Sixty-five full length plays, more than 5,000 shows, thirty-five thatre fests and more than one thousands actors — this is far more than what Om Katare imagined when he established Yatri theatre group in 1979. And now while celebrating the 35th year of its existence, the theatre is back with a festival which brings an eclectic mix of plays, performances and stories. “The fest has to start at Prithvi. It is where the group was born,” says Katare.
As part of this festival, Yatri will be staging six of our most famous plays — namely Kaalchakra, Hadh Kar Di Aapne, Chinta Chhod Chintamani, Raavanleela, Yeh Jo Dil Hai Na and Teri Meri Prem Kahaani. “At Prithvi Theatre, we will also stage five new platform performances (nukkad natak) before each show. These performances include social satires, comedies and live musical renditions,” informs Katare. Each of these plays has a social message. Kaalchakra addresses the issue of how senior citizens in our society are ignored by their children. Hadh Kar Di Aapne is a clean comedy about a man who is a father of two adults and whose wife is expecting a third child. Chinta Chhod Chintamani focuses on the importance of joint families.
The new show
Though almost all plays have been performed in Mumbai before, this year’s 40-day long fest will witness the premiering of his latest production — Teri Meri Prem Kahani. “It is a political satire. We have tried to show how a cunning politician tries to use a simple situation to his benefit,” explains Katare. The plays is based on the famous story Dus Din Ka Anshan by Harishankar Parsai. “But it is not a dialogue-based play. It is more a nautanki than a play. One has to watch it to understand that form of dance,” he says. Especially people in Mumbai, who are not much aware of popular nautanki from the North.
Teri Meri Prem Kahani is about Romeo, a young, wayward junior artiste trying to make it as an actor, and his one-sided love affair with Tannu, a much-married lady. Taking advantage of his desperation to win her love, jaded politicians — looking to revive their flagging careers — persuades Romeo to undertake a hunger strike to win Tannu’s love. This play is a satirical take on love, marriage and politics — a rather strange combination. All this, completely coloured and laden with Bollywood ideas.
“After all, in today’s times, it is quite difficult to envisage anything big, bold, beautiful and glamorous without imagining it on Bollywood’s larger-than-life canvas,” Katare says with a smile.
A long yatra
Hailing from a small town in Madhya Pradesh, Datiya, Katare was inspired to form a theatre company after witnessing a play called Raktbeej at Prithvi. “The impression was so strong that I could not hold myself. I knew I had to work for theatre,” he says. But the journey was not an easy one. And there were more than one hurdles. “Struggle for money was and is always an issue. But other than this too there were many problems,” he says. The popularity of the group too became a matter of contention, so much so that in 2002 the group was on the verge of sabotage. “However, we have come a long way today. Now we’re a strong team of 50 people — all a family,” he says.
The Yatri theatre festival will have shows at Prithvi, Mysore Association, Horniman Circle Garden, Veer Savarkar Smarak and Experimental Theatre (NCPA)