10-16 July 2015 #766

Singha Darbar ko Tender

Inefficacy and corruption that goes on behind the scenes of government on the stage in a satirical play
Someplace Else by Sahina Shrestha

Photos: Bikram Rai

The inefficiency of government and corruption that riddles give steady grist to the gossip in tea shops, informal family gatherings and diplomatic receptions. Development projects have a way of stretching on for years: folks in Kathmandu are still waiting for Melamchi and after seven years the humble citizens of Nepal have finally seen a draft of the new constitution.

The inefficacy and the corruption that goes on behind the scenes of government are so obvious and yet so veiled. Now, Dilip Ranabhat has adapted Ajay Shukla’s satirical play Taj Mahal ka Tender from Hindi to Nepal’s parallel universe making fun of the inefficiencies and corruption that plague Nepal’s politics and bureaucracy.

The play introduces the audience to Sarkar, a self-important, Candy Crush-playing, lewd video-viewing fellow whose dream is to build a Singha Darbar so his legacy lives on. He hires Thapa, an engineer with questionable morals, for the project and wants it to be completed as soon as possible. But Thapa and other opportunist middlemen have different plans.

While Sarkar waits for the foundation to be laid, Thapa erects two multi-storey houses of his own, and initiates the building of a new five-star hotel. Leaders claiming to be working for the people and contractors fill their pockets with easy money. All this has resonance in post-earthquake Nepal because there is talk of demolishing the damaged secretariat building and rebuilding it.

From creating ‘Singha Darbar Construction Corporation’ to setting up an international corporation to sell shares, the audience are reminded of various real life CEOs of multinationals who control our destiny but whose true intentions are highly questionable.

First time director Ranabhat succeeds in creating memorable characters and the actors hold on to them throughout the play. Actor Bhola Raj Sapkota of the Barfi fame shines as Thapa. Played by Prakash Dahal, Toya’s gait and ‘hajar’ succeeds in raking in laughter from the audience every time the character appears on stage.

Although the play has its moments (like when the main characters talk about how hard it is to work in a system where corruption is rife without any self-introspection, hiring 601 engineers to work on the plan and a peon getting caught for accepting a cup of tea from someone while a CIAA official openly demands the remaining ‘wall’ from the contractor and engineer) there are times one feels that the story has dragged on for too long. After 1:20 hours of playtime, this viewer felt a bit of splicing would have helped to keep it crisp and tight.

Sahina Shrestha

Singha Darbar ko Tender

Director: Dilip Ranabhat

Cast: Sangeet Sangraula, Bhola Raj Sapkota, Sujan Oli, Prakash Dahal, Risabh KC, Sabir Churaute, Shrawan Rana, Awan Raj Uprety, Jiwan Bhattarai, Gopal Aryal, Darwin Lungeli, Bijay Tamrakar.

Ran for a month from 10 June to 7 July at Theatre Village.