Mahanagar ke Jugnu: Amitosh Nagpal’s musical spotlights artistes’ dreams and resilience
The play is travelling to Bengaluru this week, with shows lined up at Ranga Shankara and Jagriti Theatre
By Reema Gowalla
Never a dull moment in this musical! Writer-director Amitosh Nagpal’s much-talked-about performance, Mahanagar ke Jugnu, is coming to Bengaluru this week, and it promises one hell of a ‘joyride’. The narrative spotlights the struggles and dilemmas of aspiring artistes who migrate to Mumbai to fulfil their dreams, but often find themselves reeling under existential crisis. While stars and mainstream cinema make headlines, the others wait in the wings for the right opportunity. The performance pays tribute to the resilience and optimism of all the aspirants living in India’s metropolitan cities.
It’s a satire, of sorts, that mixes comedy and music to trace the journey of Jugnu in the mayanagri. He came to the city with the dream of becoming a writer, but is now torned between his aspirations and the urgent need to earn money to sustain in the city. “While every aspiring actor, writer and musician comes to Mumbai thinking it to be a place where all their dreams will take shape, what they cannot comprehend is that it’s their survival in the mahanagar that will take precedence over everything. As they jostle for space and recognition in the entertainment industry, they get more and more engulfed in an inner conflict. Mahanagar ke Jugnu focuses on the struggles, experiences and feelings of these artistes, their loneliness and longing for family and home, and the friendships they build along the way,” says Amitosh, who has also adapted, translated and acted in Atul Kumar’s acclaimed musical Piya Behrupiya.
A Mandali Talkies presentation, the 1-hour-40-minute musical features an ensemble cast including actors Sakhi Gokhale, Girija Oak Godbole, Rajat Tiwari, Tushar Kadam, Shimli Basu, Sayan Sarkar, Mohit Agarwal, Devendra Ahirwar, Devendra Ahirwar, Mahadev Singh Lakhawat, Kewal Karthik, Janhavi Marathe, Rahul Joglekar and Amitosh (as Jugnu). Music for the play is composed by Devendra, while the choreography is done by Mohit and the costumes are designed by Deepika and Aniruddh. Contrary to the conventional style of elaborate backdrops for musicals, the set for this performance is simple and minimalist — with just a platform for the musicians, one bed and a few stools. Rahul is in charge of the light design for the show.
According to Amitosh, the credit for the musical being received so well by the audience goes to the artistes. “What started off with just one or two people, eventually became a mandali of enthusiastic and sincere performers. Mahanagar ke Jugnu is the coming together of the right kind of people, with each artiste adding depth and a new meaning to the play,” he explains.
With tragicomedy undertones, witty dialogues and upbeat scores, Mahanagar ke Jugnu unfolds before you, as the narrative captures an encounter in the life of Jugnu on a lonely night. Sad and sleepless, he sits alone in his room waiting for the spark of an idea that he can put to paper as his next story. And just then, his thoughts begin to creep in — a hopeful dream (Sapna) and his pragmatic existence (Zoya) confront him with vigour. Demanding to be written down, his thoughts, ideas, dreams and characters appear before him in no particular order. They all make jokes at each other’s expense. His unfulfilled dream, which is the reality of his existence at the moment; his feelings and aspirations; and the many thoughts that crowd his mind — all come together to bully him. As Jugnu lends an ear to their stories, he uncovers his own.
Describing the piece as a foot-tapping musical comedy that will make you laugh out loud at life’s bitter-sweet ironies, the director says, “We are not trying to draw conclusions through this play. Rather, it’s a whimsical story that revolves around the experiences of artistes, who find their way into the city. But more than chasing their dreams, it’s the practicalities of life they get entangled in. The protagonist of the story represents realism, while the other performers are more of a metaphor. Through song and dance, these metaphors give the audience a peek into all that is going on in his mind that makes him chaotic, frenzied, in love or simply distracted.”
Also a well-known dialogue writer and lyricist, NSD-graduate Amitosh has been associated with a slew of acclaimed Bollywood films including Hindi Medium, Dabangg and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. Sharing his thoughts on the evolution of content on OTT platforms, he says, “Lately, the art of storytelling has become too commercial to ensure quality. There is no dearth of stories, but good storytellers are still just a few. Work has either become too aspirational or relying on validation. We have slowly warmed up to independent cinema, but still haven’t been able to do justice to translated works that are far more diverse and reflect the true essence of our people. Bollywood, unfortunately, has still not been able to create a bridge between the real stories and what we call mainstream.”
Mahanagar ke Jugnu premiered at Prithvi Theatre in July 2022, and it’s all set to take the stage at Ranga Shankara on October 7 and 8 (at 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm) and at Jagriti Theatre on October 9 (at 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm). “The theatre crowd in Bengaluru has always been very warm, welcoming and supportive. We are super excited to be performing in the city,” sums up Amitosh.