The near full house crowd at the Green Bay High School that had turned up to watch the first-of-its-kind musical dance drama EkaPremachiGoshta stayed back long after the curtains fell to congratulate the cast and crew.
The play was unique in many ways – it involved singing, instrumentation, acting, dancing and audiovisuals simultaneously unfolding on stage.Curiously, it had no dialogues but the songs were strung together by narration in Marathi and English. More than 35 actors, singers, dancers, musicians and other artistes besides sound and light technicians – all from Auckland – were involved.
Written, produced and directed by Dev Nadkarni for the Mohan Nadkarni Foundation, the production was also a unique collaboration with renowned music teacher Sandhya Badakere and her Swar Sadhana Academy and dance teacher Swarali Pande, the play’s dance director, and her own Nritya Dance Academy. The adaptation and narration was by experienced theatre personality Kaustubh Pethe.
Apart from the melodiousness, the highlight of the singing that was much appreciated by the audience was the fact that several of the singers were non-Marathi speaking and had never been exposed to the language; yet they mastered the pronunciation so perfectly that it was impossible to tell that they did not speak it natively. That credit must squarely go to Ms Badakere.
The story that began in Mumbai in the 1960s continued through New York, finally ending in Auckland in the 2000s, was one that many in the audience who have migrated could easily identify with. Several of the turning points seemed right out of everyday life experienced by those who have made the journey not just geographically but across cultures.
The audience appreciated the uniqueness of the presentation, the selection of songs, the singing and instrumentation and the overall execution. Particularly noteworthy was young Arthur Koutsaenko playing a well-known Marathi number on his saxophone and the interaction of the audience with the stage, with one scene involving members of the audience joining the actors in an impromptu sequence.
“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” Mr Nadkarni said. The most common feedback according to him was that many thought it was over too soon. The play had a run time of 110 minutes plus an interval in between. “We take that as a compliment,” Mr Nadkarni told The Indian Weekender. “It’s always good to leave the audience wanting more rather than having had too much.”
The audience – that understood Marathi and the chunk that didn’t – were all praise for Mr Pethe’s lively narration interspersed with a fair bit of English so that the context was never lost. The audiovisuals also played an important role in contextualising the scenes. A European couple said the jokes were obviously lost on them but the story line was simple and executed well enough not to have left any gaps in understanding.
The Mohan Nadkarni Foundation’s aim is to encourage the proliferation of traditional performing art and making available platforms to young artistes. Several of the younger artistes in the play performed on stage and worked backstage for the first time.