Tughlaq at Ranga Shankara

As always, all entry points were closed in less than a minute after the 3rd bell. Rangashankara is 15 years old and I’ve been frequenting the theater in the last 8 years, and the scrupulous adherence with time has been an uncanny yet impressive characteristic of Rangashankara since always. I was in the theater for the 76th showing by Samudaya Bangalore of Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq just before the 3rd bell and hence had to settle for a seat on the back rows. The show was on 5th Jan, 2020 at 3:30 PM. It was a housefull showing.

The play is about the dynamic and turbulent rule of the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty, Muhammad Bin Tughlaq . The sultan who is known less for his founding of the dynasty and is more infamous for his flipflopping policies, conflicted personality and his momentous decision of moving his capital city are the central pieces of this play. At two hours long it is a little demanding of the uninitiated modern theater audience who succumbed to the phubbing from time to time.

The play in itself requires no introduction and is a gem at each showing. Scenes showing the shrewd ploys by the sultan catch the audience unawares. Moments of helplessness due to conflicting thoughts make the audience edgy and the comic relief is well noted and appreciated with a lot of laughs. The audience of Jan 5th however was a little ill-prepared or expected a little too much comic relief from the play. Though the old school music had laugh cues to help out the audience, they ended up laughing at certain interesting non-comic parts of the play.

The actors were seasoned performers who have been with Samudaya Bangalore for long and have perfected the characters of the play. Malathesh who plays the Sultan’s role brings out the character’s feelings and emotions with ease. I got an opportunity to meet the crew after the play but couldn’t ask how long he had been playing the role. Online research later showed Malathesh and Sridhar had been with Samudaya Bangalore for at least 5 years, which is the case with most of the crew members.

Samudaya Bangalore’s production was near flawless with casting, acting, lighting showing maturity of the production house. The stage setup seemed to be mix of classic minimalism and modern lean symbolism. The sound however seemed to be a little dated with room for modern day adaptations. I personally thought they could’ve lost the laughter cues but the presence of many uninitiated theater audience changed my mind.

The play without a doubt is a must watch. Language and actors no bar!

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