Beyond the animal motif
Recently Shoelace productions showcased their latest production - Animal Song with three short musical plays - Kutte, Majh and Donkey. Each of these plays has a subtle message which stuns us but the musical mixing is an innovatively intriguing ploy used by writer-director Deepak Dhamija in each of them.
Kutte and Majh, which I have seen before were performed well but the most awaited part of the evening focused on the unveiling of Dhamija's latest - Donkey. Harpreet enthrals the audience with his composition in Kutte juxtaposed with Vanjay Joshi's soliloquies. Majh which is interspersed with live music and performances by Maheep Singh and Nitin Sukhija stands out. Donkey meanwhile has multiple narratives with alternating tracks during the course of action in the stories delivered by two musicians - Harpreet and Vipin - sitting at corners of the stage. Kuljeet Singh's performance is commendable, as he recounts the pristine days of living in an undivided India, just before the tragedy of partition struck.
The most interesting part of Donkey comes out in the innocent conversations between two children who are discussing religion. Both throw in their minimal knowledge of their respective religions - Hinduism and Islam. A playful banter often leads to fights with compellingly diverse views one each of their religion, but unlike adults these children forget the word war and start playing again. Even though religion is a very sensitive issue while being discussed, Dhamija has been able to encapsulate the sentiment beautifully through the eyes of these two kids. Harpreet's powerful voice is simply a treat, but personally the Punjabi song in Kutte is way better than the English composition in Donkey. Vipin Heero's soothing voice adds to the plot in both Majh and Donkey.
Dhamija uses animal motifs- Kutte (dogs), Majh (buffalo) and Donkey- through the course of each of these stories intricately mixing it with live music tracks. In Kutte, you have an old woman who narrates her life's tale with dogs being a intrinsic part of it. How they have witnessed her life change over the years, how they have remained with her during the time of loss. All might lost but the barking dogs remain with her. Majh has a powerful plot, with Maheep and Nitin essaying key roles. But the Majh is a strong motif here, as Nitin discusses about revolution and the fight for a free state of Khalistan, Maheep's character timidly and lovingly describes his pet - a buffalo - and his experiences with her.
Donkey stands out amongst all three. It is literally like the grand finale to the Animal Song. Harpreet voices an English song the breakup between two young lovers and how the boy asks his girlfriend to return his gift - a donkey - back to him. Meanwhile Vipin's song in Hindi is based on the third story in Donkey about a madman who wants to go and live on Jupiter. The performance of the two children in this story - Om and Jagdish - is amazing. Their theatrical timing is perfect and the emotions displayed are real and relatable. As mentioned before Kuljeet's powerful delivery of his alternating soliloquies takes Donkey to a higher level. The Animal Song in Hindi, Punjabi and English was a complete treat to watch!