Arpita Vadgama | Jul 27, 2016, 06.40 PM IST
English author Esther Meynell once said that "Country things are the necessary root of our life - and that remains true even of a rootless and tragically urban civilization..." It is no wonder then that the dramatization of 'rural' forest life strikes a chord with an 'urban' audience. Akoopar is a play based on a book of the same name written by Dhruv Bhatt and is directed by Aditi Desai. It runs for a length of two and a half hours, complete with an elaborate set, props, song and dance sequences. The scenes oscillate back and forth in time rather effortlessly and cover many issues - mostly ecological but also emotional, social, cultural and above all - humane. Man-animal conflict, land encroachment, hunting, superstitions are just a few of the many subjects that this play tackles with wit, humour and irony.
The story is about the Maldharis (cattle breeders) in Gir forest, which is the home to Asiatic lions. The characters are memorable and give you many belly laughs. They are also unafraid to roar when they have a point to make. And they have numerous points to make. This balance between light-hearted conversations and soul-stirring action is sublime, albeit with a slight hint of melodrama. The narrator is an artist by profession who, like many of us, is unaccustomed to this rustic, symbiotic-with-nature, seemingly illogical way of life. For instance, a folklore wherein two hills are married is also dramatized. What we call superstition is actually their faith and 'self-belief'. We see how helpful and warm the people of Gir are and how much they trust each other. They become uncomfortable even at the thought of adapting to 'city-life'.