“I can sort-of-smile these days
I can sort-of-laugh as well
I have learned to stay alive.
I see things as they seem these days
What I cannot see does not exist
It matters not to me these days”
These are the opening lines of Manav Kaul’s famous play “Five Grains of Sugar”. Originally written in Hindi, as “Shakkar Ke Paanch Daane” and translated to English by Arshia Sattar, the 70-minute-long play is a monologue of the character “Rajkumar” about his “ordinary life” in his own words.
Presented by Just Theatre, “Five grains of sugar” was first performed in the “City of Gardens” way back in 2008 and has since successfully completed 18 shows.
The role of Rajkumar, the protagonist of this hard hitting yet humorous play directed by Nirmala Ravindran, is essayed by Munish Sharma. Munish Sharma, the actor, portrays the role with much ease and you fall in love with him when he describes the people around whom his life revolves.
The drama unfolds on the stage that has a table with a few books on it, a chair, a blackboard and a letter. These are the only things that have any significance in the protagonist’s “okay” life. Rajkumar, who considers himself an “ordinary man” from an “ordinary town”, engages the audiences with anecdotes from his “ordinary life”.
He talks about funny and eccentric characters of his life. His mother, who loves to watch action-packed films, his pseudo-intellectual uncle who is a failed poet, a classmate whom he worships, a Gandhian who recreates his single meeting with Mahatma Gandhi and a long distance unknown friend for whom he leaves messages on the back of random trucks.
He tries to portray his stupidity and simplicity but manages to convince us of his intelligence. “They say that he who has a life without a problem has not lived. Which means that I have not yet lived life….” he says with a confused look on his face.
The act keeps you smiling and laughing right throughout the end. While the way he describes his “Mother India” is quite funny, the self-deprecating words he uses for himself are witty in themselves. His problem that you discover towards the end of the play makes you laugh at him and feel sorry at the same time. His hero worship of his classmate is quite comical and the dumbstruck expression at his uncle’s poems is undoubtedly hilarious!
But people like Kajal Gadhia Budhbhatti, media consultant and theater enthusiast, thought that the Hindi version was better, “…because play has that Hindi essence and English cannot do justice to the essence. And of course the role was originally played by Kumud Mishra who is an actor par excellence actor, very expressive…”
The English one is quite different from the Hindi version in many ways. And if you want to find out why Rajkumar keeps playing with ants throughout the act, go grab the 7:30 show today (February 8) at Ranga Shankara. His innocent game is tied well with the underlying theme.
We take you leave on this note. If you happen to miss out on the show, you might want to read the text online http://pratilipi.in/2009/10/five-grains-of-sugar-manav-kaul/
At: Ranga Shankara
Time: 7:30 PM
Written by Manav Kaul and Directed by Nimi Ravindran
Translated by: Arshia Sattar. Lighting Design: Sujay Saple
Sound: Bharavi. Original Music: Sandeep Vasishta
Tickets: Rs. 100