Saturday, August 27, 2005

I and Idol

Forty Colleges. Hundreds of excited, passionate, screaming college kids. Seven days of competition. One highly coveted trophy. That, in a few disjinted lines is the Purushottam Karandak intercollege one-act play competition.

The Purushottam Karandak is one of the highlights of Pune's cultural scene. Many of the leading lights of Marathi theater and films started out representing their colleges in this competition. Fergusson College has a long history of doing well in the competition, and consequently it is taken very seriously by FC students. Acting in, writing or directing a Purushottam play is a great honour for students, and this year many of the people handling these responsibilities are my friends. That, and the fact that I hadn't yet seen a Purushottam play despite now being in my final year meant that I just had to see it.

Given the prestige of the Purushottam competition, there is usually quite some competition for tickets. However, since the guys in charge are my friends, I and my friend Puranjay got them easily (without standing in any lines, too). Our play was to be performed on the second last day of the eliminations, yesterday. I made my way to the venue, the venerable Bharat Natya mandir in Sadashiv Peth. Being in the old city of Pune , the BNM is easier to find than a needle in a haystack, buit only just. Parking space cannot be found in the vicinity of the auditorium for love or money, so I had to park in college, and take an autorickshaw. Me and Puranjay finally met up, and entered the theater. The other two colleges participating were MIT (that's M for Maharashtra, not Massachusets or Madras) and MM Law College, and there was quite a bit of rivalry and ribbing between the MIT and FC junta. We entered the auditorium early, and took our seats. As the audi filled up however, we were shocked to see that we (just the two of us) had been allotted seats bang in the middle of the MIT area (seating is supposed to be segregated by college). For those of you who have never seen a competitive event (and Purushottam is very competitive) while sitting in the midst of the opposition supporters, I would really not recommend the experience. I personally knew many of the MIT guys sitting around us from school, and so we were never in danger of bodily harm, but we couldn't join in the cheering and taunting of the other side that our compatriots on the other side of the aisle were enjoying. The first play to be screened was the MIT production Three Days Two Nights, about two not-so-well-off college kids who are granted divine powers (Bruce Almighty, anyone?) for the said time period. To a biased guy like me, it seemed like a lot of crap.

Next up was our play, I and Idol. Set in the disturbances in our college in February over the imposition of a PT fine, it looks at three college kids and the idols they adopt. The play focuses more on one of the friends, Adi (played to perfection by Ameya Joshi), who comes to idolise a charismatic student leader who heads the protests against the fine. Adi gets involved with the protests and rises to a high position among the protestors, but the protests get nowhere as the college management refuses to agree to their requests. As the protestors upthe ante by planning a hunger strike, Adi realises that the student leader he idolises is not prepared to make the same sacrifices he expects of his followers, and is only interested in power. Adi goes ahead with the strike anyway, and gets the management to accede to their dermands, but gets seriously ill in the process. The student leader quickly moves in and takes credit for the cancellation of the PT fine, while Adi has to be hospitalised. As Adi recuperates, he finds that he himself is now the idol of a portion of the student body. He realises that their preoccupation with their idols has broken up the three friends. The play ends with all three friends rejecting their idols and resuming their friendship.

The play was written by by Dharmakirti Sumant and directed by Sohum Bhatawdekar, both friends of mine. These two guys really did a good job, and any defiencies you see in the plot are all in my own inept synopsis. The play really brings out what it means to be a Fergusson student, with the endless meetings for siomething or the other, the student protests, and the pointless acrimony between English- and Marathi-medium students. Dharmakirti, apart from writing the play, acted as a fellow student of the main protagonists, who is also the narrator. The direction was faultless, as was the casting. I, as I said before, am a biased observer, but it seems to me that this particular play will definitely do well, and perhaps even end the five-year drought of Purushottam wins for FC.

The results of the elimination round are tomorrow, and the finals will be next weekend. Here's wishing I and Idol the very best of luck!

Update (30/8/2005): I and Idol made it to the final 9. Khidki, (Cummins), Ek hota Kutubuddin (Ness Wadia), Score Square One (PVG COE), Cycle (BMCC), Shimga (IMCC), Kakpinda (Tilak Ayurved College) and My fair... Ready Redi (Garware College) are the other plays that made it. The finals are bound to be tough, so the best of luck again to Sohum and the gang!
(And apologies to Sadashiv Peth junta for my deficient appreciation of their, uh, peth ;-) )


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