The long night's journey into darkness and back

Saari Raat is a disturbing play at a personal level as a young couple step on the stage and shine their torchlight in the darkness in an old, decrepit house. The woman wears a raincoat and the man removes it as they escape the rain outside and wait out the night. They stand inside the house and begin their good-natured ribbing, like a couple who have been married for long. Then, they start hearing echoes. Amplified echo (prathidhwani) of their own voices. This is followed by the entry of a laughing old man in kurta, pyjama and a sweater.

The conversation that follows, crests and troughs like normal banter, except for the fact that the old man seems to be able to echo the thoughts of the couple and wring their innermost desires out of them. The old man has a totemic attachment to the number seven and has a theory that life is all a multiple of that magical number. He tells the young man “when a man is 35, he is afraid of approaching 40” and the woman, “you are at an age when you think about the past and achievement and you are 28.” They are flabbergasted.

The play explores the territory of the mind.

The language used was pure Hindi not of the conversational kind (Badal Sarkar's play is in Bengali and has been translated by Pratibha Agarwal). So, when the words like abhav, anand, shanti, shoonya occur they hark back to the older meaning, some of them with a risqué connotation. Shoonya can be nothing, it can also be emptiness, it also can be a void that cannot be filled.

Between these meanings, the audience can find its own meaning. It is not just the language, the symbolism is all too apparent. When the woman remembers that she has not closed the window of their home and how her home might be swept away in the rain.

The characters lived their roles as the playfulness of love in the beginning turns into darkness of unknown desires. Sunil Chandurkar who directed the play, was stunning as they droopy eyed, hysterical old man while Saurabh Gharipurkar played the perfect buffer as his wife, played by Sowmya Ram Holagundi explored the darker side of her personality.

But did the old man exist at all?

Keywords: play Saari Raat