A quiet rebelIn a rare instance for Kathmandu’s theatre scene, a play almost entirely in Maithili, titled Kashidevi, is currently on stage at Sarwanam Theatre in Kalikasthan.
In a rare instance for Kathmandu’s theatre scene, a play almost entirely in Maithili, titled Kashidevi, is currently on stage at Sarwanam Theatre in Kalikasthan. The play derives its name from and is based on the life of Kashidevi Jha, who is a former-parliamentarian and the widow of Durgananda Jha who is popularly hailed as the first republican martyr of Nepal.
When asked why the play was staged in Maithali, director Sarita Sah, who also plays the title role, said, “Even though Kathmandu clearly has a majority of Nepali speaking audience, there is a large Maithali speaking audience here as well. Our aim is to inspire them to attend the play and see for themselves a rendition of an often-talked about event in the Madhes. While on the other hand, there are many among Maithali speaking people, who have little knowledge that a familiar event as this one could be brought to them in the form of a play.” To that end, the play is remarkable, also because, as Sah puts it, “If what transpires on stage is captivating enough, the barrier of language can be transcended.”
That being said, a lot of the events that transpire on stage in this relatively short play are what most of the audience who went to the play may already have known beforehand. That Durgananda Jha, a 21 year old man, threw a grenade in an attempt to assasinate the then king Mahendra, in the winter of 1962, a year after the king centralised all the governmental power, is a well-known fact and can be accessed through a simple web search.
Even though the producers have said that the play revolves around the life of Kashidevi Jha, it is Durganand who we see more often in the interplay; its plot explores very little about Kashidevi’s life after she was widowed in comparison to the life of Durgananda Jha, especially his life in the lead up to his act of rebellion.
According to director Sah, “Kashidevi is a character married at an early age, and her whole world revolved around her husband till his demise. Hence the play is more about her sentiments rather than of the ideologies that Durganand Jha and how that influenced her. We wanted to highlight her innocence.”
Kashidevi is a play told in a flashback. During the opening sequences of the play, we see Kashidevi Jha, clad in all-white garb, after her husband was shot to death in custody. The play then goes back in time before the event that would change her life. Kashidevi and Durganand are happily married and about to conceive a child, before coming full circle with the assasination of Durganand. The play draws its curtain with the oath ceremony of the now state-minister of Law, Kashidevi Jha, as appointed by the Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party. A significant portion of the play takes place in Durganand Jha’s bedroom, a sparsely furnished room boasting books, the incidents revolving around the husband-wife’s intimate moments.
All this makes for a unique theatrical experience, thanks to the deft perfomance of its cast and the sonorous Maithili dialect.
Utpal Jha plays the character of Durganand Jha with an ease, which steals the audience’s sympathy right from the opening moments. Sarita Jha, who also directs the play, stars as Kashidevi, investing her role with a forlorn yet undeterred air, which has come to define the real-life Kashidevi.
The play evokes the culture and traditions popular in the Tarai which adds to the play’s believabilily. Kashidevi, even though it might not be fully accessible to the Nepali speaking audience, still packs enough of a punch to keep the audience in the theatre for its slightly over one hour of running time.
Kashidevi will have two last shows on Saturday, January 20, at 1 pm and 5 pm at Sarwanam Theatre in Kalikasthan.