Play: All the Best (Marathi), 1993
Written and Directed by: Devendra Pem, Chandralekha Production
‘All the Best’, a Marathi play written and directed by Devendra Pem was first performed on December 31, 1993. The play is based on a simple theme: “the disabled can love too” (Anupama Shenoy, April 21, 2002, mansworldindia.com). The play revolves around three best friends with disabilities — Vijay who is unable to see, Dilip, who cannot speak and Chandrakant, who cannot hear. All of them fall in love with the same girl, Mohini. The play ends with the girl making the three young men realize their potential, to pursue a career, be independent, and find romantic partners in their lives. The title of the play comes from its last line – ‘all the best’ said to the three friends by the girl.
The play became so successful that it was translated into Hindi, Gujarati and Sindhi, amongst other languages. A Times of India news report on November 22, 1995, notes that “In the last 22 months they had 795 shows in Marathi. The Gujarati translation had 242 shows in a year and in Sindhi, it had 25 shows in 6 months breaking many records.” One of the online portals claims that the play had 8000 shows till April 21, 2002, and that the Gujarati version has been performed around 25 shows a month for three years, about 750 shows altogether (Anupama Shenoy, April 21, 2002, mansworldindia.com). The success of the play was due to its structure. The play was structured in a way where a person with a hearing disability would answer the phone call; a visually disabled person would describe the house perfectly and a person with a speech disability would reply and convey his thoughts to the girl accurately.
The play should be viewed in relation to the history of the Disability Rights Movement (DRM) in India. During the 1970s people first started to voice their demand for the rights of individuals suffering from any disabilities, and towards the end of the 1980s, the focus was to introduce enhanced medical treatment and facilities with the medical model of disability viewing it as a health condition that needs to be fixed or cured. However, in India, the attitude of society and the institutions towards the PwD [Person with Disability] did not change. Nilika Mehrotra notes that several factors were involved in the rise of disability movements in the late 1980s and 1990s.
The Presence of accountable state policies, A strong presence of the women’s movement, The right to equality struggle of anti-caste groups, and the interest and push of international agencies and human rights groups created a more conducive space for the mobilization of marginalized groups such as the disabled (Nilika Mehrotra, “Disability Rights Movements in India: Politics and Practice”, EPW vol.46 no.6, 2011). For instance, at the end of the United Nations Decade for Disabled Persons (1983-1992), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) adopted the resolution with a view to giving fresh impetus to the implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons in the Asia and Pacific region. Also, among the major outcomes of the Decade of Disabled Persons was the adoption of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 1993. After a series of petitions and protests, the Government of India passed the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, of 1995.All the best
Source 1: Newspaper clipping, Sumedha Raikar, ‘Staging a Success’, July 24, 1994. Image Courtesy – Anand Gupt collection/Alkazi Theatre Archives
Source 2: Newspaper Clipping, Lata Khubchandani, ”All The Best’ gets better’, Times of India, November 22, 1995. Image Courtesy – ProQuest Historical Newspaper