Dear Parents...

Ambika Shaligram
Thursday, 9 May 2019

Chatting up the cast and director of the new GRIPS production, Aai Pan! Baba Pan! to be staged on the weekend

Call it the umbilical cord connect or what you want, but kids rightly sense when their Aai (mother) and Baba (father) are not getting along with each other. They might not be able to gauge how serious the marital discord is or how to get the parents to reconcile, but the children do know that something is wrong and only a truthful answer from the elders will help them tide over the emotional crisis. 

This is in a nutshell the plot of Aai Pan! Baba Pan! a GRIPS play written by Vibhawari Deshpande in 2004. It has been revived and will now be presented with a new cast on Saturday and Sunday (May 11 and 12) in the ongoing GRIPS festival. Vedant Ranade, who has directed the new version, says, “Back in 2004, the play was a little ahead of its time. It’s more relevant now, in the sense that society is now more accepting that there could be problems in marital life and parents can stay apart for some time. Also, now it has become a little common to see fathers working from home, or moms doing a 9-5 job, while dad takes care of the house.”

Vibhawari, who had also directed the play, says, “Fifteen years later, our society has changed, but not changed so much that it has become a ‘patchwork of families’ like we see in the West. I have sensed that adults, parents now care less about ‘what will people say’. They are focusing more on co-parenting their children, assuring them that their needs come first, and that they (parents) are working on resolving their issues.”

“We haven’t come to a stage yet, where we have broken families or divorces are rampant. But we have accepted that families will have discords. What we tried conveying through Aai Pan! Baba Pan! is that children deserve to know the truth. If they don’t get the answers, they will try to seek it outside of families and that version might be distorted. They might feel judged by the outside world for their parents’ separation; children also tend to blame themselves for the conflict in their parents’ lives. So the elders need to sit down and tell the child what matters to them. Over the years, I think we have learnt to address this issue better,” she adds.

The core lessons and basic values that the play wishes to impart have been retained while some referential changes have been made; like there is an ‘Alexa’ belting out Aankh marein. Ranade, who is making his debut as a director, with the play, says, “We have included a few current music numbers, some technology updation has also been done. But what I am focussing on is to retain the play’s innocence and humour. It’s a serious subject, but I don’t want to present it in heavy-duty fashion either. Vibha told me, ‘Focus on the innocence, humour will follow’.” 

Ranade, who was also a replacement for Ameya Wagh in the original play, has chosen a fresh cast for his directorial. “We have chosen a few actors —  Rumani Khare, Neha Naik, Samruddhi Paranjape — from the acting workshops we have held previously. Amruta Patwardhan, who plays Riya’s mother, has worked in Maharashtra Cultural Centre’s plays. She works for the first time in a GRIPS production. Ashutosh Nerlekar, who portrays the father, is also working for the first time in a GRIPS play. Deep Mehendale has done a few GRIPS plays,” he adds. 

Khare, who plays Riya, initially found it difficult to step into the shoes of a tween. “I will be appearing for my HSC this year. My tween years are far behind me. To get my mannerism right, I started observing my younger cousins more closely, how they talk, react and play. In Aai Pan..., I am a part of big gang of friends. In real life, I just have two close friends. I am mostly reading, so being a part of this group was another challenge. It became easier with the get-up (indicating to her pigtails)” says Khare, who has also done backstage for Firodiya Karandak. 

ST Reader Service
Watch Aai Pan! Baba Pan!, a GRIPS production on May 11 and 12, at 7 pm, Jyotsna Bhole Sabhagruha, Tilak Road. Tickets are available at the venue, one hour before the show

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