The Magic of Rang Manthan
By: Mahathi Kattamuri

About the Author:
I’m a literature enthusiast, with varied interests in science, martial arts, history, and classical music. Writing has always been a passion, and will continue to be so!

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Lights flashed bright against the evanescing sunlight, sending a message to all the skies above. Cameras rolled furiously in an attempt to keep up with the pace

of the night. The filmy music, which had, until now, been exploding out of the speakers, slowly dwindled away, the last few strains fading away into the air above. The wind died down, the trees ceased swinging, and the chatter stopped. The spectators, seated on the chairs laid out on the grass, gripped each other in somewhat nervous anticipation, their eyes sparkling with suspense. It was as if the entire world had come to a standstill, waiting, waiting, waiting.

And the action began.

Scene after scene, song after song, and dialogue after dialogue, Rang Manthan studios unveiled the magic it had in store for more than seven hundred parents that had assembled there that 28 of January. It was like one long roller coaster ride for everyone, with each new act eliciting fresh waves of applause, laughter, and whistling from the audience. No one could tear their eyes away from the stage, marvelling all the while at the immense talent these children were so effortlessly displaying, and the professionalism the entire troupe exuded. Such a spell as never cast before was cast upon the audience, the enchantment becoming more and more potent with every passing second. In those two and a half hours, the students of Manthan gave it their all.

Right from the dazzling red carpet to the colourful signs strung here and there, the Bollywood theme was unmistakable and announced its presence in everything. After a grand welcome, full masala style, and a prance down the red carpet, one would be greeted by the students running the various stalls, all in accordance with the predominant theme. Here parents and teachers alike could pose like their favourite silver screen stars, imitate evergreen dialogues, sing a few of their favourite movie songs, enact movies in a game of dumb charades, or shake a leg at the signature steps stall.

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“The idea of dancing without music and making the audience guess the song was very cool, and the parents seemed to think so as well. I loved every minute of my time dancing on the stage and I feel that the people watching us had more fun than we ourselves did!” exclaims Sameera, one of the many members of the signature steps stall.

“We arranged for a game which we thought was unique. The parents were shy originally, but as they started enjoying the game and challenging us, it was fun to entertain them. I enjoyed it immensely,” says Soujanya, a member of the Geet Gaate Chal stall.

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At around five-thirty, the stalls began clearing out, with most parents now flocking to the stage in the rush to grab the best seats. The atmosphere was no less excited than that found before the premiering of a long-awaited film, and the mysterious hustle and bustle behind the translucent screens only added to the spectators’ rising excitement.

After what seemed like an eternity, the introductory team walked on stage—and were immediately greeted with tumultuous applause, applause that also seemed to last an eternity. The anchors waited for one last moment, tantalizing the audience, before smilingly stepping up to the mike and commencing the performance with the opening script.

The whole performance was a presentation by Khichdi Productions, the name the children used to describe their act. One ambitious woman, played by Revathi of grade 6, wants to make a film and sets about doing so, with the entire rest of the troupe playing the actors. She wants “English songs” and is placated by the western music club members, who open the night with “Across the Meadow”. She then wants “Bollywood-style dancing to English songs” and this request is complied with by the bright little dancers of the sixth grade dance club.

Then she decides upon a mass-hero sequence, which is done in both Hindi and Telugu (a bilingual hit!) and is followed by a Sita-Gita skit. No, no, she says, she wants “a typical drama sequence”, which is executed with mastery by the theatre club students, who enact a laughably tearful serial-pattern. Once again the music group plays a beautiful medley, “Prelude to Paradise”, and the populars, “Chandelier” and “Cheap Thrills” by Sia. Then she wants a baddie in the fray, in response to which the drama students do a sequence reminiscent of the film Sholay, with a Gabbar-style villain.

Just like any film, Khichdi Productions also had an interval, in which the dazzling trio of Kavya, Purvi, and Trina advertised several products in a manner that had just the right amount of humour in it to keep the boat afloat. They cheerfully informed the audience the benefits of Smurf Excel, which, they claimed, ‘not only cleans clothes, but whitens teeth as well!’

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Perhaps the act that had everyone on their feet was the one at the very end, when the producer decides that first of all she must conduct auditions for the parts in her film! Here the audience was treated to a handful of the veteran actors of the theatre club, who play the parts of a plethora of entirely unique characters (a fashionista, a madman, Chandramukhi, a cricketer, a don, and a Tamil diehard fan to name a few) all vying for the openings in the movie. This was a real display of acting expertise, and not a fault could be named in the way these actors were going about their roles.

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“I felt free, I could have been anybody in that moment. Everyone’s exceptional performances propelled me to act really well so that I could leave my mark on the stage and in the minds of the audience,” clarifies a beaming Chandramukhi, played by Lahari of grade 9. Agreeing with her is the famed Babumoshai (Rishi of grade 9) who says that he felt like a cog in a clock, helping to run the whole thing smoothly.

Again, like every good plot, this production also had its own plot twist, which came at the end of the show: the film gets cancelled due to the problem of demonetization. This keeping in touch with real-life events had the audience in an uproar, and nothing could have sealed the stamp on the production’s success better than that last dialogue.

In the end, the age-old idiom—they all lived happily ever after---was ringing in everyone’s minds as all the stars of the show, from grade 6 to grade 10, were on stage grooving to the classic “Om Shanti Om”, clapping their hands and tapping feet in time to the beat. After a brief acknowledgement session, where in the people responsible for the production’s roaring success (Ms. Shalini, Mr. Reddy, Mr. Deepak, Ms. Priya, and countless others) were given a huge round of applause, the show came to a close.

Suhas, who essayed the role of the psychopath, said, “This annual day was quite a memorable one. No other annual day was conducted in this fashion with the sole purpose to entertain the audience, who have taken precious time out from their evenings. The whole experience, from the practice to the performance, was a lot of fun!”

History was created that night at Manthan school, where students had forged new identities for themselves. No longer would they be known by their names, but they would be fondly called by their roles. People would refer to them as ‘Gabbar’, or ‘Sita’, or ‘Babumoshai’, but not their actual names: these new personalities were far stronger of characters than they themselves were. And this would remain with the students the rest of their lives, such was the vigour and vitality of their performances.

It was the end of a magical night and was one that anyone isn’t likely to forget anytime soon. The magic that Rang Manthan wove still remains fresh in our minds, stirring up song, dance, and merriness whenever we think of it. All the students will be forever proud to have been in such a production, one that left every member in the audience a changed person. Rang Manthan Studios and Khichdi Productions, we bid you adieu.