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New England Hindi Manch Scores Big With The Comedy Play Ballabhpur Ki RoopKatha

Meena Sundaram

A decrepit mansion for sale. A handsome penniless aristocrat. Old feuds and memories. A businessman with a penchant for antiquity. A beautiful dreamy damsel. A mysterious dweller in the mansion. All these elements formed the potpourri called “ Ballabhpur Ki RoopKatha” a Hindi play originally written by Badal Sarkar (in Bengali), impeccably directed by Mohan Dali and presented by the New England Hindi Manch (NEHM).

Over 400 people in the New England area were enthralled with this slick production that encompassed 3 shows in Lexington, MA, Providence, RI and Shrewsbury, MA in mid- December. As Preetesh Shrivastava, the president of NEHM elaborated, “ The purpose of NEHM is to unite people in the community who know, speak or are desirous of learning and speaking Hindi and enjoying cultural activities in the Hindi language. With that very purpose in mind, we ensured that multiple shows of the play were held in different towns and communities to introduce NEHM and encourage local residents to attend our events. We want to reach out to all members of the community and involve them in our mission of propagating the Hindi language, that is our real measure of success.”

And did NEHM succeed! The audience reaction during and after the play was a clear indication of the quality effort put forward in the concept, implementation and presentation of the event. Comments from the audience members included “The play was amazing, Mohanji delivered performances from the artistes that surpasses even their own expectations”, “Your efforts for Hindi language are admirable”, “I laughed hysterically after a very long time”, “I haven’t watched a Hindi play for ages, it brought back so many memories”, “A professional production with excellent organization!” to name a few. From the stage set-up which included antique-style hand-made walls and screens created by Dr. Rohit Jangi and Saujanya Pangrekar to the excellent performances by each and every participant, the program had the audience totally engrossed in the twists and turns of the tale interspersed with many guffaws and laughs.

The play is set in the 1960s in rural Bengal. Bhupati, who descends from an aristocratic family, lives in a decrepit mansion that he has inherited from his forefathers. His economic difficulties have forced him to be in debt and the only way out of his situation is to sell his ancestral home. With the help of his friends, he sets his plan into motion. Luckily, a prospective buyer, his wife and daughter decide to visit the property. Things should end pretty easily, right? Not that fast! There are some secrets in the haveli that need resolving first. Poor Bhupati’s plan is fraught with obstacles and complications, interspersed with romance and a lot of laughs.

Ajay Jain, who played the protagonist, Bhupati was the consummate actor with expressions ranging from vulnerability to resourcefulness to despair. He reminded me of Amol Palekar in his early films. Manohar, Sanjay Jain who combined obsequiousness with resourcefulness and valuable advice played Jeeves to his Bertie Wooster admirably. Anupam Wali ( Sahuji), Shridhar Pola  ( Shrinath) and Alok Asoor (Pavan) demonstrated great chemistry as kind-hearted businessmen who help Bhupati and provided some nice laughs in the bargain. Subodh Shetty (Sanjeev), Bhupati’s friend lit up the stage with his fluid expressions and mannerisms. His shenanigans with his moustache were particularly hilarious. Devesh Verma, who played Haldar, the rich industrialist buyer of the haveli was an imposing presence with his booming voice, attitude and trademark English phrases. Pratibha Krishnamurthy was excellent as his domineering and suspicious wife, Swapna. Swati Sane was delightful as Chhanda, their beautiful daughter whose curiosity and perceptiveness moves the play forward to its finale. Anindya Mishra played Chaudhary with a mix of humor and menace, a fine performance!

Rajni Kaimal performed a graceful Kathak number; Shraddha Agrawal and Mohan Subramaniam (as the voice of the elusive Raghuda) provided melodious vocal support. Preetesh Shrivastava as the narrator got things rolling nicely. The thread that bound the entire production was the experienced director Mohan Dali, who quietly and efficiently made the whole event a grand success.

NEHM embarked on its event schedule in Spring/Summer 2010 with the “New England SaReGaMaPa” Competition. This successful event brought together music lovers from all over New England who were treated to an exciting evening of talented singers who regaled the audience with their charm and talent. NEHM upcoming events to be organized by the group include "Haasya Sammelan," an evening featuring reading of humorous poems and "Baal Manch," a talent show for young children. According to Preetesh Shrivastava, president Hindi Manch, “ These events will continue our mission to bring Hindi language lovers together to propagate its use in New England, particularly in increasing its exposure among the younger generation.  We appreciate the support of our well-wishers and sponsors. We encourage all of you to become members of NEHM. Please contact us at www.hindimanch.org.”

All I can say is “ Capital!!!”

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