“The Incredible Mullah Nasruddin”: Ranga Shankara, 24 Jan 2014: Play Review

It’s quite unusual to go to review a play that’s been running for some time, but I did just that on the 23rd of January, as I went to watch “The Incredible Mullah Nasruddin” at Ranga Shankara. This was their 13th show.
The play is a production by the “AHA!” children’s theatre wing of Ranga Shankara. The main protaganist is Mullah Nasruddin, who, in this version, comes from Arabia to India to garner wisdom, and undergoes various experiences, depicted in 21 short vignettes.
The play had several features unusual in children’s theatre. For one, there was a blue turban that was centre-stage before the beginning of the play; and through its duration, whichever member of the cast wore it, became the Mullah. And yet, this was accomplished without any confusion for the audience, who were able to follow the character through his many representatives.
For another, Padmavati Rao stood at the side of the stage, showing considerable talent in sand drawing; these “sketches” for want of a better word, were projected on to the stage, forming a backdrop and a stage set that was dynamically changing, all through the production.
The cast used the entire theatre, not just the stage, and the audience were delighted to have them amongst themselves. Also, the audience was included at many points, and that delighted the children…and their parents too! The audience rapport was always very high.
Perhaps I should attend plays that have been running for a while, once in way; certainly I could see the benefits in this one. The cast was very comfortable with their dialogue, and the stage choreography. There was a fair bit of acrobatics involved in the production, and it was carried out with panache. The actors each did their job very well indeed, and they developed an instant rapport with the audiene that persisted through the evening.
Deepti on the lights (what an apt name!) and Mustafa in charge of sound, did a very good job too, and the voices were clearly audible throughout the hall.
There were a lot of simple props on the stage: apart from the turban, there were ropes, buckets, wooden slats that became doorways, and so on. The cast used them with great panache. Two of the cast, with the help of two long bamboo-frame ears, became the Mullah’s donkey, and went galloping around the audience, much to their delight.
The finale came with all the cast donning blue turbans!
In spite of the sparsely filled theatre, the play was a resounding success, and after it had finished, the cast came to take a bow, and asked if the audience and they could have a discussion. This was quite animated, with the children and adults chipping in, expressing their viewpoints. However, Padmavati Rao spoke from the heart when she bemoaned the lack of commitment amongst people who signed up for a production but did not last. She also pointed out the fact that the gate collections could not financially support  them.
However, in spite of these dark shadow across children’s theatre in Bangalore, the audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and I got the impression that the cast and crew were, too…a tip of the hat to the able director.
Avani, 9 years old, was thrilled. “I wanted to go somewhere, and my mother surprise me by bringing me to this play,” she said, while her mother smiled indulgently.  Similarly, a family sitting next to me said that they often brought their children to watch theatre, and they proceeded to enjoy the show thoroughly.
It was a pleasant feeling to sit while delighted children clapped to show their appreciation, and I mentally applauded the parents to take the time to bring their childen to see live theatre.

I’ve seen almost all the AHA! productions, but this one is like hot soup…filling, satisfying, and full of goodness! Way to go, AHA! and long may your successes last!

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