Satish was a prompter at the Chitralekha Drama Company. Apart from carrying out many sundry tasks at the time of the show, Satish was in demand by many actors as a prompter. His alert and swift prompts were appreciated by famous, very popular actors.
But today Satish was a little despondent. His most favorite actor Abhijeet was coming on the stage for the last time in the role of Mr. Kadam, the protagonist of the drama, “Kartavya”. Abhijeet had announced that after performing 500 shows in this role, he wanted to give up this portrayal. Abhijeet had wished that some other actor should present this role in his perspective and should take this wonderful character to a different height. Satish was so much tuned to Abhijeet’s movement on the stage that any sign of missing out some words and he would pick up quickly and would prompt the further dialogue. Abhijeet was very happy with Satish and he was very much assured that he would not be let down in any eventuality.
Satish remembered the days when Abhijeet started performing this role on stage.
When the role was ready, he committed it to memory, not simply the lines and moves and the gestures but every little detail of what his muscles went through in creating those emotions. Then it was simply a question of recreating that physical pattern in performance, with technical finesse, every time. As a result, the act of performing was never an emotionally or intellectually tiring one, nor did he have to rely on “inspiration”. He always thought that an actor was a philosopher-athlete—an athlete because he worked with his body; a philosopher because he had to think deeply and had to use his body to say something. Abhijeet was in fact a cerebral actor.
The ticket counters always displayed a “HOUSEFUL” board in a very short time of opening of the box office. People crowded literally to shake hands with him. There was euphoria, craze, and adulation for him. Abhijeet was on top of the world.
When this drama was a big hit, different people gave credit to different actors of the play. But slowly, it was evident that it was Abhijeet who was the crowd puller.
Sometimes, even two shows in a single day were performed to the packed houses. Abhijeet used to enact without getting tired physically or emotionally. He was such an actor.
After 500 shows, he wanted to quit this role. The producer of the drama was unwilling to replace Abhijeet with any other actor. He was not sure if any other actor can
substitute Abhijeet effectively.
Abhijeet made the audience laugh with him as well as cry with him swaying on the swing of the destiny of the protagonist as depicted by the author.
Satish thought, Abhijeet was the savior for every employee of the Chitralekha Drama Company. Abhijeet stood strongly behind everyone in their difficult days. He always used to express his gratitude towards even the smallest artisan.
After two hundred performances, when the drama was still the crowd puller and the “HouseFull” board was still being displayed for every show, some of the other companies, could not tolerate the grand success of Abhijeet’s drama. Once they planted their people in the audience. When the show was in full grip, one person from the front seat, got up. “O Abhijeet, you are not in your senses. You are saying some irrelevant dialogues. Go home and mug up your dialogues and after that only come on the stage. You can not insult our holy stage.”
Abhijeet was stunned. Satish too was shocked. Then another person from the rear seats shouted at the top of his voice. ”Yes. We will not tolerate this nonsense. Abhijeet, you get away from the stage. Pull the curtains down.”
Abhijeet held his wits. He said, “I know. I am not saying anything wrong. If the respected person finds it disturbing, he should go to the booking counter. He will be refunded the ticket amount. Please, all those who think what I am delivering, is not the right dialogue, please go to the booking counter to collect their booking amount. But please do not disturb the performers and also the rest of the audience.”
5-6 persons got up and left the auditorium. Then one from the audience got up and said, ”We are sorry Abhijeet. I am seeing this drama for 5th time. And there is nothing wrong with your wonderful delivery. These must be the persons planted by some other drama group. They wanted to disrupt the show. Please pardon us and continue the show.”
“Thank you, sir. We will resume in a moment.” Abhijeet said and within a moment he carried on with the drama.
Satish as a prompter was completely confused. But the way Abhijeet handled the situation, he was overwhelmed. After the show was over a large number of persons entered the wings and apologized to Abhijeet for this unexpected happening. And the entire episode ended without any adverse impact due to Abhijeet’s excellent handling of the situation.
Then onwards, every show passed off without any untoward incident.
With such a background, Abhijeet had become an integral part of this drama.
