No takers for Dalit empowerment show at Kumbh

Kumbh Mela
A theatrical presentation, which was expected to spread the message about empowerment of Dalits through the story of "Jamunia" here at Kumbh-2013, is craving for audience.

The two-hour show beginning 6.30 pm every day, which is a creation of the Song and Drama Division (SDD), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, began on February 1 and will continue till February 14. The venue is Chandrashekhar Azad Park, also known as Company Garden. In its four shows so far, the audience has refused to go up from more than a couple of thousands.

The in-charge of the show Rajnish Kumar Bhagat, Assistant Director, Sound and Light (SDD), "We wanted more and more people to see the show, which sends the message of empowerment through knowledge. But the audience has been thin here. By bringing it in Allahabad during Kumbh-2013, we expected huge audiences, but that has not happened so far."

One of the possible reasons could be the venue being away from the Kumbh Mela area. "We wanted a space within the Mela area. We also contacted various Mela officials. Ultimately, we were told that the Company Garden would be best suited for our purpose. But things have not turned out as expected."

Company Garden, it must be mentioned, is a hot spot of the city and the elite, the commoners and the tourists keep visiting it. However, with the Mela going on, the entire focus has shifted to Sangam, which is three to four km away, feel organisers.

The show, which gained popularity as a theatre production, is also now a television serial being telecast on various channels of Door Darshan for the past six months by the same name. Directed by D J Narain, who is currently director of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, the show depicts the story of "Jamunia", a poor, illiterate, Dalit widow, who takes on the caste-driven establishment after realising the importance of knowledge.

"Jamunia" has been one of the well received productions of the SDD since last year. "We had our first performance in Rae Bareli on February 4, 2012, in the presence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. It was a huge crowd," informs Sushil Kumar, an actor, who has been playing the role of Diwanji, the main antagonist in the play.

The show has been performed before what Kumar describes as "capacity crowd" in places like Rajkot, Netrang, Porbander (all in Gujarat), Haridwar (Uttarakhand) Seekar (Rajasthan), Panna (Madhya Pradesh), Amravati (Maharashtra), Jhansi and Amethi (Uttar Pradesh). "In these places, the crowds could be anywhere between 20,000 to 30,000 or even more. We hoped Company Garden would look like a stadium," says Kumar.

The production has also roped in at least 70 local artistes, hoping to get some audience by word of mouth. Hoardings at around eight places, pamphlets and even announcements on push carts are being tried to spread information about the show.

"The artistes have worked hard to get the show in place within two days, including preparation of the stage. They will perform. But the fact is that many more are losing out on what could have been a great experience. This show has drama, comedy, music and dance. The language too has been localised to appeal to the people," says Vijay Tripathi, a famous face in comic roles on TV, who provides the laughs playing the side-kick of the main villain.

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