Natya Sangeet and Sangeet Nataks were an established tradition in states like Maharashtra and Karnataka. With the advent of television in the 80s the once popular musical stage programmes began to lose their following and the number of shows started dwindling. “Jay Jay Gauri Shankar” was one such play that was written by the renowned playwright Vidhyadhar Gokhale in 1966 and instantly became a super hit with over 1,800 shows.
“Jay Jay Gauri Shankar” was a Marathi play written 46 years ago in three acts originally; a story of Shiva and Parvati and how Narad Muni attempts to create a rift between them by inciting jealously within Goddess Parvati. With stalwarts like Vasant Desai composing the evergreen music, the cast then was composed of Sangeetbushan Pt. Ram Marathe as Lord Shankar, Balchandra Pendharkar as Narad and Prasad Sawarkar as Shrungi. The play worked itself towards a performance of over 1,800 shows across Maharashtra and the rest of the country.
Today in an attempt to revive interest in Sangeet Nataks, Aryadurga creations and Ashwamedh have come together with a shorter two act version of the play. Under the direction of Sunil Ramesh Joshi, the cast now is made up of Mukund Marathe, the son of Pt. Ram Marathe and Balgandharva award winner, as Lord Gauri Shankar. Gayatri Lele-Dixit shows her dance skills in her role as Goddess Parvati. We also have Prajakta Marathe, the granddaughter of Pt. Ram Marathe and niece of Mukund Marathe as Vijaya, The Goddess Parvati’s lady in waiting. Sunil Datar acts a Narad and Sandeep Raut as Shrungi.
The first act begins with Nandi applying strict rules in the heavenly mountain domain kingdom of Kailash. To prevent any sort of problems or issues, Nandi believes the best way is to prohibit. Seeing Shrungi playing dice, he immediately adds the game to the prohibition list except for Lord Shiva and Parvati. However, Narad Muni who happened to be in the scene at the time immediately provokes the Goddess Parvati to play a high stake game with Lord Shiva. In the game, Goddess Parvati wins by cheating and an irritated Shiva leaves Kailash for a jungle to meditate in silence.
The second act is about Parvati realising her mistake going to the jungle to trace Lord Shiva with her lady in waiting Vijaya. She disguises herself as a tribal woman and attempts to woo the Lord with her music and dance. How she manages to get the lord back to Kailash but realises that entire episode was always known and driven by Lord Shiva to teach everyone a lesson.
The play is full of melodious songs with frequent encores for Prajakta Marathe’s rendition of “Priya Kara Naseha Chhand”. Mukund Marathe fills the shoes of his father, the maestro, with melodious renditions of “Surganga Mangala”, “Nirakar Omkar” and more. “Bhare Mannat Sundara” and “Narayana Ramaramana” are two other songs that remain in your memory even after you leave the theatre.
It was a brave attempt to try and resurrect interest to these plays especially to the younger generation. With “Jay Jay Gauri Shankar” reaching over 50 shows, it might seem like this interest is indeed being revived but this play seems to lag in between slightly and the only the songs manage to hold your attention. Also many of the audiences seem to be comprised of older audiences who have already seen the earlier version and are coming back to reminisce.
Newer plays with stories that connect to the younger generation might need to be introduced to keep this grand tradition alive.
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