In the 1990s, the theater critic and poet Nemichand Jain published a play by Ashok Lal, titled Ek Mamooli Aadmi, in your magazine Natang. “After that, the play became very well known. It was nice of him to have made me a known and accepted writer, ”says Lal. Two decades earlier, Lal had created a play, Dekha Undekha, which Jain had reviewed in glowing terms for a newspaper.
This year marks the celebration of the centennial of Jain, for which the organization he had founded, Natarang Pratishthan, instituted the Nemichandra Jain Dramaturgy Award. Lal is one of the recipients of the award; the others are SM Azhar Alam and Vibha Rani. His works were selected from 66 scripts from across India. “It is an absolute honor. Jain had played an important role in developing awareness of what the stage can do, ”says Lal.
His game Shatru: the enemy within, revolves around the first emperor of India, Ajatshatru, whose real name was Kunika. Unlike Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother, and was severely punished, Ajatshatru seems to have transcended the atrocity of patricide to become one of the country’s best-known emperors. “The transformation is a fascinating story. Most of us would like to embrace something positive and become better people, but we don’t. It means that unless we challenge the enemy within and conquer it, we will continue to be who we are, ”says Lal. Saksham Theater Group, Delhi, read the play on March 17.
The other winner, who went back in time and place to make sense of modern India, is SM Azhar Alam. As the country’s social fabric began to sag under hate crimes, he wrote Roohein about the men who occupied the Mughal throne after the death of Aurangzeb and the arrival of Bahadur Shah Zafar. “This 100-year span was filled with decadence, bloodshed, and betrayal. The political could become a reason to unleash any measure of cruelty, “says the playwright. While walking through the corridors of power in this period of history, Alam came across the son of Aurangzeb, whose lover said that he had never seen anyone die in the water of a river. “The emperor ordered that between 100 and 150 people be loaded onto a ship that sank in the Yamuna to fulfill the wishes of the woman he loved,” says Alam. He learned about Dara Shikoh and the antics of Mohammed Shah Rangeela. “When I read the story, I found strange events that seem similar to what was happening around me in terms of viral lynch videos,” he says. The work was read by the Treasure Art Association, Delhi, on March 16, the first day of the ceremony.
The performer Vibha Rani has been selected for her work, Pregnant father which explores gender politics in an entertaining way. In the play, a young man comes to know that she is pregnant, an incident that sends shock waves not only to her family but to the world as well. However, his mother, who used to wonder what would happen if a man had a child, is pleased with the events. The play was read by the Renaisstance Theater Society, Delhi, on March 17. The Nemichandra Jain Dramaturgy Awards Festival will be held at the Triveni Kala Sangam Auditorium, Mandi House, Delhi on Wednesday evening.