The Natyadarpan awards are to Marathi theatre what the Oscars are to Hollywood -- such is the pride and prestige these annual awards command. Established in 1972 by Purushottam Darvhekar and Sudhir Damle, its founder members include Pramod Navalkar, Sushilkumar Shinde and Dilip Paranjpe. The awards assume great importance because they are the only ones dedicated solely to Marathi theatre -- thereby encouraging new talent and keeping the flame of Marathi theatre burning. This weekend, theatre luminaries will be out in full force once again at the much-awaited 24th Natyadarpan Rajani at Rang Bhavan.
The awards also hold special significance because this is the only opportunity for this theatre fraternity to get together under one roof. The atmosphere is electric and the charm is obviously more for the winners and nominees as the spot light shines on them. And actress Neena Kulkarni, who has quite a few awards glinting on her mantlepiece, is already quite excited. This year too she has been nominated in thebest actress category for her performance in Prempatra, drawn from the Hindi play Tumhari Amrita. Actor Mohan Joshi, who has been nominated for best actor for Mazhe Chaan Chalalay Na?, shares this feeling with her, "I am very excited and hope I get the award," he says.
But not everyone is happy with the way these awards are structured. Lata Narvekar, producer of plays like Char Chowghi and Uncha Majha Zhoka Ga is furious that her production Gandhi-Ambedkar was selected as the Best Attempt of the year. In the field for over 10 years now, Narvekar called a press conference and publicly refused to accept the award. She takes objection to the word `attempt' more than anything else. "It was not any measly attempt, but a conscious venture," she says.
Jayadev Hattangady who won the same award for Aparajita last year says, "Even we found the title a bit silly. As if no other play is experimental," he says, "But we accepted it for the whole thought process thatwent behind it". Hattangady who has been on the panel of judges earlier agrees that it ultimately depends on the judges' viewpoint as sometimes certain plays do not fit in any slot but need a mention. Having conducted a rather peaceful 24 years of Natyadarpan, managing trustee Sudhir Damle fails to understand Narvekar. Says he, "I don't know what her problem is. She doesn't get any Dinanath Mangeshkar kind of awards, and yet when Natyadarpan gives her one, she doesn't accept it". What Narvekar objects to is the fact that Gandhi-Ambedkar was not considered for the nominated awards. "Even if I have a lame horse, let it at least join the race," she says.
From a total of 20 awards, 10 are fixed -- that is they are declared before hand -- and 10 are nominated. One special award is given by Tata Safari to an artiste for outstanding performance. Narvekar wanted her play listed in the nominated awards, which include best production, direction, writer, actor, actress, best comedian, outstanding actor andactress, best set design and lighting. But ultimately the decision rested with the panel of three judges -- Mangal Khadilkar, Bharat Tandel and Suhas Kamat -- who sat through the 39 plays staged in 1997. And Narvekar is directing her contempt at them, "All I can say is that they do not have any brains." But despite this war on semantics, Naverkar will "definitely" attend the function.
Controversies are a part and parcel of each award ceremony and the show, as they say, must go on. Plays like Daddy I Love You and Prempatra have been nominated for seven awards each, and Adhantar for six awards. "Prempatra has been conceptualised and changed to adapt the Marathi milieu and psyche," reveals director Waman Kendre. The other plays in the list are Dandekarancha Salla, Premachi Gosht, Amchyasarkhe Aamchi, He Gangu Tumchi Aamchi and Mazhe Chaan Chalalay Na?.
Vijay Kenkre's Raste, the only amateur play to be staged in 1997, has won all the five awards reserved foramateur theatre. While three awards for revived productions were bagged by Suyog for Sashtang Namaskar (best production), Sanjay Mone (best actor) and Jyoti Shevade (best actress) in Ashi Bayako Havi. Ashok Patki won the best background score for Daddy I Love You.
This year's awards ceremony will be compered by Vijay Kerkar and Sonali Kulkarni. To mark the birth centenary of Acharya Atre, the doyen of Marathi theatre, actors like Pradeep Patwardhan and Jaywant Wadkar will stage a 40-minute one-act play, Ekach Pyala. In a year which saw as many as 27 revival plays, the show would be incomplete without a reference to them. Thus a special programme called Roop Nave, Rang Nava has been conceptualised and should be the high point of the evening. Actors like Rohini Hattangady, Sayaji Shinde and Chandrakant Limaye will enact short soliloquys from various revival plays like Shantata Court Chalu Aahe, To Me Nhavech and Phoolrani.
Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.