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Life in question...

Balraj Pandit's play "Paanchwan Sawaar" staged in New Delhi defies the three unities of time, place and action, says DIWAN SINGH BAJELI.

A scene from the play "Paanchwan Sawaar" staged at India Habitat Centre.

BALRAJ PANDIT'S "Paanchwan Sawaar" presented by A Common Man's Entertainment Theatre at India Habitat Centre this past week reflected the shattered dreams, muffled hopes and anguish of the lower-middle class Indian youth.

Written in 1979, it is the first work by the playwright that is considered a significant play in the history of contemporary Hindi dramaturgy. Over the years, various groups, including the Repertory Company of the National School of Drama have staged it with varying success. Balraj has written a few more plays but those evoked rather lukewarm response from stage directors.

Structurally an unconventional play, "Paanchwan Sawaar" defies the principle of three unities of time, place and action. In terms of theatre aesthetics, it is nearer to the theatre of the absurd. We watch various aspects of contemporary reality through brief sequences which often border on abstraction. To lend metaphorical atmosphere there are two characters, carrot chaser and cyclewallah, which reinforce the central image of the play to some extent.

We watch a group of students who belong to the lower-middle class who suffer from the deep sense of alienation from their environments. Trapped in a hopeless situation, the youth find no way out from the prevailing gloom. The future holds them no promise.

Directionless life

On the grounds are sitting a group of retired people. To escape from a life of purposelessness and ennui, they play chess, indulge in vulgar jokes and sometimes ogle young lovers sitting at some distance. They give indications of their past which was marred by dullness and routine struggle to earn a living. They have hardly achieved anything worthwhile to cherish at the fag end of their lives.

There is a fleeting image of a politician with his gang of sycophants. A directionless youth meets the politician for guidance. The politician succeeds in confounding the youth, making him all the more obsessed with his sense of alienation.

The central imagery of the play consists of the relationships between a guy and a girl who are classmates. They are the protagonists of the play. They are alienatedfrom their family and the environment of the college. There is a tender love between them. Frustration, unhappiness and pain of unrequited love are the other facets of their love though.

There is remarkable economy of words. The dialogues are beautifully written. A Post-Graduate Diploma holder from the National School of Drama, Vivek Mishra displays a fine sense of the art of direction. Beneath the surface of the play, there is an undercurrent of melancholy. Dr. Govind Pandey's music evokes ambience that deepens the sad feeling of alienation. Director Mishra introduces some lyrics, which reinforce the philosophical element of the play.

The director hasplacedwooden blocks of varying size and height to demarcate the locale of the action, ensuring rhythmic flow of the action. Rohit Goel as the alienated youth gives a fine performance. His restraint acting, intense delivery of dialogues convey the metaphysical anguish of a youth leading a purposeless life, sucessfully. Another impressive performance is given by Maya who plays the role of a young girl in love with her classmate. Rohit and Maya bring a rare sensitivity with a tinge of sadness in their parts.

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