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Vidarbha's theatre of the jungle

PLAY>> atmahatya Directed by Sadanand Borkar Vidarbha

Published: Monday 30 April 2007


Welcome to Vidarbha's very own theatre of the jungle. Known as ' Jhadipatti Rang-Bhoomi' in local parlance, this theatre movement is taking up social issues in a region that has been in the news for recurring farmers' suicides. Atmahatya (suicide), a powerful play directed by Sadanand Borkar, is the latest instance of the movement's social interaction.

The play has a simple story. An old farmer battling debts. He has three sons; the eldest has taken to the bottle, the youngest is a class iv government servant and the second one, a farmer. The father gets harassed by moneylender. His eldest son, whose wife left home to be with her parents, does not support him at all. Neither does the youngest who is trying to get a job-transfer to city.Helpless, the old man turns to his farmer son to save the household.

The son and his wife support their father and pledge to repay debts. However, the going gets tough for them. With expenses going up and tension mounting, the son at one point crumbles and even thinks of ending his life. But the family members remains resilient and ultimately manages to extricate themselves from the debt-trap.

This three-act play is gripping in its theme and style of presentation and its message is clear and candid: suicide is just not the way out; resilience pays. The play strikes an emotional cord with audiences through dialogues and content, all in a Marathi dialect. Primarily, it attacks debt, commenting harshly on the corrupt polity. The play was premiered on the historic Navargaon stage, in January 2007.

Jhadipatti theatre deals with many social issues: from caste conflicts to family feuds to farm crisis. It mixes issues with entertainment to provide a strong social message. Each year, hundreds of villages host plays during the season starting just after Diwali and closing late March or April.

Over 300 groups, some of them are a hundred years old, and scores of artistes are part of the theatre, which gets no funds from any agencies, but survived of ticket receipts. The hand-written scripts are shaped by inputs from over a hundred local playwrights. The theatre also helps many villagers earn a living through ancillary works. This participation makes it a vibrant movement.

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