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For Pune theatre artiste Shrikant Bhide, it was a trip to Cairo, Egypt, in 2010 that gave birth to the idea of the play that he finally wrote around 15 days ago. Mi, Paani ani Savalya, a dance-drama, was showcased for the first time in Pune at Sudarshan Rangmanch on Monday and has been selected to be presented at Santipur Natya Mela (West Bengal) on December 21.
"I observed that though Cairo is developed along the Nile, the water of the river is crystal clear and unpolluted. This is unlike India where rivers get polluted when they pass cities," says Bhide, adding, that though the idea was conceived back then, he did not act upon it until now. Last year, when he visited Santipur, on the banks of the Ganga, he learnt that the drinking water in the area was scarce despite the river.
"Later, my other projects kept me busy. Around 15 days ago, I sat down to pen my ideas. The memories of Cairo and Santipur were still fresh in my mind, so it did not take time to put my thoughts together," added Bhide, who founded his theatre group Dhyaas in 2008. He has written, directed and choreographed Mi, Paani ani Savalya.
Knowing that enough has been written and talked about the issue of water in recent times, Bhide stayed away from making the play look preachy or giving it a feel of a documentary on water. Instead, he incorporated physical theatre, miming and various abstract as well as contemporary dance sequences in the play. The action revolves around two people. While one is the man who is curious about water and decides to go on a boat journey, the second one is the boatman.
"The structural base of the play is a day-long journey and the way the curious man looks at the water of the river, which is so clear that he can view his own shadow. Soon, it is a full moon night and the man can see the water changing its colour," explains Bhide.
This is where he introduces dance sequences through which he portrays different shades of water. For instance, there is a dance piece which shows how the early man invented mud pots so that he could store water.
While Sagar Dhumal essays the role of a boatman, Shrinivas Joshi plays the protagonist. The music of the play has been given by Pradyumna Chavare.
Bhide emphasises that the play deliberately travels back and forth between intense and light moods. At the end of the play, the man travelling on the river observes that the fish in the water are dying and the water has become so dirty that he can't view his shadow. He also realises that he cannot breathe due to filth. At this moment, the protagonist wakes up and learns that it was just a dream.
"Everyone knows how important water is for life and I didn't want to tell the same story again. So every time the play gets serious, there is a dance or miming sequence which is very much on the lines of the play but gives the message to the audience in a subtle way," adds Bhide, whose play The Last Colour was showcased at the prestigious Ordu International Theatre Festival in Turkey.