American playwright Neil Simon's “The prisoner of second avenue” was a runaway hit in the 70's and it ran for a record two years. The play, among Simon's darker plays, without pronounced political overtones, speaks of the many changes America was going through the Seventies — this, it does without sounding ponderous. The play discusses middle class's desire to go up the social scale, indiscriminate buying, economic slowdown and fears of the American Dream never being realised, among other issues.
Prathima Ranga Samshodhana Pratishtana's “Santeyolagondu Maneya Maadi”, based on Neil Simon's play, was staged in Bangalore last week. The play written, directed and designed by M.C. Anand is a much desired intervention in its intent to address real problems. Nearly forty years after the play was written, much of these issues that it discusses continue to ring true; in fact, it has crossed the borders of one nation and has come to be a global phenomenon. The title of the play, a phrase from Akkamahadevi's vachana, “Bettada Melondu Maneya Maadi” gives it a push towards the philosophical firmament.
Domestic discomfort is written all over the life of the middle-aged couple Rama and Rangaswamy. A city that is disintegrating, life that has gone out of control, shrinking living spaces, a burglary to make things worse, leave the couple shattered. The play wears a rather big hat – the credit card trap, the beckoning world of electronic gadgets, an eroding food culture, the expanding belly of consumerism, globalisation et all. While the dialogues and the episodes get a tad weary, the comment about media and how it skirts real issues is sharp. In fact, the newsreader (Vijay) is delightful.
Rama (Mangala), the enduring wife, and Rangasawamy (Harikrishna), the husband on the verge of a nervous breakdown share a good performing rapport. What they believe is a cushy world tightens its noose around them — they take you through the ups and downs competently. However, constant chatter and bickering, and at times the niggling body language, makes you feel the play could have been shorter. Their vision of a life strapped of material pretensions is heart warming, but it comes wearing a thick emotional coat.
Akka, as she interrogates choices, speaks of a fearless negotiation. The traps of the physical world for her have in them routes to deliverance as well. The play, recognises traps, discerns modes of freedom as well, but gets embroiled in discourses that have lasted for over a decade. How does art resolve problems of the real world? There must be ways, a will to find is imperative.