while studying with him, and Gulki Joshi as her ‘kayast’ daughter in law, who is always treated by Baisahib as one from a lower caste. The role of Baisahib’s naive son, Shekhar is played by Prasad Jawade, while Sumukha essays the part of Yashwant, who brings with him the sweeping changes that are underway in the country with the ousting of the British rule and therefore a possible end to ‘zamindari’. While the rest of the cast provide adequate support, it is Satyajit Sharma as Raosaab, Durgeshwari’s husband, who towers above the rest, with his fine performance as the useless though sensitive and gentle patriarch.

Baisahib’s disdain for the lower castes and her need to preserve the stature of her family results in her losing touch with her responsibilities as a mother, wife and more importantly changing times. However, when Gandhiji is assassinated by Nathuram Godse, also a Maratha Brahmin, trouble begins to brew and ‘Baisahib’ faces the possibility of giving up everything that she has worked for. Will ‘Baisaab’ eventually hold on to her power and rise like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes, or will her estate and household crumble like a pack of cards? The title of the play ‘Agnipankh’ refers to this mythical bird, the Phoenix. Ganesh Yadav has very effectively directed this play. The sets and costumes are authentic and rich.

Zee Theatre, must be applauded for their initiative in promoting theatre across the country. They will be executing a tour across the nation with an aim to create and curate the best of Indian Theatre for National and International audiences. ZEE LIVE also aims to bring forth, works of the most acknowledged playwrights in genres ranging from drama, suspense, comedy, musicals, classics and many more. Zee Theatre will showcase – ‘Agnipankh’ along with bringing another play ‘Dhumrapaan’ on its curated roaster this march.
ZEE Theatre has already successfully showcased leading plays like ‘Sir Sir Sarla’, ‘Internal Affairs’, ‘Chakravyuh’, ‘Chuhal’, ‘Jana Tha Roshanpura’, ‘Bade Miyan Deewane’, ‘Maa in Transit’ since January 2017.