Revisiting Phule

The play 'Satyashodhak' is an effort to popularise the teachings of Mahatma Phule amongst today's working class

The curtains open to dark, sombre settings and the low lighting offers a sharp contrast to the subject of the play. As 15 actors come and go on stage, the play slowly begins and talks about the growing up years of social reformer Mahatma Phule and his eventual struggles with the caste system. It also highlights the oppression faced by him and his wife Savitribai, as they take up the challenge of educating the lower castes and the subsequent triumph against all odds for the couple. Titled 'Satyashodhak', the one hour 45 minute long play was performed at the Balgandharva Rangmandir on Saturday as a part of the Pune festival to a packed audience. Interestingly most of the actors are first timers, and members of the Pune Municipal Corporation Workers Union (PMC Kamgar Sangh) who have performed the play written by G P Deshpande and directed by theatre director Atul Pethe. The members feel that the main reason for showcasing the play, which was originally written and performed in 1994, is the importance that it has in the modern day settings of globalisation and its impact on the working class. The Union members will now be taking the play to various parts of Maharashtra.

Mukta Manohar, who has produced the play, and is the General Secretary of the Union says that the play in many ways struck a personal chord with the artistes themselves. "They all belong to the same working class. So who can highlight their issues better? In fact the play is not just about the issues but also the manner in which they can be overcome," she adds.

Manohar adds that the team got in touch with Pethe, after their first endeavour, a documentary on garbage disposal in 2007 found a lot of positive reviews. "We had seen the play and felt that it would be an apt manner to highlight the issues faced by the working and the trading class. Pethe worked with the actors, most of them first timers and ensured that the performance came across as flawless on stage," she says.

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