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Following the interactive session with the renowned dialogue writer Javed Siddique on the 29th of September and a Theater games workshop by our own alumni Snehil, Surya and Kataria on the 1st of October, dawned the 1st day of theater fest, the 2nd of October. In the afternoon a more intensive version of the theater games workshop held the previous day was organised, attended and applauded by a packed audience at the SOM Well.

The highlight of the evening was ‘Mahadevbhai (1892-1942)’, a one-break 90 minute monologue on the life and times of Mahadev Desai, the secretary and aide of Mahatma Gandhi from 1917 till his death in 1942.The much – acclaimed play that has had more than 200 performances over a span of close to 9 years, across India and abroad, has students as its targetaudience and thus came to IIT Bombay. Jaimini Pathak and the Director, Ramu Ramanathan, first conceived the play, as their reply to the many anti-Gandhi plays that were doing rounds in Marathi as well as Gujarati theater and were largely fabricated and not based on historical facts. And the response to the play over many years has been in line with the envisaged goal, one of creating awareness about Gandhi.

There was a greater emphasis on ambience this year than any year before. The LT Backlawns saw an exhibition of beautifully crafted paintings and sketches of Bapu, and an exhibition of many library books on theater.The roof hangings and the dupattas were reminiscent of the milieu outside the Prithvi Theater. The tiny candles covering the perimeter of the floor and the light fragrance pervading the air together provided a heady dose of the ‘theatrical’ feeling. The most remarkable aspect of the ambience though was the creative rangoli depicting Bapu as the map of India in tricolor.

The play commenced with the usual 3-bell rings and numerous reminders of switching off of mobile phones. Surprisingly LT wasn’t as jam-packed as it used to be, probably owing to a clash with some department treks. The medium was English with liberal use of Gujarati.

Employing a non-linear narrative structure, travelling back and forth in time, the play transitioned seamlessly from one historic event to another. Weaving of the dada-pota story with the pre-independence struggle worked wonders as never once did the play come across as a preachy history lesson. The music comprising of Gandhian bhajans was apt and the prod was kept simple. The performance of Jaimini Pathak was nothing short of genius, as he moved easily from one role to another, from the hilarious English Miss Pricella to the modest, self-effacing Mahadev bhai.

The response to the play was overwhelmingly positive. Everybody in the audience gave a standing ovation to the artist who pulled off the long monologue effortlessly and to the writer-director of the play, Ramu Ramanathan. Thus came to an end the exciting first day of Theater Fest ’11-12. Surely, there is plenty to look forward to in the next two days!

– Alankar Jain