Hundreds of b-school students pushed and shoved their way over the small metal ladder leading to the rear entry of the SPJIMR auditorium. They entered, they willed their eyes to quickly adjust to the dim light, they found empty seats and scrambled over, placing their arms over the adjoining ones to reserve them for their friends. Many of them were dressed in different hues of red as an oath of allegiance, and many others wore bright red armbands emblazoned with the black logo of GASP!
This was the day SPJIMR had been waiting for since the Batch of 2008, PGDBM, joined in June 2006. Today was the day when the GASP team of the PGDBM batch shed their business formals and donned costumes and grease paint. Today was the day when the business lingo gave way to artistic oeuvre.
GASP, first conceptualized in 2003, is an expression of SPJIMR PGDBM batch’s theatrical identity. Planned, driven and executed entirely by students, it is an annual event where the new PGDBM batch displays its mettle at conducting and acting in a full play staged at the SPJIMR auditorium for all its family members. Each batch chisels its performance into the collective consciousness of the institute, and each year’s performance spins off folklore on the effort, execution and final display during the GASP staging. Girish Karnad’s “Tughlaq” in 2003, Mahesh Dattani’s “Final Solutions” in 2004, Vijay Tendulkar’s “Silence! The Court is in Session” in 2005 – like ancestors smiling down a photo gallery, proud of their own achievement and at having passed on the creative gene down generations, these performances line the artistic gallery at SPJIMR.
Today, GASP 2006 was bringing Vijay Tendulkar’s “Kamla” to life. For the next few hours, words penned down by the stalwart would breathe, emote and speak through them. Drawing life from the actors on stage, they would reign over the auditorium and rain emotions down, drowning out all other thoughts. And soon after, they would recede back to the safety of the book covers, after having begot appreciation, critiques and acclaim.
Murmurs died out in the auditorium as the darkness was dispelled by the lights aimed at the stage. The small raised platform that served as the stage in the auditorium had been cleverly crafted to resemble the interiors of a house, a tastefully decorated home. Kakasaheb’s (Abhijeet Awasti) baritone shattered the silence in the auditorium when he picked up the phone on the set to answer a call for Jaisingh Jadhav (Sameer Walzade). As he put the receiver down, Sarita Jadhav (Meghna Kedar) walked in with a tea tray.
Taking off from that point, the play dove through a maelstrom of emotions: greed, hubris, love, angst, mischief, depravity, despair, grit. The audience cringed when Jaisingh described the process of how women were bought at the bazaar, broke into uproarious laughter when the pert Kamlabai (Kirti Ramnath) came on stage, reached out to Kamla (Thejaswi) when she coyly assumed an equal right to Jaisingh and tried striking a deal with Sarita for staying in the same house. The rougish Jain (Yogesh) drew much appreciation for his sly attempt at worming information from Jaisingh.
In any play there are moments which sear the attention of the audience, and Kamla had its share of moments. Kamlabai’s coquettish chagrin at discovering that Sarita had given her own sari to Kamla, Jaisingh’s anguished diatribe at losing his job, Kamla’s gentle probing on how much Sarita was bought by Jaisingh, Sarita’s disgust at realizing that she too was a slave to the institution of marriage – these were the leitmotif of excellence during the rendition.
The last shot was of Sarita sitting by a comatose Jaisingh, struggling between waging a war for her rights and supporting her spouse when his machismo was proven useless. A single tear slung itself out of her left eye as a visible reminder of her distress. Jyothiprakash read out a moving passage on the woman’s plight, the tear being the only solace. Lights dimmed slowly and the tear fell to the ground in darkness. And to thunderous applause.
Theatre had received another fillip at SPJIMR with that performance.
As the audience thundered applause for an outstanding performance, the cast and crew, having finally seen months of effort bearing fruit, gambled ecstatically on stage. GASP’s student coordinator Daisy D’Souza called upon the crew on stage. Directors Anu Mishra and Jyotiprakash,
They had done it. They had seen the GASP rendition of Kamla through. And put it up on the theatre gallery alongside the earlier performances. For it to inspire the next batch when they assume their histrionic inheritance. For it to be included in SPJIMR folklore…