“Wrong Turn”, a legal thriller that tells the tale of the times

“Wrong Turn” — a legal drama that yanks out the pests of contemporary times. Scripted and directed by veteran theatre director Ranjit Kapoor and performed by the final year students of the National School of Drama, the play brought alive a genre intermittently stroked to life in Indian theatre. “Wrong Turn” is much an intriguing legal thriller, as it is about crass materialism, marketing mantras that have laid down new rules about life and lifestyles, love, deceit and “poetic justice.”

Director Kapoor says he like the legendary Vijay Tendulkar was inspired by the German short story “Break Down.” Like Tendulkar's “Silence! The Court is in Session” (“Khamosh! Adalat Jari Hai), a mock trial is at the core of “Wrong Turn” too, but goes on to spin a different tale.

“In the original script, the four central characters were slightly psychic. Here, I have made them noble and just men,” says Kapoor. His four central characters stretch their professional roles to their retired lives. If Vishwanathan Iyer was the magistrate, Makrand Joshi and Latif Zaidi, were the defender and the prosecutor respectively, and they continue to play these roles with zest in the mock trials at Iyer's house after retirement.

As the play opens, the director competently creates a mood decidedly eerie, an atmosphere that hides more than it reveals. On a stormy night, to a house in a desolate patch, walks in a stranger — Arun Mehra, his journey interrupted by the unruly weather. He walks into Iyer's house where the rest are waiting for Zaidi and in Mehra they see a potential subject for their game — the trial.

“Behind every successful man is a crime” is the premise in which the former lawyers explore the possibility of Mehra being a subject for trial. The Mercedes driving young Mehra with a Rolex watch hugging his wrist, Gucci shoes and Armani coat surely has skeletons in the closet. The first act is used by the director as a build up to the trial as the senior citizens lure Mehra to be part of their “game.”

In the second act, the trial begins, so does a probe into Mehra's life to dig out his crime. The tale of his rise from humble beginnings tumbles out — of how he marketed products exploiting customers, luring them towards greed. But it is his affair with his boss' wife — a trap he failed to see and the death of the boss — that forms the crux of his crime. Never suspected by the law, here he is cornered by retired men whose mock-trial ceases to be a game and pronounces him to be hanged.

Kapoor wanted the play to narrow down on the travails of the times. “In our country there is no implementation of the law the way it should be, there is no strong-willed judiciary,” he says and adds that in the road to success “it is only the goals and not the means that is looked at.” “The consumerism of our society is dangerous and spiritually we are turning hollow,” says Kapoor.

“Wrong Turn” is a solid play with a powerful script. The students acted out the play with zest, yet on occasions lacked the finesse that make a performance outstanding.