At the National English Drama Festival 2017 recently organised by the Ministry of Arts and Culture, the Vacoas National Arts bagged almost all the prizes for the English play ‘The Visitor’. The Awards speak for themselves. Besides the Best Play award, the play bagged the Best Director: Rajiv Seetohul; Best Actor: Rajeshwar Seetohul; Best Actress: Jyoti Seetohul Bhakha; Best Local Writer: Rajendra Kumar Dabee; Best Set Designer: Prithvi Ramdeny.
Other finalists were the Dr. Maurice Cure Drama Group who presented ‘Shrug, Drug, Hug’. They received the Second Best Actress, Best Promising Young Actress, Second Best Play and Second Best Director. Mauritius College presented ‘Holy Soul’ and was awarded the Second Best Act or Best Promising Young Actor and Third Best Play.
The Special Jury Award went to Khemduth Rajcoomar for the play ‘I AM RICH’ by Vacoas Rising Stars Drama Club which participated in the competition for the first time.
There were 14 entries for the English Drama Festival this year. The Finals took place on Tuesday 23rd May 2017 at Serge Constantin Theatre, Vacoas.
The Vacoas National Arts is a sister drama club operating under the umbrella of well-known and established Vacoas Rang Bhoomi Kala Mandir.
‘The Visitor’ is an astonishing play in English with intense dramatic qualities written by Mr. Rajendra Kumar Dabee, Lecturer at MGI. This is the first time that R. K Dabee has scripted a play for the National English Drama Festival.
In The Visitor, Rajendra Kumar Dabee tells the story of Kamini who has quite a few extra-marital affairs. One day, she receives a very distinguished Visitor who presented himself as Yamraj (Yamraj is the Lord of Death in Hindu Mythology). He told her he has come to take her to YamLok. Kamini wanted to know who he was and asked him to give an apercu of what YamLok ( the abode of Death) looked like. In YamLok Kamini observed how Yamraj decides who should go to Hell or Heaven. Finally Kamini begged Yamraj to give her an extension of one year to take corrective measures to amend her lifestyle.
Yamraj agrees to her request but said he will come again as a Visitor in case she continues to lead a loose life.
At a news flash, it is said that a mad man has run away from the Asylum. The last time he was seen was near a Theatre. The suspense of the play leads the audience to query whether he was really a mad man or was he really Lord Yamraj who came as a Visitor!
The Seetohul family has made history in the field of theatre in Mauritius. In fact their house in Vacoas reverberates throughout the year with rehearsals and acting. The Vacoas Rang Bhoomi Kala Mandir was set up by late Gawkurrun Seetohul, a pioneer of Hindi and Bhojpuri drama in Mauritius who devoted his whole life to theatrical arts. Indeed his house itself is a Temple of Arts. Gawkurrun Seetohul’s wife Sarita Seetohul and their three sons Dharma, Rajiv and Rajeshwar and their friends operate as a team and put their efforts together to produce and act in plays. They also have a team of about 50 members involved in theatrical works.
One remarkable thing about the Seetohul team is that language is no barrier as is shown by their distinction in the English Drama Festival.
Late Gawkurrun Seetohul started to perform on stage way back in 1975 with the Hindi play ‘Beti Ki Dan’. Slowly as he matured in script writing as a producer director and actor he won the best play and best director prize in 1989 for his Hindi play ‘Maa’. His Bhojpuri full length play ‘Naya Zamana’ staged in 2003 will remain forever memorable. In fact Gawkurrun Seetohul was awarded the World Bhojpuri Award at the Second World Bhojpuri Conference held in Mauritius in 2001 for his unparalleled contribution in promoting Bhojpuri language through theatrical works. He has written more than 100 One Act plays and about 200 radio plays. His three sons Dharma, Rajiv and Rajeshwar staged the English play ‘Blood is thicker than water’ written by none other than the veteran versatile actor Gawkurrun Seetohul himself. Rajiv and Dharma Seetohul also played in Bhisma Dev Seebaluck’s ‘Three Wishes’. Their first final in English was a play – ‘Promotion’ staged in 2010. Despite Gawkurrun Seetohul’s sudden death last year, his wife Sarita and the three sons have kept their flame and passion of directing, acting and producing plays burning in four different languages of the island: English, Hindi, Bhojpuri and Creole.
The Rang Bhoomi Kala Mandir has won over 100 Awards in the last 40 years. The focus of the group has been not only to sensitize the public (through stage plays) about the social evils and problems such as drugs, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and generation gap but also to entertain and educate its audience.
Other members of the group include Jyoti Seetohul Bhakha and Rajkomar Nishal Khemduth. As Sarita Seetohul puts it, “the world of drama and rehearsals pervades the family home throughout the year.” Indeed dramatic performance is a way of life for the Seetohuls of Vacoas. As Shakespeare had said so many centuries ago – “the world itself is a stage”.