There is a wave of gullibility rippling through the world, causing so-called godmen and self-professed gurus to be lifted onto pedestals. Blinkers that don’t allow for rational thinking to skin the fat off a trick. Distractions caused by a world of digitization that removes one from reality, from an oral legacy filled with lessons that would expose fallacies touted by conmen.
It is this reality, full of insincerity that ‘Baat Karamat’, a Hindi play written and directed by theatre veteran Mahua Krishnadev, plunges into, calling for a reawakening of common sense and logic.
The play follows Teedo Rao and his rise to fame, and is set against the backdrop of Rajasthan. “It is not a Rajasthan folk tale,” Krishnadev is quick to tell Gulf News in an interview ahead of the show’s premiere on Thursday. “I found the same story in German, Belgium, Russian folk tales…these kind of [opportunistic] people are everywhere. I have chosen Rajasthan as a background because I belong to Rajasthan and so can do justice to the culture.”
Music and song
And there are plenty of traditional markers to be aware of. The production, undertaken by Dubai-based company Xpression Art, has four-five songs and dances and even uses puppets indigenous to the area to tell the story.
Apoorva Mehra, who is a member of the cast and the Production Manager, says: “It is a comedy production which uses clean, simple language to take you on a roller-coaster journey which is going to be fun for the entire family.”
Rao is a married man who wants to get his wife home – she lives in her maternal house - and uses his wiles to convince his parents who want him to make something of himself before he does. When he reaches his in-laws’ house however, some incidents occur that convince his mother-in-law that he has supernatural powers. The legend begins to spread and soon he ends up in the king’s court, where too he is feted. There is a line in the play that explains it well, says Krishnadev. “Yeh kabhi na ghatney walle ghatnain sabhi ney apni aakho se dekhi thi. [These miracles that had never occurred became the miracles that everyone had witnessed.]”
It is the artists who revolt and call on thought and rationale to save the day.
Fairy tales mess up endings
It is a reflection of the world today, insists Krishnadev. If you look at it, we’ve fabricated ideas and given it to the next generation and now they also think that way. The example she uses is the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – a fairy tale she says that has a fancy ending. “In ‘Beauty and the Beast’, if Belle has started loving the Beast, why does that beast have to convert into a prince? Why can’t he continue as a Beast?” These ideas must be questioned – and it falls to an artist to spark the conversation. “Artists are limitless and that’s why they come in limited edition. The ideas – or solutions to an issue - that an artist can provide are always different, unique.”
As in folk tales, ‘Baat Karamat’ gives voice to the inanimate – objects talk. And the use of props is kept to the minimum. “If we can create a chair from two actors why do we need a chair on stage? This is physical theatre that I have been using in my way of working,” explains Krishnadev, who’s been in the business for over three decades.
Mehra says she’s learnt a lot from Krishnadev, who she calls a fountain of knowledge.
Comfort on stage
But this comfort and agility on a public stage takes time to build. This show, says Krishnadev, has been put together in about four months – a short period of time. She’s used to working on productions over a period of 18 months or longer – “it takes time for things to mature,” she explains.
Still, it’s a period where the unexpected has become the new norm and it is time, “to push people to think in a different direction.”
The shadow of COVID-19 for instance loomed large over the production – as it has over the world – “I never wanted to take a chance in the sense my few artists had to visit to some places and I had to drop them, so they wouldn’t break the bio bubble. If by chance something goes wrong, it will affect the whole cast. We have to be mindful.”
And push forward, she insists. “Art keeps you hopeful and makes you believe, ‘we will overcome’,” she says.
Just take the blinkers off; let thought and logic guide you.
Don't miss it!
Tickets to see ‘Baat Karamat’, which runs at The Junction from May 27-29 at 8pm, are Dh100. There is an additional show on May 29 at 2.30pm