"Marathi theatre has never let theater productions in English or any other languages thrive in Pune. Even institutions like the Lalit Kala Kendra at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) are Marathi-dominated. There's this perception among Marathi theatre folks that Mumbai is the hub for English plays, so why should Pune replicate the same?" Author R Raj Rao shared these insights with The Free Press Journal during a candid conversation at the launch of his new book 'The Wisest Fool On Earth'.
Apparently considering this scenario of English theatre in Pune, the author penned street plays in his new book. "The street play is a theatrical form that has always interested me greatly. Firstly, street plays require virtually nothing by way of infrastructure. Secondly, they are always socially and politically topical, and thirdly, they use the language of the street and are not written for the upper-class theatre aficionado," said Rao.
Author R Raj Rao at the launch of 'The Wisest Fool On Earth' | Gaurav Kadam
Delving into his book, Rao detailed its contents, featuring 10 street plays and three monologues "The street plays are issues-based, addressing topics such as Section 377, coming out to parents, homosexual marriage, conversion therapy, pedophilia accusations, HIV-AIDS, police brutality, and many more," he shared. "The three monologues offer a more subjective perspective, following the character Jay at different life stages, roughly mirroring my own age at those points. Through Jay's subjectivity, I express what I might have said at those ages," he added.
He also elaborated on the link between street plays and monologues in his book, stating, "Both use drama as a form and are performance-based. However, the street plays are grounded in activism, while the monologues are deeply personal and subjective."
Shyam Konnur, Mr Gay India 2020 and Maharashtra State Coordinator for All India Professionals Congress - Diversity & Inclusion (L) read a few plays from the book | Gaurav Kadam
During the launch, Shyam Konnur, Mr Gay India 2020 and Maharashtra State Coordinator for All India Professionals Congress - Diversity & Inclusion, read a few plays from the book alongside two others, receiving an enthusiastic round of applause from the attendees.
Following the readings, Rao engaged in a Q&A session with the audience, expressing that his plays are open for interpretation and use by anyone interested. "Each play is concise, lasting no more than 10 minutes in performance. However, collectively staged, they would span around 90 minutes, which is the standard theatre duration today. I am all for improvisation. I believe that what I have written is like mere notation, to be built upon by actors," shared the author. He added, "These plays could be performed in a blend of languages - English, Marathi, and Hindi - enabling a broader audience reach."
When asked about his upcoming book, Rao eagerly disclosed, "My next book, slated for release in a few months, presents a contemporary perspective on the intense romantic relationship between Mahmud of Ghazni and his slave Malik Ayaz. The narrative is set in Mumbai."