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Hindi Play “Shatranj Ke Mohre” Harnesses Creative Skills Of Sharon Town Residents

Shuchita Rao
11/22/2017

There was palpable excitement in the air on the afternoon of November 18 at the Sharon Middle School auditorium where the play “Shatranj Ke Mohre” was staged by members of the Sharon town community. The three act play was a Hindi translation of the original play in Marathi “Tujha ahe Tujhya pasha” written by the versatile playwright, the late P.L Deshpande. A couple hundred theatre enthusiasts came in to watch and support their friends and relatives who took part in the play. Directed by Jayashree Shahane, the 2.5 hour long play was presented as a maiden offering of the newly formed Sharon based entertainment company “Bravo Arts” started by Shri Deepak Shahane, Shri Div Prakash and Shri Deepak Wadhwa.

Set in the 1950s, just a few years after India became independent, Shatranj Ke Mohre had themes of social and personal transformation, political philosophy and the rise of puritanism. Brightly designed set, powerful script, swift movement of the story, crisp dialog delivery, attractive costumes, thoughtfully chosen background music, fine direction as well as acting where characters came alive in their respective roles, made watching the play engaging from start to finish. Though there were problems with microphones and distorted audio output, the dialogs could be heard by members of the audience. The acting of the high society women played by Nandita Singh, Lini Bhatia and Amrit Chopra effectively brought in a touch of humor to the play and was mentioned in appreciation by many of the attendees.  

The director of Shatranj Ke Mohre, Jayashree Shahane is an accomplished stage actor and Hindustani musician. She recently took up directing plays. Shatranj Ke Mohre is her second offering after the debut direction of a play titled “Kissa Angoothi Ka” staged in 2016 in Sharon. This year’s cast included twelve actors and fourteen members in the production team that managed set design, sound, lighting, stage management and makeup. All of the 26 members in cast and crew are residents of Sharon who met periodically to review and edit scripts, learn and practice dialogs, buy materials and equipment for the set, design and construct it from scratch. Members of the cast and crew, many dealing with the issue of dealing with children leaving homes for college studies, decided to devote time to take up a new hobby around theatre production. The results were excellent.

Here are comments from the cast and crew as well as attendees who enjoyed watching the play:

Alok Misra said “Thanks for a great show. It was an admirable production by Bravo Arts.”

Sanjay Gupta said “The play was awesome as it had depth and emotions. The complexity of the characters of Achaarya jee and Geeta really impressed me. I am tired of the Bollywoodish plays in the Boston area and this was very refreshing.”

Div Prakash who played the role of Dr. Satish said "This was a very ambitious undertaking and as a founding member of Bravo Arts, I was worried if we would do justice to playwright PL Deshpande's classic. It turned out the dedication and focus from our director and the actors pulled this off in a relatively short time. I am addicted to acting after this and hope our plans to present it to other parts of NE pan out. We hope to share this wonderful experience with Hindi loving audiences all over."

Rajit Kamal who played the role of Shyam said “Working on the play was a huge time commitment and a challenge to balance professional and personal commitments but well worth it. The laughs from the audience while performing on stage or comments after the play was very satisfying and encouraging. However, the best part was spending time with cast and crew during practices. The camaraderie we developed and the laughs we shared has left wonderful memories. When you spend so much time with people, you get to know them well and I walked away with lot of respect and admiration for all the cast, crew and our director.”

Shirish Agnihotri who played the role of Acharya-ji said “It was quite a challenge for me to play the role of Acharya. Our director made me believe that Yes – I can do it. She instilled confidence and motivated me to improve myself practice after practice. The entire team became a family and every member was committed to make it a success. Indeed, it was a rewarding experience.”

Kamal Suppal who portrayed the gardener’s (mali) role effectively said “In keeping up with the spirit of the play, the SKM team virtually played a good round of chess where all Mohre/actors enacted their assigned roles while racing their intellect to perfect and adapt to multiple situations thus culminating in performance par excellence.” 

Dr. Amrit Chopra who played the role of a high society woman said “I have to say that dedication and enthusiasm of entire cast and crew was so infectious! Humko tho acting ka keeda lug gaya. (We’ve now been bitten by the acting bug)! ”

Dr. Lini Bhatia who also played the role of a high society woman said “Appreciate the team and camaraderie. It’s like a anatomy lab or surgical procedure going on where you just extend your hand and your team mate gives you the right instrument, without asking for or looking for it. This is the true friendship and trust we develop. This is what we developed here.”

Shilpa Thacker who played the role of Usha said “This play has an incredible storyline with a lot of depth and emotions and I learnt a lot from it. The overall experience was very nourishing and enriching. Another catalyst in this fabulous journey was the selfless dedication from the entire cast and crew which worked tirelessly as one team and made this possible. This journey was not without challenges and two of the biggest ones for me - memorizing the lines and my very complex character "Usha". The character had to portray multiple emotions and enacting these with perfection was a significant challenge for amateur like me. But with immense guidance from our lovely and talented director Jayashree, and my dedication and hard-work this was possible! I take away very special memories which I will cherish for a long time from this exciting, exhausting and a fun experience.”

Mr. Deshpande, (a Walpole, MA resident who had seen the original Marathi play) said “Even though I know they are amateurs, they are no less than professionals.”

Kudos to Jayashree and Deepak Shahane for channeling the creative energies of empty nesters living in Sharon. The fact that the 2.5 hour long play came together despite busy work schedules of a large cast and crew members teaches us that vision, commitment and dedication can bind members of a community together in a collaboration that becomes a labor of love.  



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