Too pat and filmi
"I am the enemy you killed, my friend."
Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen
Harlequin Entertainment presented a double bill of short anti-war plays (one in Hindi and the other in English) under the title In Times of War at Rangashankara last week.
Ek Kadam ka Faasla, the first of the two plays, (authored by Kunal Sharma) is almost like an expansion of the ideas expressed in Wilfred Owen's famous anti-war poem Strange Meeting. Like the poem, the play too depicts a strange encounter between two soldiers who have escaped out of the battle. Instead of Owen's' "profound dull tunnel, long since scooped/ Through granites which titanic wars had groined", the meeting place is the equally ancient Himalayan mountains. The identity of the soldiers too is more definite one of them is an Indian and the other, a Pakistani and the war is over Kashmir.
Though they belong to opposite sides, they wear similar uniforms and share the same tragic plight. ("Whatever hope is yours/ Was my life also" : Owen). Both are equally curious about and suspicious of each other, furtive in their behaviour and sentimental about their families. While one reads a letter from his wife, the other drools over a note from his little daughter. Both defend the stand taken by their respective nations like true patriots.
Though they are both aware of the futility of the struggle, it is the little girl's poem that makes them face `the truth about war' and take that one step which makes a difference.
The friendly banter between the two soldiers becomes much more caustic and cynical in the second play, Lines about a Bullet (written by Ajay Krishnan) which seems like a spoof on war and deglamourises the soldier's profession. The very act of removing the painted canvass, which transforms the piled up furniture to the mountain set of the earlier play, appears like a deliberate act of exposing the truth behind romantic accounts of war. Instead of crawling in the mountains and sitting on boulders, the soldiers relax in sleek looking chairs, wearing casual clothes. The captions projected on the screen behind them are hilarious distortions of the usual announcements made by the army.
A major part of the conversation is about the source and course of the mysterious bullet lodged in the `ass' of one of the soldiers. The conversation, full of satire and black humour, is amusing (both Munesh and Raza Hussain know how to punch their lines), but is somewhat shallow. Both plays focus on issues which are relevant and immediate, and do, at times, show flashes of insight into the problem. But the treatment is rather superficial and the solution, too pat and filmy. True, Rangashankara has fantastic acoustics, but it does not mean that actors should not project their voices.
The plays are much too static with no attempt being made to explore the stage space. Lights too seemed to come on by mistake rather than design.
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