Theatre group Rangmanch has taken advantage of a growing acceptance and interest in the art, to put together its first local production this week.

Gulf News
Ashok Deshpande and Ragini W.

Directed by radio presenter Gagan Mudgal, the Hindi play titled, Neend Kyon Raat Bhar Nahi Aati (Why Can't I Sleep at Night?) features a cast that is entirely from Dubai.

"It's a really diverse cast. We have a doctor, an engineer, a sales executive and even a 10-year old girl," said Susan Shariff of Rangmanch.

The play is then followed by a 30-minute script reading, in which Mudgal shares centrestage with two university students from BITS-Pilani Dubai.

According to Mudgal the concept of a "script reading", particularly at a public level, is unheard of and he hopes that the introduction of it in the evening's climax will go well with audiences.

"I really wanted the evening to end on a humorous note and the script we're going to be reading is extremely witty," he said.

Not to be dismissed as lacking in spontaneity, the two students, Javed Khalil and Rohit Prakash, say that each reading brings out a different element that they discover.

"Plays are rehearsed as well. The only difference in this is that we don't memorise the lines, but we do know them pretty well. The spontaneity and the feedback from the audience continue to be equally important," they say.

With the theatre culture still in its foetal stage in Dubai, where the cast members and students were unanimous in saying that audiences patronise it more to be seen, they hope that genuine theatre lovers will take time out to watch their productions.

"The fact that it's a Dubai cast should bring out more people especially since we have members from the veteran category to a young debutante," Mudgal said.

Veteran Ashok Deshpande, who has lived in Dubai for almost 30 years, has also been actively involved in theatre at every level.

"I've done bits in theatre, films and other small productions, but it's the live element that is fantastic," he said of his first love.

Having seen a great change in perceptions of theatre in his stay here, Deshpande believes that the real theatre lover can now have an outlet — either to perform or watch.

"When I first came here, there was absolutely nothing in terms of theatre, but since the past seven or eight years, groups started coming from India and now it's at a stage where there is a local production being staged at a commercial level," he said.

With tickets priced at less than Dhs100, the cast were initially concerned that audiences would assume that it was a low-quality production.

"The pricing is more because those who are really passionate about theatre can have access to it," Shariff said, "but the strong corporate and social support we have on our side, will prove that it's great quality for less."

True enough, the rise of Rangmanch has provided a huge platform for the ardent theatre fan, as Dr Shailesh Upadhyay found.

Barely two years old in Dubai, the doctor said he "makes time" for his most preferred pursuit.

"I found out through Gulf News about the audition and just went along. I'm so delighted that I'm a part of the play," he said, adding that it didn't matter what the script was as the cause was more important.

Deshpande and Upadhyay play characters that are quite different from their real-life personas in a script that tells the story of a woman who can't sleep at night and resorts to making random phone calls to strangers.

These strangers' roles are essayed by other cast members.

Working with Mudgal as a director was described as a pleasant experience by all of them.

"He knows what he wants and he extracts it in a friendly way," the seniors said.