Houston Natya-Mahotsav Thrills Audience


 By Dan Mayur

HOUSTON: Thanks to the Houston Marathi Mandal team (fondly known as He’ Maze’ Mandal) under the very able leadership of Jyotsna Phadke, the local Maharashtrian community was treated to a most enjoyable day-long cultural event, a Natya-Mahotsav (Festival of Plays) at the EVJCC’s Kaplan Theater.  Maharashtra is at the forefront of Indian culture for its literature and performing arts. On June 9, theater aficionados were regaled with two immensely enjoyable plays – Nau Koti Sattavan Lakh, a two-act farcical play directed by the inimitable Vijay Kenkre and Hasva Fasvi, Dilip Prabhavalkar’s all-time classic, most ably enacted by Pushkar Shrotri.


Nau Koti Sattavan Lakh” is a story of an incredible emotional ride in the life of Dilip Deokule, a simpleton, leading a routine life of a middle-class professional. In a freak happening, lady luck smiles on him as two identical bags get exchanged and he becomes the owner of a fortune worth nau koti sattavan lakh rupees. This unexpected windfall tempts Dilip to plan an exit out of the country with his wife Anju to start a new life in the USA. As luck would have it, a bumbling private detective and a dutiful police officer land on Dilip’s doorstep. Now the chaos begins with an endless comedy of errors; white lies; and names, identity and relationship changes. As the plot thickens, the audience is constantly on edge wondering if Dilip can hold on to his fortune.

A farcical play thrives on exaggeration and parody to create humor. The success of the play depends upon the director in stringing the pieces together and the performance of the actors.  This drama wins big due to the stellar performances of its cast. In particular, Sulekha Talwalkar as Anju and Anand Ingle as Dilip, steal the show with their energetic performances. Apart from the humor, the underlying currents of middle-class dreams, fears, values, relationships and conflicts depicted in the play resonate well with the audience.


The second play of the Natya-Mahotsav, HasvaFasvi, is a triumph of individual excellence in acting. It starts with the preparation for the felicitation of a veteran singer and actor, Krishnarao Herambakar. The process unleashes a riot of laughter that follows when Herambakar is delayed in his arrival, and various characters come into the picture as Chimanrao, an unabashed admirer; Prince Wangchoo, a Chinese gentleman; Bobby Modvikar, a young “ultra cool” college student; a fascinating NRI female Purvi; Nana Punje, the poultry farmer; and  Herambakar — all played by Shrotri  displaying the extra-ordinary range of his acting skills. His body language, gestures, demeanor, accent, manner of speaking and costumes are perfect for each character. Shrotri’s makeup-man has done a most remarkable job. The audience is left spell-bound by the transformation and the speed of transition.   The highlight of the show is undoubtedly Shrotri’s recital of “Priye Paha.…. “  in the simulated shivering voice of an eighty-seven year old. The play ends with a powerful message about the sacrifices the elderly have made in their lives and our responsibility to take care of them in their sunset years.