After 450 shows were over, Abhijeet started contemplating relinquishing his role. He spoke out his feelings to Satish first. Shocked, Satish vehemently disapproved of his idea. In a choked voice he said,” No Abhijeet, please do not think on these lines. There are thousands who will be broken-hearted if you do this. In my case, I will not be able to perform my job anymore without you on the stage,”
“No, Satish. I do not want to hurt anyone. I will never be happy if you get upset. But please understand me. I enacted Mr. Kadam for nearly 500 shows. All of you and even the unknown audience loved me so much. But now, I feel some other actor should depict Kadam from his perspective. This will give the audience a chance to see the character of Mr. Kadam interpreted differently.”
“I do not understand those things. But please, give up this idea. Many like me can not imagine Mr. Kadam of Kartavya without you, Abhijeet.”
“Okay, I will reconsider my idea of giving up the role,” Abhijeet said to pacify Satish.
But there was no sign that Abhijeet had changed his decision. And the show for 500th performance was announced. The day was approaching very fast.
Satish realized that that day would see the last performance of legendary Abhijeet. Satish became emotional. He was not sure whether he would be able to perform his duty properly that day.
Before the beginning of the show, the announcer declared that that would be the last performance by Mr.Abhijeet as Mr.Kadam in this drama. As soon as the announcement was over, there was an uneasy whisper among the audience. At the start of the drama, there was a pin drop silence. When Abhijeet entered the stage, there was big applause. Abhijeet expressed his gratitude by bowing. A standing ovation was given to Abhijeet even before the drama started. After some time Abhijeet started with his dialogue. Silence prevailed in the entire auditorium. The mesmerizing delivery of dialogue hypnotized the entire audience.
After one and half an hour, the interval was announced. The curtains came down. But a few from the audience came on the stage and they wanted to say a few words. The hall management obliged.
One person took charge of the microphone.
“The announcement of Mr. Abhijeet withdrawing from this drama is very shocking. The character Mr.Kadam of this drama is superbly painted by the great author Mr. Pandit. But that character was etched in our, we audiences’ hearts by Mr. Abhijeet. I have come to see this drama 11th time just to get soaked by the wonderful dialogue delivery by Abhijeet. There are many more in the audience who would be visiting this drama just to enjoy Abhijeet’s acting. But we are saddened that this is going to be the last Kadam performed by Mr. Abhijeet. This is unacceptable to all of us. We request the producers that they should not allow Mr. Abhijeet to leave this role, That will be an injustice to thousands of drama lovers.
On behalf of thousands of drama lovers, we want a promise from Mr. Abhijeet and the producer Mr. Kaldate that Mr. Abhijeet would continue to act as Mr. Kadam of this wonderful drama. A substitute for Abhijeet may be available. But we just can not imagine Mr. Kadam of this drama, “Kartavya” without Abhijeet. We want Abhijeet only to see in the role of Mr. Kadam.
I would like to announce here that unless we get such a promise from Abhijeet and Kaldate, we will not allow this drama to move further. No Abhijeet No Kartavya.”
He kept down the microphone. There was big applause.
Then Mr. Kaldate took charge of the microphone.
“We also did not want Abhijeet to stop working on this role. But he was adamant. Now, he has to agree to public demand. Mr. Abhijeet, please come out and tell your decision to this respectable gathering.”
Abhijeet came out on the stage and took over the mike.
“My idea of quitting the role of Mr. Kadam was to give chance to another actor to present Mr. Kadam from his perspective.”
“No. No. As long as Abhijeet is on this earth, we want Mr. Kadam to be played by Abhijeet only.”
“Ok. I want to honor the wish of a respectable audience. I will continue with the role of Kadam.”
The applause was louder and longer-lasting.
Then the audience took their seats and the drama KARTAVYA continued. Abhijeet delivered the dialogues with his usual intensity, the audience was getting drenched in the emotions of the drama.
Satish was extremely happy. He was elated that his favorite actor would continue to perform the role of Mr. Kadam in this great drama, Kartavya.
When the show was over, Satish handed over a rose to Abhijeet. With teary eyes, he said, “Thank you so much.” Abhijeet received the flower, placed it in the pocket of his shirt, and embraced him only to dampen Satish’s shoulder with the flood of tears.