The sound of the audience breathing must be exhilarating for a theatre director, especially when he’s staging a play that Hitchcock had adapted in film. Kalasmriti productions won that rewarding sound of silence at the India International Centre in New Delhi last week, while staging an adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play, “The Rope”.
Alfred Hitchcock had adapted it into a film named “The Room” in 1948. The plot is centred on the murder of a youth by two of his friends; their motive simply to feel more alive. Adapted to an affluent Delhi setting — familiar to the IIC crowd — the play captivated the audience with its splendid portrayal of bored young men, their arrogant murder, and their abysmal descent into a web of lies to insulate themselves from their senseless sin.
Eishaan (Farhad Colabavala) and Rohit Sharma (Zain Khan), two public school mates, murder a former schoolmate Sumit Ghosh (Nakul Dev) by strangling him at their farmhouse. With surplus wealth and all the right connections, the boys suffer a void of struggle, of passion and the intangible joys borne from daily tribulations they are insulated from. In a quest to fill this emptiness, they audaciously murder Ghosh, just before a party which has Ghosh’s mother and other school friends on the guest list.
Eishaan is the cold-blooded killer, his gait reflecting arrogance and sinister confidence. His remorseless and intense gaze mocks at the hall full of witnesses. Even as his accomplice Rohit shivers with guilt and loses his diction to fear, Eishaan carries through the farce, serving his guests beer and Punjabi food atop a chest that contains the corpse of Ghosh.
Together both actors gave a stellar performance, uncontrived and aesthetically minimal.
A side plot features the encounter between Ghosh’s romantic interest Laila Anwar (Panchali Dutta) and her old flame Varun, played by producer Arjun Khera. The childish attempts of Varun to woo back Laila, egged on by the killers of his competition, are only made more surreal by U2’s “With or Without you” playing in the background, as the couple clumsily waltzes around Sumit’s concealed body.
The murder is finally unravelled by Geetanjali Bhagat (Anasuya Aggarwal), a former teacher of the boys who now makes a living off writing psychological thrillers. The murderers confess to her that it was her novels that inspired them. “Every act of murder has the power of a creative act,” she says. She is forced to eat her words later when her rationale of humans deriving pleasure and superiority from destroying another is thrown back at her.
The director uses an interesting device during the dialogue of Eishaan and Geetanjali, even as Sharma tries to strangulate her. The scene freezes midway for Geetanjali to play her role as a narrator. She then falls back under the tightening noose, before the curtains fall. The device is similar to that used by Sashi Kumar in his 2004 film “Kaya Taran”– of preventing the audience from make-believing that they have experienced the pain of the victim. It also allows for contemplation before the curtains fall.
Director Vikramjeet Sinha pulled off a perfect 10, with grounded direction, sensible and deft handling of the lights by Manjari Kaul, and ideal background sound by Nakul Bhatnagar.