Two dramatised short stories presented in New Delhi recently sought to focus attention on the horrific trend of rape, child abuse and society’s callous attitude to victims.

“Ek Sapne Ki Maut” is a dramatised version of two short stories presented by Prastav at Alliance Francaise de Delhi recently. It seeks to comment severely on the shocking and appallingly brutal act of gang rape and on the debasing and morbid incestuous assault which shatter the future of the victims. Though the intensions of the amateur theatre group are laudable, intensions alone cannot make a work of art. The script is not given proper dramatic form, the production is inadequately rehearsed and the characterisations tend to be sketchy.

Designed, directed and dramatised by Raj Narain Dixit, the play begins in the living room of the house of a college teacher. He lives with his writer wife and an adolescent daughter and a domestic help. This opening play is based on the short story entitled “No Papa, no” by Pradeep Jain. To provide a background for the action, the director has used an article on rape by Manisha Pandey.

This is a happy family. The daughter is attached to her father. The parents discuss why daughters are attached to their fathers and sons to their mothers. They quote Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. One morning the father reads a news item about a father who commits the most heinous and barbaric crime of raping his own daughter. He is deeply disturbed by this story. Unable to bear the emotional shock caused by this news, he starts behaving abnormally. As soon as his daughter appears before him, he starts running away from her as if he were in frenzy.

The director appears to be in a hurry to end his play. The father’s transformation from a normal man and a loving father to a psychiatric patient aggressively avoiding contact with his daughter is too abrupt and swift to be credible. The behaviour of the doctor who attends on him appears to be immature. The patient loses consciousness and the doctor becomes too nervous to suggest the patient be taken to a hospital. To capture the absurdities of life on the stage, it is essential that the illusion of reality be projected with directorial insights. The climactic sequence is enacted in a clumsy manner. This is a terribly dark theme for grown-ups which requires sensitive handling. The protagonist is an educated father; he should have reflected on ways to protect innocent children at home from the sexually depraved who masquerade as fathers, but he becomes unconscious.

Vijay Singh as the father gives a good performance in the early scenes but towards the close he comes too melodramatic to be convincing. Vashnavi Dubey as the mother and Aryasri Arya as the loving daughter capture the anxieties of their characters.

The second part of the evening was based on the short story entitled “Need Aane Tak” by Narender Kohli, which depicts the domestic life of a young couple full of acrimony. Both the husband and wife are working. The husband is obsessed with the feeling of male chauvinism and the wife retaliates with logic to silence the husband.

At this point the narrative takes an abrupt turn. The husband comes home but becomes angry to see that his wife has not yet arrived. On enquiry he comes to know she left her office on time. Late at night she comes, limping, bruised, traumatised and devastated. In the flashback scene she narrates that she was the victim of a gang rape in a bus. It is a re-enactment of the horrific outrage inflicted on the Delhi gang rape victim in December 2012 that triggered protests across the country.

The misogynist husband, far from showing sympathy for the victim and promptly helping her to get medical and legal aid to punish the perpetrators of the gruesome crime, reprimands her for unabashedly coming home instead of committing suicide and commands her to leave home at once. The wife retorts that instead of asking her to leave the house he should leave it at once because it is owned by her.

The content of the play is powerful and has stark contemporary relevance, but the production tends to be superficial in its treatment. A logical and cohesive narrative could have made the production impressive, affecting deeply the audience by portraying the inhuman attitude of a society aggressively dominated by men. Indu Negi as the wife and Avinash Singh Tomar as the husband manage to engage the attention of the audience despite sketchy portrayals of their characters.