Bahroop's “Sawaal Apna Apna” poses relevant questions on the contemporary society
Formed in 1996, Bahroop is one of the few amateur theatre groups in New Delhi, known for sustained activities, producing meaningful and artistic plays. Its production of “Soopna Ka Sapna” featured at the Fifth Bharat Rang Mahotsav. Over the years at different point of time, its five productions were adjudged the best productions of the year which were presented at the prestigious Bharatendu Natya Samaroh annually organised by Sahita Kala Parishad Delhi. Its latest offering is “Sawaal Apna Apna” which was staged at the LTG auditorium recently under the direction of K.S. Rajendran, a member of the faculty of National School of Drama.
Co-directed by Rajesh Singh, the play is originally written in Marathi by Abhiram Bhadkamkar and translated into Hindi by Damodar Khadse. The play seeks to bring into focus the loss of human essence in a man fired by rapacious greed for material success and joins the dog-eats-dog world of free market economy. It also tries to expose unscrupulous element of society who trade in people's religious beliefs.
Theatrically, Bahroop's production also tries to deal with God, faulty examination system and humiliation of women at the hands of men which introduces an element of digression and tedium but the good acting and well rehearsed production and satirical overtones enables the production to put across its point of view on contemporary society. However, the issues raised are vital and complex, which need deeper probing.
As the title of the play suggests, every character is entrapped in its own world. So the struggle becomes solitary instead of becoming a collective one. The characters interact frequently to exchange their views; there are differences but not conflict.
Nirmala is a teacher by profession and is childless. Her husband Subhash is an adman who conceptualises brilliant ideas which are used by others. A gold medallist, he is full of grudges against his employer for not giving him credit for his creativity and his mediocre rivals, who are far ahead of him merely because of their manipulative skills. His living standard is modest and he craves to live in a lavish style. The secret of the unprecedented success of his rivals is their unscrupulous and ruthless style of functioning. Bhaskar is a social activist who is frequently arrested for launching agitations against the establishment. He is a rationalist and demands that God should be removed from school text books. His adopted son Manu is a student who is being taught at home by Nirmala. Following the instructions of his father, he leaves his answer book blank in Hindi paper as there was a reference about God. Despite his blank answer book, he is declared as the topper in the examination. The result makes the relationship between the son and father bitter. The father has misunderstood him causing pain and anxiety to him. The social activist finally manages to unravel the mystery about the result of his son. The Hindi answer books are destroyed in a fire and to hide education department's criminal negligence, every student was given pass marks.
A domestic help is cunning enough to exploit people's superstitious beliefs. He sells his cow's dung and urine and forces his wife to act as a medium of Devi and go into trance whenever devotees arrive and want to fulfil their wishes who give generous offerings.
The sets are realistically designed providing enough space to the performers to act. Much of the action that takes place in the backdrop is revealed through the conversation of the characters who invariably meet in the house of the adman. The frequent telephonic calls establish characters' contact with the outside world and add an element of suspense.
The performers do their best to give credible performances. Benil as Subhash, the adman, gives a convincing performance. His Subhash is initially depressed and is obsessed with the gnawing feeling of being deceived by his employer and rivals. Later he joins the dog-eats-dog commercial world of free market devoid of ethics with a vengeance and reaches to the pinnacle of commercial success. Runjhun, as the wife of Subhash, Nirmala, shares personal emotions with her husband with certain reservations and willy-nilly follows him when he shifts from their modest dwelling to a palatial building. Shahana's Saguna, the domestic help, is the only character who emerges strong enough to defy her husband and joins the agitation of Bhaskar. Hadi Sarmadi as Bhaskar, the social activist is very strong in his rational convictions and is a crusader against social evils.
Keywords: Bahroop theatre group