The re­vival­ist


India Today - - SIMPLY PUNE - by Aditi Pai

As the cur­tains opened on the 333rd show of Avagha rang ekachi zala ( The Unison of Colours) on Au­gust 15, pro­ducer Anant Pan­shikar, 58, was a proud man. “I strug­gled to bring peo­ple in to the theatre for the first 50 shows,” says Pan­shikar the owner of the city- based Natyasam­pada, com­pany, a lead­ing pro­ducer of Marathi plays. Af­ter the ini­tial lull, this play caught on and trav­elled across the coun­try and to the United States in 2009, clock­ing over 300 shows. And with this, Pan­shikar and his com­pany re­vived the long for­got­ten genre of the sangeet natak, some­thing that most com­mer­cial pro­duc­ers were wary of at­tempt­ing. Since he took over the reins of Natyasam­pada, a group his un­cle Prabhakar Pan­shikar had founded 60- yearsago, he has ex­per­i­mented with new gen­res and re­vived decades- old pop­u­lar scripts. Even as new com­mer­cial plays were set­ting the cash reg­is­ters ring­ing, Pan­shikar, an ar­dent fan of the classics, went into a re­vival mode in 2008 bring­ing back to the stage long for­got­ten plays. “The classics have ex­cel­lent plots and beau­ti­ful lyri­cal lan­guage, which we hardly hear th­ese days. That is what makes them stand out amidst a flurry of new tal­ent and scripts,” he says. First in line was Sa­muel Beck­ett’s highly ac­claimed ab­stract play Wait­ing for Godot, in which Pan­shikar roped in ac­tor Tom Al­ter for the first time on Marathi stage in 2008. He even staged a show at Mum­bai’s Arthur Road jail for in­mates. De­vi­at­ing from the tra­di­tional Natyasam­pada school of mu­si­cal and his­tor­i­cal plays, Pan­shikar went on to pro­duce a folk play Vic­cha Ma­jhi Poori Kara be­fore dig­ging out scripts by em­i­nent play­wrights such as P L Desh­pande, Vas­ant Kanetkar and Acharya Atre.

In Novem­ber 2011, he fi­nally launched the pop­u­lar 1960’ s play Varyavarchi Varaatwhere he brought to­gether 15 lead­ing ac­tors. The play be­came an in­stant hit in In­dia and the UAE. Next came a 1966 pro­duc­tion Lekure Udand Jhali and Lag­nachi Bedi that was first penned by Atre in 1936. “There’s im­mense va­ri­ety in Marathi theatre; we gave the world the genre of sangeet natak which was very pop­u­lar in the days of Bal Gandhrava in the 1940s,” says Pan­shikar. The in­dus­try, he says, goes through phases of highs and lows ev­ery 10 years. For now, theatre is strug­gling to fight com­pe­ti­tion from cin­ema and tele­vi­sion. “Ear­lier plays were sold for the star power of the author and star cast. Peo­ple no longer want to go watch a play un­less it has great en­ter­tain­ment value,” he says. Here’s where the classics step in with their pop­u­lar­ity span­ning gen­er­a­tions. Pan­shikar is com­mit­ted to giv­ing th­ese master­pieces of Marathi lit­er­a­ture a new lease of life.

Watch Avagha rang ekachi zala in Kothrud on Septem­ber 28 For more de­tails 982162844



Left to right: A still from Natyasam­pada’s play Varyavarchi

Varaat Where and Anant Pan­shikar

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