With the hint of rainy mist in the air, decades worth of written words peeping through the shelves of G.P. Birla Library and Mr Birla himself smiling down from behind the podium, Sutradhar’s Vinay Varma brought to life the words written by Munshi Premchand, on the eve of his 136th birthday.
The art of storytelling is dwindling faster than the standards of stories of Indian television, and Abhivyakti (meaning expression) was an attempt to revive this art. In this maiden edition of this event, one of Premchand’s timeless piece, Panch Parmeshwar was the agenda for the evening. It’s a simple story of two friends, Jumman and Algu, whose friendship is reduced to forced formalities when Algu had to “do the right thing” as sarpanch, and deliver a verdict against Jumman in a case. With their friendship on the rocks, Jumman gets a chance to avenge himself when he gets appointed as sarpanch in a case against Algu. But as soon as he sits on the chair, he has a Peter Parker moment of, “with great power comes great responsibility”. And that responsibility forbids him to bring personal feelings into the matter and decide the case in favour of Algu, even though he had no intention of doing so.
The story has multiple layers to it, with its each line conveying much more than the obvious. The social stigmas, rigid socio-economic strata, the simplicity of the common man and his problems, the puns and a story within a story written between the lines; there was no dearth of things to discuss. Sutradhar or the narrator himself, Vinay Varma, announced humbly right at the beginning that it was an attempt from his side and he does not consider himself or claim to be a master storyteller by any yardstick. He encouraged the audience to interrupt him for clarifications or to peel the layers of any line or phrase as he narrated the story, which worked very well. This transformed the entire session into an interaction rather than just a reading and got the audience fully vested in the story.
With his base voice and impeccable diction, Vinay laced the story with anecdotes, contemporary examples and a lot of his own insight and the audience lapped up every word that he said. The post-narration discussion lasted as long as the narration itself, with many in the audience getting nostalgic about reading the story as a child in the school, but only now understanding the actual message behind it....