Play: Chimni Choga, 1990
Written by: Rajesh Jain
Directed by: Devendra Raj Ankur, Rupantar theatre
‘Chimni Choga’, a Hindi play written by Rajesh Jain was staged by the Rupantar theatre group under the direction of Devendra Raj Ankur. Performed on June 4-5, 1990 at the Shri Ram Centre, New Delhi, the play was sponsored by the Central Pollution Control Board and The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. ‘Chimni Chonga’ was subsequently performed in Chandigarh under the direction of Arjun Bhalla.
The 1980s observed interesting developments in the environmental protection movement. Even though India had legislations pre-1991 liberalization such as the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Water Act 1974, Forest Act 1980, Air Acts 1981, and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, it saw the debate on the environment moving from deforestation to the larger issues of depletion of natural resources.
The play opens with a little girl, Manavi, on her birthday being overjoyed with the inflatable globe gifted to her by her father. Her father’s friend, K.P., (in a suit-tie attire representing a rich industrialist) entices Manavi away from the handmade presents to machine-made toys and tools. The narrative transitions to a dystopia with a deteriorated environment, where people have to carry oxygen cylinders and even God intends to redesign the organs of human beings. With references to the Bhopal Gas tragedy of 1984 and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, soon Manavi’s globe is damaged with a hole and becomes irreparable. The chimney, representing industrialization, kept at a corner of the stage in the play, is covered with a choga (cover) of unbalanced growth and development that needs to be discarded.Chimni Choga
Brochure, ‘Chimni Choga’, June 4, 1990. Image Courtesy – Anand Gupt Collection/ Alkazi Theatre Archives