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Telugu play ‘Mahanirvanam’: Death and its rituals with a dash of satire

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The two-act musical play comes alive with 22 actors presenting nine songs and dances

The two-act musical play comes alive with 22 actors presenting nine songs and dances

Telugu theatre lovers who enjoy musical theatre are in for a treat. Hyderabad-based B-Studio brings Mahanirvanam, a Telugu adaptation of the classic Marathi play Mahanirvaan (The final journey after death), written in 1974 by playwright Satish Alekar. Directed by Shaik John Basheer, the 120-minute, two-act adaptation in Telugu is a dark comedy with 22 actors, nine songs and dances. While Ananthu Chinthalapalli composed the music and penned the lyrics, Venkat Govada has done the Telugu translation of the dialogues from the original.

Shaik John Basheer
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The story begins with the death of villager Babu Rao and his family is in mourning . As the last rites are being performed, villagers around the family begin eating, packing non-vegetarian dishes in tiffin carriers to take away, and dancing and playing antyakshari to pass the time. They make it seem like a celebration. The play puts the spotlight on nuances of human relationships, even as it throws light on contemporary issues such as GST and the privatisation of public enterprises.

“It is fascinating to watch how the script deals with death and its rituals with a touch of satire; Although it was written in the 70s, the issues are still relevant,” says Basheer, who was looking for a big production that could take in actors from two batches.

Rehearsals at the studio

Rehearsals at the studio
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

In theatre, Basheer says, music is a means to add different layers to a production. “Our theatre group stages a play every two months and since this was the company’s 150th show, we wanted the stage to reverberate with music and dance too.”

The creative process began in July with artists building their performances through studio techniques during rehearsals. The group’s acting studio at Manikonda resonated with music as 22 actors sang “ Ninna manaku ledura, Repu manadi kaadura, Unnantalo manchi penchi Padhimandiki panchara, Keerti, kanta, kanakaalu mana venta ravura…”

The play has also been slightly tweaked for the Telugu audiences. “We have added the non-vegetarian food element, as that is served during a funeral in some Telugu communities; We are not using the original songs but have conceptualised the songs in a new context.”

Mahanirvaanam is also a wish fulfilled for Basheer who had hoped to direct such a nuanced play since his MA (Theatre Arts) days at the Hyderabad Central University in 2007. “As part of a practical submission, I had directed a seven-minute scene from Mahanirvaan. I had hoped to do the full-fledged play some day; that wish has now been fulfilled after 14 years.”

Mahanirvaanam to be staged at Rangbhoomi Spaces in Gachibowli on September 18 at 4pm and 8pm; Tickets: ₹300 at the venue.



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