Express News ServiceAgainst the sea breeze on Marine Drive and away from the day’s hustle outside the Gymkhanas that dot the opposite side of the city’s most famous promenade, what is being rehearsed will be played out in a village in Ratnagiri on March 18. The road outside gymkhanas has been playing host to a group of Ratnagiri district natives who are practising for a play they will enact in their native Sheer village on Gudi Padwa. Twice a week for the past three weeks, a diverse group of professionals all having their roots in Sheer in the coastal district has been assembling on the grounds between 7 pm and 10 pm. Mohan More, 32, a theatre artiste based in Mumbai and a member of the group at work says: “A few days before Gudi Padwa, Devi Mahalaxmi is brought on a palanquin to every home in our village and we offer her prayers during the day. In the evening, members of the community come together and put up a performance. This has been going on for as long as we can remember.” Gudi Padwa marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year and is celebrated across the state by different communities with their own rituals and customs.
Director of their drama this year is Shankar More, who is a contractor and lives in Nallasopara. One of the actors, Ramesh More, works at a printing press in Bhayander, while another, Vajesh More, is an accountant. “It is difficult to meet every day but we meet in the night twice every week to practice. Our themes are mostly mythological and derived from the scriptures — tales of Ganesha with his brother Kartik, and Krishna’s daily antics,” adds Mohan. “The practice usually begins with readings of the script by Mohan, who has written it this year. Shankar then starts the actual rehearsal. The rehearsals started a bit late in mid-February, but we are hopeful of putting up a good show in our village,” says Vajesh. With rehearsals often running late into the night, the group takes late night trains back to their homes in the suburbs including Virar, Bhandup and Andheri. The entire group of eleven will travel back to the village before Gudi Padwa, which is on March 18 this year. Work may have brought them to Mumbai but the group remains firmly rooted in Sheer. They meet at least once every month to discuss issues pertaining to the development of the village. “We have a WhatsApp group which has all members of the village on it. We make plans to meet and practice our play using the group,” adds Vajesh. The Sheer natives say many groups from villages in Maharashtra meet to practice in different parts of the city in the months leading up to the festival and explore different themes. “Our dramas are different from theatre in. A lot of dance and music is used for the portrayal of the setting, as getting props is difficult and expensive,” says Mohan.
Ankush Bandyopadhyay is a student of NSoJ and is an intern with The Indian Express, Mumbai