Theatre in Mauritius
DIWAN SINGH BAJELI
Mahesh Ramjeeawon of Mauritius says back home the theatre scene is pretty vibrant.
Mahesh Ramjeeawon was happy to visit India once again. This time he was here as a stage director with his production of Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts” which was featured at Bharat Rang Mahotsav recently.
A senior arts officer in the Ministry of Arts and Culture, Government of Mauritius, Mahesh is a graduate of the National School of Drama, New Delhi.
He is very much aware of the Indian origin of his forefathers who were taken to Mauritius as indentured labourers to work on fields owned by white planters more than 160 years ago. “Surviving a heartless world ruled by British colonialists, our forefathers have preserved their Indian culture in isolation. Today we are in the majority in Mauritius. Suffering under a common oppressor our people forged unity, maintaining their Indian identity, forgetting their caste and religious barriers,” says Mahesh.
Mahesh’s father was a farm labourer. He is not sure what he would have become if he had not come in contact with Abhimanyu, a great Mauritian writer whose Hindi novel “Lal Pasina” has been translated into several languages. Mahesh became a writer and Hindi teacher in a primary school and was engaged in theatrical activities. His creativity did not go unnoticed. The Ministry of Art and Culture appointed him as a senior theatre artiste. And, impressed with his talent, sent him to India to study at the National School of Drama (1982-85).
“When I was a student at NSD, I had an urgent desire to visit the village of my forefathers in Bihar. I went there but could not locate it because things have undergone a sea change”, adds Mahesh.
Prior to joining NSD, he worked with Mohan Maharishi (1975-76), who had come there to train Mauritian theatre artistes. Mahesh was cast in a role in Dharamvir Bharati’s “Andha Yug” which was produced by the Mauritius Government under the direction of Maharishi and presented at the First World Hindi Convention in India in 1975. A recipient of the Best Director Award (1974), he established the Academy of Film and Theatre in the ’70s.
Many theatre festivals
According to Mahesh, the theatre scene in Mauritius is vibrant. “We organise a number of theatre festivals in as many as 10 languages. Apart from the French theatre popularised by Creoles of French descent, we have Hindi, Bhojpuri and Gujarati theatre. We are staging Hindi plays like Mohan Rakesh’s ‘Ashad Ka Ek Din’, Dharamvir Bharati’s ‘Andha Yug’ and the Hindi version of Mohit Chattopadhyaya’s ‘Guinea Pig’”. He says that television does not wean audience from the theatre. “There is a healthy collaboration between the artistes of the theatre and television. My Hindi group is producing a 52-episode serial, and so far we have produced 26 episodes. It is based on a Mauritian folk tale,” says Mahesh.
As a theatre director he impresses the audience with the imaginatively designed production of “Ghosts”; its language could be described as Hindustani which is a mix of Hindi, Urdu and Bhojpuri.
“I brought ‘Ghosts’ to India because I had already presented it at the Henrik Ibsen International Theatre Festival in Pakistan in 2006. This production is important to me as a socially relevant piece of theatre,” says Mahesh, who is keen to collaborate with NSD to conduct theatre workshops in his country, especially on playwriting.
Name:“Ghosts” by Henrik Ibsen
Direction: Mahesh Ramjeeawon
Production: The Ministry of Arts and Culture, Mauritius.
Event: Bharat Rang Mahotsav
Trivia: Mahesh has also written two books “Karmphal Tatha Anya Natak” and “Mauritius Ke Aath Samkalin Kavi”