Theatre “Inspector Matadeen Chaand Par” depicts the state of Indian police through the principal character’s comical attempt at “streamlining” the force on the Moon.
Fourth Wall Arts and Entertainment Society headed by Manoj Kumar Tyagi — a graduate from the National School of Drama, presented “Inspector Matadeen Chaand Par” as its maiden production this past week at the LTG auditorium in New Delhi. It augurs well for the group with amateur artistes to get encouraging response from the audience. A comic exposure of the police force which is alleged to resort to blatant human rights violations and corrupt practices, the production was inadequately rehearsed. One hopes working under the guidance of a trained and experienced theatre practitioner, it will improve its future productions in terms of artistic quality.
“Inspector Matadeen Chaand Par” is a satirical piece based on Harishankar Parsai’s short story. Adapted by the director himself, the original story is short and is expanded to more than a two-hour show by the inclusion of recent events which heighten its satirical appeal. Harishankar Parsai (1924-1995) was a noted, prolific Hindi writer popular with readers for his satire, simplicity of language and directness. No wonder we often see the stage versions of his popular pieces expose social evils and corruption at the highest political level without resorting to bitterness. The play under review was directed by Saurav Shukla long back, before he shifted to Bollywood. Acting in the lead role, his performance was memorable.
By incorporating new content into the script, Manoj has made the play intricate with elements of suspense that keep the audience engaged. What lies beneath the surface is the writer’s belief that far from uprooting corruption, crime and social anarchy, the police force is creating social discord and unrest. This point is illustrated by Parsai and dramatised by the director in a comic vein.
It all begins with police inspector Matadeen’s departure to Moon where Government of India has sent him on deputation to streamline the functioning of police. As soon as he lands on the Moon, he is received by the Police Minister of the satellite.
The Indian inspector is disappointed with the lifestyle and behaviour of the police force of Moon. They are polite, articulate in their conversation and act in a civilised manner. The Police Minister says that they have imbibed these qualities from ancient India. Matadeen is disappointed that the police stations on the Moon are manned by a lethargic force that have hardly any work to do. The stations are visited neither by victims nor criminals are brought there. The society maintains harmonious relationship and is governed by mutual trust. He is further shocked to know that the police personnel are paid fabulous salaries. To him it is a bolt from the blue to discover that the term bribe is alien to the police on the Moon.
Matadeen takes upon himself to inculcate the work culture of Indian police among the policemen of the Moon. He changes their polite language with the vulgar and boorish one being used by Indian police. Being unarmed, Matadeen gives them bamboo sticks and above all initiates them in methods of torture to force innocent accept “guilt” for the crimes thrust upon them.
Accepting bribes becomes the order of the day. The implementation of the reforms policy of Matadeen has terrifying consequences. The Government of the Moon thinks it is prudent to expel Matadeen at a short notice.
One of the flaws of the production was inept handling of the lighting. There are some brief sequences which could be made part of major scenes to avoid the interruption in the flow of dramatic action. Similarly, the smoke machine needs sparing use to create desired effect. However, the climactic and denouement scenes set on the earth are engaging, conveying the message to humanise the functioning Indian police force.
Nearly a dozen performers are cast in small and varied roles delighting the audience. Aishyara Singh in the role of Inspector Matadeen acts admirably. As soon as he encounters the police personnel of the Moon, he starts behaving like a big brother. Though his technique of dealing with innocent people is inhuman and evokes a sense of terror, he handles his character with a light touch.