Being a book lover, I always appreciate a good drama! And a wonderful drama it was, Samudramanthan – a sailing fairy tale. It is a musical two-act play that is currently in theatres. For my readers across the geographical boundaries, lemme tell you that though this play is being enacted in Gujarati and is performed currently in Gujarat; don’t miss it if you ever get a chance to see it either in Hindi or English for the story touches all of us. It is a tale of love, strength and courage.
Samudramanthan narrates a true incident that has been a turning point in the sailing community of western coast of India. Way back in 1940s, the Kharvas (sailors) didn’t allow women on board as they considered them ominous and believed them to be the reason for ship’s destruction.
In such a scenario the captain of a ship named Rampasa, Meethu takes along his wife Kabi on voyage, who was disguised as a male. Even though Meethu did not have formal education, his travelling worldwide had taught him things books could not. And his wife too was an educated woman, who had ably carried on her husband’s responsibilities in his absence alongside her job as a school teacher. In short, the couple was ahead of their time. Initially things went smoothly on their voyage en route Zanzibar. But then, things take an unexpected turn and the identity of Kabi is revealed. Where will Kabi’s fate take her? Or will she create it on her own?
While I was entering into the theatre, after collecting tickets, I saw a handsome man, clad in just dhoti and a piece of cloth around his head (sort of a turban). Well, I was mesmerized. He vanished soon after. And when the play started, I realized he was the lead Abhinay Banker! And what a performance he gave! I was dumbstruck! He won my heart as Meethu, a man with strong will, iron courage and soft heart all along. He considers presence of a woman not weakness, but strength to fight the adversities. And his better-half Kabi, played by Devki, was a different story altogether. She was a woman of substance. Educated, dignified, strong and yet full of love and kindness.
The villain, Bhooda too is an interesting character. I liked how the reasons behind his nature are reflected. He had been forced to live with pirates and their cruelty was transmitted into him. With inhumane ways of pirates, mixed with superstitions, his character successfully generates anger, disgust and pity amongst the viewers. The life of sailing community and stories of their happy and sad times are shared through other characters. It takes us to a world which plays a very important role in the economy and on the larger extent culture too, but is unknown to people living away from sea.
The best part of the entire play was the unfailing romance between Meethu and Kabi that was evolved out of their intense love. In togetherness and in separation; their love does not wane. Instead, it gets more and more powerful with each phase. Meethu’s trust on Kabi and Kabi’s dedication towards Meethu are overwhelming. And the way courage is shown by them! Mind-blowing! Kabi, being a strong willed woman shows undying courage in the most testing times. And that is the heart of this play. She lives by her husband’s belief that savior is greater than destroyer. Also the sentiments (poetic sentiments known as ‘nava rasas’ = 9 rasas in Sanskrit dramatics) of humour, wonder, fear and even disgust are well justified in different situations. The wonderful music and choreography are cherries on the cake. However, I feel that some songs were unnecessary and not so melodious, though apt to the situation. But this was a musical after all!
From the very first scene, you seem to be pulled into the ship and taken to the voyage. Such was the tactics; be it the sets, amazing amalgamation of lights and background score, or smart usage of props. This continued to happen till the very last scene. And what a fabulous journey it was! When are you going?
(Photo courtesy – The play Samudramanthan, presented by Jasavant Thakor Memorial Foundation. To know more about the play and its shows visit its facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Samudramanthan)