A still from the play Kaalchakra
A still from the play Kaalchakra

Way back on January 16, 1979, Yatri theatre presented their first play Ek Tha Gadha (There Was A Donkey) written by the veteran writer Sharad Joshi at the Prithvi theatre. A socio-political satire this play, in the live-musical format, explores the story as to how a Nawab does not want to lose his power (kursi) at any cost and commits a murder by killing an ordinary man, but attends his funeral and glorifies his death by naming the street with his name and providing help to his family and attracting applause from the people ‘Jai Jai Nawab’. This play made a great start to the career of Om Katare and his Yatri Theatre.

Till date Yatri has had more than 5000 shows to their credit and the production of over 100 plays. Prithvi theatre had made a great start to Yatri, hence the 42nd Theatre Festival of Yatri was celebrated with a variety of entertaining plays at the Prithvi theatre. The first play presented was Perfect Family in which the protagonist, the father, is obsessed with the idea of perfection and strictly tries to force it on his children, hence the clash with them. The play was appreciated by the audience and the Sinhas as they felt it was relevant to the present day families. Other plays presented were Chinta Chhod Chintamani, Raavanleela, Hum Paanch and Kaalchakra — a take on senior citizens, written by Jayawant Dalvi.

A still from Raavanleela
A still from Raavanleela

Om Katare says, “Ek Tha Gadha was a satire and a musical too, relevant to the political scenario, it was entertaining with a social message too. Initially we performed several shows but later most of the actors started moving out, hence it was essential to move forward. Over the years we have presented plays of different subjects, but our main aim is to entertain, gone are the days of historical plays like Tughlaq, people spend money to be entertained. In 2008, we started presenting the comedy play Chinta Chod Chintamani and I am happy that we have more than 350 shows to our credit and now in our 13th year of this play we still have many invitations. The play follows the simple dictum ‘Stop Worrying Start Living’, adapted in Hindi by Ashish Dekke, Prem Nagar Ki Dagar, the original Marathi play is by Prof Vasant Kanetkar. The demand for today is undoubtedly comedies. Another comedy, which is the second hit play of Yatri is Ravan Leela in which the persona of Ravan is portrayed with modern comic touch.”

During the lockdown, Om Katare was quite busy with the Yatri YouTube channel that has been regularly presenting plays written by Acharya Chatur Sen and others.

Yatri also conducts play reading, storytelling and workshops for young actors and several shows, both online and offline. Om Katare is currently giving finishing touches to his new play, Second Innings, that explores the story as to how a senior citizen gets again married to get rid of loneliness but is still miserable.

Yatri Theatre Festival will have its last show today at Prithvi Theatre.

(The writer is a professional kuchipudi-kathakali exponent, dance teacher, choreographer and an actor.)

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