From Socrates to Tukaram


- Sanjay Pethe


          Noted theatre director Atul Pethe is at it again. After "demystifying Socrates" with the highly acclaimed 'Surya Pahilela Manoos' and after probing the ideals and the reality of Dalit movement with 'Ujalalya Disha', he has turned his attention to Tukaram, the presiding poet-saint of the state from the 17th century. He directs the play 'Anand-owari', which opens at the S.M. Joshi hall on Sunday evening.
          Like most of his earlier efforts, Pethe has chosen to work with heavyweights. Based on an acclaimed novel of the same name by D.B. Mokashi, the play is "edited" for theatre by none other than Vijay Tendulkar, arguably the grand-dad of modern Marathi playwrights. And if Shriram Lagoo returned to theatre with a bang as Socrates, despite his septugenarian status, 'Anand-owari' shall mark a crescendo for national award-winning Kishor Kadam of 'Gandhi v/s Gandhi' fame and 'Dhyasparva'.
          Incidentally, when Tendulkar started working on the script as early as in 1988, he had Dr Lagoo in mind. Sunday's premiere has thus been an elusive dream of Pethe's for the last 15 years. In the interim, it got off to several false starts with Nana Patekar, Sayaji Shinde and Ganesh Yadav vying to perform the solo act.
          Pethe and Kadam had been constantly toying with the idea for the last five years, until they decided to drop everything else for a month and a half , and stage it under the Pune-based Abhijat Rangbhoomi banner.
          So what is it about the play that keeps celebrated artists hooked for 15 years? It is the challenge of analysing the human aspect and relevance of the saint, whose songs are sung in every household in the state, a whopping 350 years after he wrote them.

Kanhoba (played by Kishor Kadam)

          Pethe and company brook no excuse for popular appeal while analysing Tukaram through the eyes of his younger brother Kanhoba (played by Kadam). In the process it takes a painstakingly objective view of Tukaram's transition from being an ordinary man, to being hailed as a saint and poet-extraordinaire.
          It's as demanding a play to watch as it is to stage. Even as it showcases Kadam amazing talent, Pethe's team of architect Makarand Sathe (set design), Shrikant Ekbote (light design) Sham Bhutkar (costumes) music (Ashok Gaikwad) keep the viewers busy in reading beyond the lines.