Replaying a classicShailee Theatre repackages a Bhawani Bhikshu tale into a fun play.
Bhawani Bhikshu is a name all too familiar to Nepalis; and Mau Jang Babu Saheb Ko Coat is even more so. After all, the story is taught as part of the Nepali curriculum in grade ten.
While sitting in a classroom and studying the fictional tale of a former Rana Minister might not have been fun for most back then, artists at the Shailee Theatre in Ratopul have repackaged it into something much more appetising.
The classic from Bhawani Bhikshu is about Mau Jung Babu Saheb, a former Rana Minister; oppressive and hateful anywhere he can be. But with democracy taking over the nation, his power is dwindling and extends only to his household, what he owns. Outside his household, people do not think of him with as much respect or fear as before; without his wealth, he is nothing but a title; and where he cannot be, people are free to be outright dismissive of him—something unthinkable when the Rana dynasty was in power.
At the heart of the story is a hateful and oppressive man, gripping to the power and respect he could once demand from the people. This is symbolised through the coat he holds so dear to his heart. Indeed, “yo kunai mamuli coat haina” (this is not just any coat). The coat is the embodiment of the power and respect Mau Jung once had. It was through his coat that he expressed his “supremacy” and it was the coat that the masses envied. But a coat is only so until the fabric is stitched into shape—just as power is only so until it can influence people.
If the coat were to fade and stitches come apart, the power it embodied would see the same fate. This is the core of the story and what Mau Jung struggles with through the play.
The actors on stage give it their all and only leave room for those behind the stage to mess up—a few flashing lights in the middle of the performance, and inconsistent comments from the playwrights and directors undermine the performance itself and make the viewer think that maybe the play is not as refined as it looks. But the actors carry this play.
Actors at the Shailee Theatre have expressed the internal struggle of the characters and the story very well. Watching the play, Mau Jung’s character is obvious from the makeup, the actor’s expressions and tone, and how other actors interact with the character. Mau Jung’s eyes have a dark shadow on them; even though he acts with ferocity, his face is that of someone who is well past his prime.
Similarly, the rest of the crew, although without purposeful makeup to support them, hold their own in the play. Every sentence out of every actor spills out of their mouth with purpose and intense emotion. And even when the entire theatre is silent, the actors mime atop the stage and convey with their bodies what their voices cannot.
What: Mau Jang Babu Saheb Ko Coat
When: January 23 to February 8
Time: 5pm (weekdays excluding Thursdays), 1pm (weekend)
Where: Shailee Theatre, Kalopul-Ratopul road, Kathmandu
Contact: 9863800938, 9861317144