There is a vapid listlessness in the unnamed village of Daya Hang Rai’s play Degree Maila
. The local drunkards are playing cards at a tea-stall whose owner happily obliges with refills. Young boys are deliberating on how to impress the opposite sex. The women, as usual, find themselves on the periphery.
When an approaching vehicle breaks the monotony, the locals are visibly agitated: who dare drive through the newly dynamite-blasted track without the permission of the entire village?
The troublemaker, as the audience discovers, is none other than protagonist Maila (Pradeep Kumar Chaudhari). The only one in the village to hold a degree, Maila enjoys the immunity provided by his education and exposure to the outside world. While others seem resigned to their fate, the graduate has big plans for his hometown. By building new roads and better infrastructure to attract tourists and constructing a hydropower plant nearby, Maila hopes to bring about a reversal of fortune for the villagers.
It is never mentioned what Maila is trained in or what he has done with his degree to merit such hope. But the fact that none of the residents have stepped outside the village, is enough for them to trust him. How will our hero fare under the weight of expectation?
Writer Sayad Ashok gives his actors ample room to improvise and as a result they are able to inject subtlety and intriguing quirks into their characters. For instance, all the actors speak in wildly varying accents even though they’re from the same place. The audience must take this as an occupational hazard and not as a handicap, because most performers come from all over the country.
Despite his excellent acting as a policeman in Dasdhunga, director Daya Hang Rai is better known for his comic roles. Almost all the characters exude this personal touch and the play has its moments of great spoofing. In that regard, viewers may find it a bit similar to popular comedy soaps set against rustic backdrops. Whereas most of these serials can’t seem to wean themselves off overused stock sounds, Degree Maila has a live band making music throughout its running time.
Cast: Pradeep Kumar Chaudhari, Sirjana Subba, Somnath Khanal, Umesh Tamang, and others
Director: Daya Hang Rai
Writer: Sayad Ashok
Live music by Adha Sur
Rs 200 (Rs 100 for students), Mandala Theatre, Anamnagar, Runs until 15 December, 4.30pm, (01)6924269, 9841355560