27th March was World Theatre Day. So this write up is an ode to one of the shining glories of the Indian theatre scene, Prithvi Theatre, nestled in the laid back and upmarket area of Juhu,Mumbai. Since 1978, Prithvi Theatre has kept the flag of the stage play circuit in India fluttering high and we hope more people acknowledge it’s service to theatre in general and theatre lovers like us in particular.
On any weekend between 5 to 9 in the evening, you will get to see a plethora of TV stars relaxing in the bustling albeit a tad congested Prithvi Cafe. It is a quaint little place which mostly hosts the theatre aficionados. Terms like monologue, downstage, greenroom reverberate in the air of Janki Kutir which hosts the cafe and the Theatre. If you are lucky you can even get a glimpse of the thespian Shashi Kapoor, sitting silently in one corner, watching the revellers and feeling a sense of accomplishment at his endeavor being such a long standing success story.
The theatre was started in memory of his late father Prithviraj Kapoor and took it’s place in the heart of Juhu by 1978 and since then it has established itself as the go-to destination for all the leading theatre personalities in India. The theatre is unique in it’s setting with proximity to the main stage and the first come first serve seating arrangement inside the theatre. Plays can be viewed from different angles and the effects can be totally different. I watched Makrand Deshpande’s ‘Sir Sir Sarla’ twice at that place, once from front on and the other time from extreme left.
While the front vision gives you a wholesome experience, the side on view brings you closer to the performers, in a way that the emotional juggernaut on display is almost palpable. Another key feature of the theatre are the use of lighting. Being a comparatively smaller place with limited scope of having gigantic props, a lot of sequences depend on lighting to highlight characters, scenes and even the mood of a person. One such wholesome play i witnessed a few days ago was ‘Ladies Sangeet’. Here is a short review of the same.
As the name suggests this is a play about merriment and fun and frolic with a backdrop of a marriage between Radha (Nidhi Singh) and Sid (Siddharth Kumar). But as we get introduced to the different spokes of the wheels, we realise that the family is as disfunctional as it comes. There is a half a decade long silence and anger brewing in the heart of the mother as she cannot see eye to eye with her husband whom she thinks is involved with a mistress. There is the matriarch of the family (Nivedita Bhargava) who is as staunch and traditional as they come. Opposite to her is the bride’s little sister (played by the lovely Trisha Kale) who sings western pop as charmingly as she croons out melodious Bandish. There is the effervescent Madhura Bua (Sarika Singh) who seems to be the one who is enjoying the Sangeet the most. Throw a hilarious wedding planner Hosadiya (Gopal Datt) in the middle and you have the perfect recipe for a fun celebration. But what keeps the audience engaged is the to and fro of the leads, the social norms being questioned by the couple-to-be and the reconciliation between the mother and father with a twist at the end.
Aadyam, the theatre group backed by the Aditya Birla group does a good job in bringing together some impeccable performers who can also sing as well as they can act. Music forms the backbone of the entire show and the classical songs are juxtaposed well with a few modern fun numbers. Director Purva Naresh holds the attention tight in the first half although, if we nitpick a little, there is a case of the second half being a little stretched and a finale which we can see from afar.
But what holds your attention is the ambience of the place and all the small things which add to the script as a whole. Here is wishing Prithvi Theatres a long haul so that we, the slowly dying breed of theatre lovers get to see more such plays being enacted and our sundays spent in the lap of this historic place.