M A I N   N E W S

Neelam enthralls Bangalorians
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, November 14
The atmosphere in the café at Ranga Shankara here, before the evening show, said it all. Bangalorians gathered in strength to watch Neelam Mansingh Chowdhary's Naga Mandala. And there were only a sprinkling of turbans in the crowd. Kannadiga's came to see what a Punjabi had done with their age-old tale and did not return home disappointed.

Consider the responses. A man who said he had been cajoled to see the play by his daughter, little knowing it was in Punjabi, thanked Neelam for enriching him. "I know only two words of Punjabi: 'Sat Sri Akal' and 'putt', but the moment I heard the opening music I was spellbound. Still others said even though they did not understand the language, they were "captured" by the action.

Neelam Mansingh used drama, music, her mix of urban and rural artistes, including female impersonators known as "naqqals" to good effect at the last performance of the 17-day-long Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival last night.

The technical aspects of theatrical art and Indian tradition of story telling as conceived by its writer Girish Karnad were all there to see. However, the play proved to be a major departure from earlier presentations of Naga Mandala, including one attempt made by Neelam Mansingh herself in 1989.

The play has acquired a contemporary outlook and message which it puts across in a lively and uninhibited manner. The props themselves are only seen as a means to an end. One sees a bright red gas stove and a non-stick 'tava' in the kitchen which is enclosed with gunny bags of Venky's Poultry feed. More stress is laid on symbolism with water and fire used to provide serenity and tension according to the demands of the director. And finally in a departure from the past and one which opens up further questions, Neelam has made the snake live and made her heroine take up the shed skin of her lover as the last parting gift.

The actors are not exactly enacting the script alone. The stress is on hidden emotions with Ramanjit as Rani excelling first as a woman pining for the love of her husband and later as one who discovers what passion is. The actress also explores a third dimension of a baffled wife who is at a loss to understand how a husband who comes regularly to her at night but is indifferent in the day accusing her of adultery and forcing her to take the snake trial.

The husband, Barjinder, comes across as a man mastering controlled suppression and goes on to emanate sex appeal as the snake-lover besides also playing the blabbering playwright who has to stay awake the whole night to circumvent a curse. Payal does well in telling the story of Rani even as Gick Grewal's calls for her son Kesho have a haunting quality.

Finally, the play was a success due to its script which has been translated into Punjabi by Surjit Pattar. If not for Pattar, the play would have lost its rustic milieu which makes Naga Mandala sound like a tale from the Punjabi oral tradition. The music is also the forte of the play due to the use of traditional Punjabi instruments and a lead singer in Pamela Singh who merges into the play rather than overshadowing it. 


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |