After a gap of more than two and a half decades, I saw a Marathi play again. I was too young to remember the name of the play I last saw but I did see a few Marathi plays back then.
Also, I saw the plays not just in a different city or state, it was in a different age, in a world that no longer exists.
The place was a little township just outside Bangalore, built around one of the temples of modern India envisioned by Chacha Nehru. In the early 80s, the 'public sector undertaking' had a little over 15 thousand employees. Through the 50s, 60s and 70s, youngsters from all over India, came and populated the townships, married, swelled the numbers with the ideal hum do-hamare do family and created an interesting model for national integration.
Outside the main gate of the factory where the thousands marched in and out to the call of siren were some old barracks built during the Second World War and according to the urban legend, housed Italian prisoners of war. There was a Royal Air Force base close by too. In Free India, the barracks were turned to schools that taught students in four 'Mediums' English, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu because during the second part of the last century, the official policy was to instruct the children in their mother tongues. A system that is still followed by BMC schools in Mumbai.
Mother tongues and social glue.
The temple of modern India was a tower of Babel. At the end of the day, the workers stepped out of the factories and returned to their mother tongues. The same barracks that housed the school also housed the different linguistic biradaris. The Tamil Mandram, Kerala Samajam, Kannada Sahitya Koota, Kodava Samaj, Konkani Association, Andhra Sabha, Marathi Sangh and Bengal Association.
The centre of every association was a library, and they had the usual cultural and social activities that made up the social networks of the age before television. Dance, music, language classes, etc. It's surprising now, but there was a time when people had the evenings for themselves.
The centre of the township was the hall. It was called Kalakshetra. On weekends, a giant white screen would be stretched across the stage and they would screen movies in different languages. Amitabh, Rajkumar, Kamal Hasam/Rajnikant, NTR ruled the screens on weekends. So that the others are not left out, English, Marathi and Bengali movies were played once in a while. We used to watch all of them, irrespective of the language. All the kids in the township were multilingual.
The Kalakshetra was built for one reason, several times during the year, the association came together to compete with each other. The annual Drama Festival was one such event. And that is where we used to watch Marathi play every year, along with the other ones. And we as kids would've already peeped into half the rehearsals already. And it was always easy to slip to the backstage and watch the play from there, instead of having to sit like good children among the boring adults.
So when I got a chance to click the backstage pictures for Time Out Mumbai's Behind The Scenes Special Issue, of Punha Sahi Re Sahi, starring Bharat Jadhav, Bharat Jadhav, Bharat Jadhav and Bharat Jadhav, it was like punha going back to the good old days that I had forgotten.
More pictures of Bharat Jadhav mutiplied by 4 in action, tomorrow.