A tale within a tale

Ambika Shaligram
Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Vidyanidhee Vanarase talks about adapting Neil Simon’s play in Marathi for Lalit Kala Kendra (Gurukul) students, while its HoD Dr Praveen Bhole explains the idea behind staging separate theatre production for BA and MA students

A bunch of stories written by Anton Chekhov and dramatised by Neil Simon have found their way again onto Pune theatre scene, after nearly two decades. Goshtichya Goshtichi Goshta, the Marathi adaptation of the English play, The Good Doctor, is being performed by drama students of MA Part I and II of Lalit Kala Kendra (Gurukul), Savitribai Phule Pune University.

Adapted and directed by Vidyanidhee Vanarase, Goshtichya Goshtichi Goshta, will be staged at Sant Namdev Sabhagruha in the university campus, starting today (Oct 11), for the next three days.

Talking about the universality of Chekhov’s writing and human behaviour that is at the core of it, Vanarase says, “The stories presented in Goshtichya Goshtichi Goshta have been penned by Russian writer, Anton Chekhov. And, the play, by the name The Good Doctor, has been put together by American dramatist Neil Simon. Many years ago, it was presented in Hindi by the name, Chekhov ki duniya. I directed Goshtichya Goshtichi Goshta in 1997, for Solapur’s Natya Aradhana institute, as a part of Theatre Academy project. We did about 60 shows of the play across the state. And then, there were other performances too — people read out the stories, performed them as stand-alone etc. This is a full-fledged production after a long gap.”

Why Chekhov now? 
“The stories written by Chekhov have universal appeal. They weave in ironies of life that results in gentle humour. Despite all the changes that have taken place around us, we will try hard to suppress a chuckle when a person slips off the banana peel, before rushing to his aid. Chekhov’s stories are like that. They are mainly a comment on human relationships,” he adds.

But is there a conflict because the stories have been written by Chekhov and they have been dramatised by Simon? To which Vanarase replies, “Simon has crafted the play well. He has staged it in play format, writing the dialogues, setting the stage for interaction etc. All we have done is adapted Simon’s The Good Doctor in Marathi.”

“My only concern was that the writing in Marathi shouldn’t strike a cultural dissonant note to our ears. It should retain the flavour of our language. For instance, the name ‘Sasha’ might sound alien to our ears. So we have named a girl ‘Suman’ in the play, which is familiar and culturally known to us,” he adds.

Vanarase ensured that he avoided the cliches that creep in while translating a text. “I sprinkled the text liberally with Marathi proverbs, idioms, and sayings. The dialogues have been written in a way they are supposed to be delivered. I heard them when I was writing them,” he explains.

For the students too, it was an interesting exercise, getting introduced to Anton Chekhov’s stories. “Most of the students had read or seen Chekhov’s plays. But not read his stories. So this was a good exercise. We all read his plays and stories before rehearsals, as an introduction to Chekhov. That also made the casting easier,” adds Vanarase.

Speaking about casting and the decision to have separate theatre productions for each batch of MA and BA, instead of combining one drama for all the students, Vanarase says, “Less number of students allows them to do ‘more’ in the play — taking on more duties, doing more roles etc. This is important in the process of education.” 

This course correction has been initiated by Dr Praveen Bhole, head of the department, of Lalit Kala Kendra. “Until now, we had one drama production for both BA and MA students. A similar pattern was followed for dance and music students too. But keeping in mind the different syllabus for each course, we decided to have separate programmes. 

The idea is that what the students learn in theory, they should be able to apply it practically,” says Dr Bhole.

He mentions that under the ‘extension activity’ of National School of Drama (NSD), one guest lecturer works with the Lalit Kala Kendra students. “Last year, Satish Manohar of NSD staged a play on Adivasi stories. So this year, we thought we should do something different. Our students should be exposed to various forms, styles and genres of theatre, and also in music and dance. Our long-term plans are that our students of all three courses, should get a chance to stage their productions before a renowned arts personality, like say Ratan Thiyyam. This is a small step towards it,” adds Dr Bhole.

ST READER SERVICE
Gosthichya Goshtichi Goshta will be staged at Sant Namdev Sabhagruha, Savitribai Phule Pune University every evening from October 11-14, 6.30 pm onwards

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