“Dushyantpriya.. this is really an apt name” says one of the characters in the play.. and its true to the core. Dushyantpriya which literally means Dushyant’s love is a modern day adaptation of Abhigyana Shakuntalam by poet Kalidasa; but with a queer theme. Director Sarang Bhakre specifically chose this classic because its a very human story; does not involve the Gods or any magic. But very much speaks about love, seperation and acceptance; something which could be easily related to what most of individuals expirience and relate to specifically here in the homosexual context.
The fourth show of this critically acclaimed and state government awarded play “Dushyantpriya” happened on 11 January 2014 at Sawarkar Sabhagriha, Dadar. This show was first of the exciting events organised by Queer Azaadi Mumbai; which has a host of events all of January and till 9 February including the biggest highlight and the much awaited Pride March on 1st Feb 2014. This show was presented by Gulaabi Theatrewaale supported by Sanjeevani Trust, Humsafar and in association with Colours of India, Gaysi & Gay Bombay.
The play had a huge turnout from the Queer community. The Chief Guest at the show was the Honourable Assistant Commissioner of Police Mr. Vanzari, who is himself a theatre enthusiast.
The play began at 3.30 pm. The story goes that a theater group is practicing for the famous play ‘Abhigyan Shakuntalam’ written by Kalidasa. The actress playing the role of Shakuntala fails to come for the practice just two weeks before the show. In a fix the crew & the director of the play suggest that a male actor from the cast, Rohit should substitute for her. Sushil while playing the role of Dushyanta falls in love with Rohit. This is the start of a beautiful love relationship between the two male actors. This is Shakuntalam with a difference.When Sushil realizes that he has fallen for Rohit he confesses & Rohit too reciprocates the same feelings. It is never easy to be different, it is not easy for gays to come out of the closet. They take time to accept their sexual preferences & they are hovered by the guilt that they are different. Even after they accept their sexuality they take time to reveal it to the world. So how can they expect that their family would accept this immediately is what the director of the play asks?Also the social challenges of accepting homosexuality are immense. There is discrimination & non-acceptance. But, the most intense & painful aspect of homosexuality is self denial due to social pressure. Sushil’s brother expects him to marry a girl & live a ‘normal’ life. Rohit goes into depression as Sushil distances himself.Sarang Bhakre in his play covers various aspects on the topic & asks questions that we prefer not to ponder over. Since most of us are not facing these issues we prefer to just pass value judgment on them. But, if any of our family members are homosexuals we would then change our perspective.Keeping aside the argument whether this is a mental challenge or natural phenomenon, if we accept it as a matter of personal preference it would only make the society have an healthier perspective towards homosexuality. We cannot put a tag of it being illegal & if we do, it will only lead to frustration & suffocation among them.These are the issues tackled by writer & director Sarang Bhakre.
The strongest point of the play is that it draws a parallel between romance, separation, climax, reconciliation of the original play Shakuntalam & the love relationship of Rohit & Sushil. Using the base of a classic to present an issue that is calling our attention in recent times is a novel idea & is presented with fervour & enthusiasm by the team of Gulaabi Theatrewale.The scenes that explicitly showed the love relationship between Rohit & Sushil didn’t feel awkward the least bit. But, towards the end the play gets a bit too lengthy when they both reminisce about their happy times. The questions that Sushil’s brother asks are insightful & depict the dilemma in a family’s mind about accepting their loved ones with homosexual preference. He also gives a spiritual angle to the dilemma.Raj Hanchanale in the role of Sushil is bright & portrays aptly the authority of a king with confidence & style. Swapnil Kale plays Rohit & swaps the role as Shakuntala. While doing so he fully justifies the female role. When he switches himself to playing Rohit he does it with ease & with a quick reflex. The role of the friends Chetan & Abhi played by Nishant Roy Bombarde & Bhushan Kulkarni respectively support the play. Nishant also plays Priyamvada & Bhushan plays Anasuya. Both of them are impressive in their female roles. The director’s role is played Vivek Patil & he is responsible providing vital insights about their relationship. The rest of the cast played by Harshad Phundkar & Sagar Chavhan provide the necessary support to the play.The play ends in the most unique manner & would take you by complete surprise. The play should not be missed for some vital insights Sarang Bhakre gives on homosexuality & the ambitious end.