Mumbai Based award winning director Pratima Kulkarni with veteran actors Ajith Kelkar and Dr. Pradnya Shastri recreated classic comedy “Educating Rita” by Will Russell


 

Mumbai Based award winning director Pratima Kulkarni again brought her recreation of this drama, set in London during the 1980s, to the city. The play got a thunder response from the audience when it was staged recently in Mumbai.

How often is one beset by a niggling, persistent yearning to have something more in one’s life? Something that will make our life more evolved. Where does this quest start and where does it end? Will this search alienate our friends, our partner, and other relationships that have been part of our lives? And yet, is there any certainty about absolute contentment?

Written by Willy Russell, the play EDUCATING RITA attempts to answer these questions from the point of view of a twenty-six year old hairdresser, who has a thirst for ‘culture’. The hankering for ‘inner growth’ has made ‘Rita’ rechristen herself and enrol for an open-university course. Ostensibly, this change in name (from Susan-her real name) is inspired by a little-known writer, whose work she likes. Professor Frank, who teaches a course in Comparative Literature, is assigned this intrepid, lively, disarmingly frank woman.

With Intriguing character portrayals, witty dialogues and an engrossing storyline, the play stars Ajith Kelkar as Frank and Dr Pradnya Shastri as Rita. Woven over two hours, it provides insight into the roadblocks society puts in the path of a married women trying to pursue formal education. Russell’s intriguing work has been left untouched because audiences everywhere can connect to what the lead characters are going through.

The film release of the play in 1983, starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, is said to have inspired many wives and women to walk away from unsatisfactory relationships. While this Indian production may not do that, it might help both sexes question their lives and strive for ‘inner growth’.

The play first staged by Pratima Kulkarni in August last year and then in March this year, has music by Milind Joshi and sets designed by Sachin Gaonkar. Interestingly, both the actors in Educating Rita, a play that also questions the validity of formal education, also pursue alternate career paths. Dr Pradnya, who is deeply passionate about theatre and has acted in several Marathi films is a qualified medical doctor and a licensed dermatologist while Ajith Kelkar is a professor of economics in a college in Mumbai. Ajith Kelkar’s solo-act as RK Laxman’s Common Man has seen him perform at hundreds of venues across India and the US.

Ajith Kelkar says, “I was on the lookout for a mono-act after R K LAXMAN’S COMMON MAN. In today’s times it is most difficult to manage a multi-cast play. But I happened to read Willy Russell’s EDUCATING RITA and I found it very impressive. The play was also adapted as film starring Michael Cain and Julie Walters in 1983. Moreover, it has been staged very successfully by Satyadev Dubey and NeenaKulkarni almost 20 years ago. This modern-day version of PYGMALION appealed to me instantly and I decided to produce and act in it. The writing is the most appealing aspect of the play . Russell brings out the finer nuances of human nature in a humorous manner. It is a very beautifully crafted play. It is still running all over the world in several languages and it continues to move the audience. The relationship between the professor and his student has been etched out very intricately. The word play in the dialogue is also very entertaining. Pratima has been a dear friend over four decades now. We had planned to work together before this but somehow things didn’t come together. But this time when I asked her if she had the time for my play, she assured me that she would make the time. Things just fell in place and we launched EDUCATING RITA. I play Professor Frank who is an intelligent but frustrated professor. He’s faced with personal and professional crisis as his poetry isn’t working and neither is his marriage. He takes to alcohol and he’s generally going downhill when Rita enters his life as a fresh breath of air. She is an eager beaver who wants to learn everything.”

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