Girish Karnad's `Bikhre Bimb' was a masterly statement on the heaps of broken images we wade through day in and out.
It fitted the university like a tee. Somehow no one was willing to sponsor a show of Girish Karnad's newest play in this city. Our greatest playwright did you say that? And all those good and bad plays from Mumbai getting ticketed at a glorious grand or two? Never mind, in Hyderabad we will not have a middle ground. They came in hordes and they stayed patiently in queue. And took it in good stride. Nice and relaxing to see this happening to a one-act which plays so much on technology!! It was natural to feel apprehensive about this kind of a use of technology. But in Karnad's handling (he also co-directed the play with K.M.Chaitanya, an alumni of the same university) things acquire such engagingly funny and grave tones, you come out deliciously traumatised. Here is Manjula Naik, a passable Kannada short story writer who has just won international recognition for her debut novel in English, doing a live introduction to the broadcast of a Kannada tele film based on the same work. Fifteen minutes later after a bravura performance as she is about to leave the studio, her own image on the LCD screen accosts her. Interesting. But then as the half-truths and the truths tumble out in course of the dialogue between the image and the character the play morphs into a fascinating thriller. It turns out the novel was a very bitter realistic portrayal of her greed and vanities secretly written by her own paralytic but exceedingly beautiful and insinuatingly sharp younger sister Malini Naik who had an intense psychological affair (she was incapable of sex) with Manjula's husband, a software engineer. If Manjula thought she had the last laugh by appropriating her sister's work that gets exposed. By hounding her even after death into greater villainy, the younger sister is surely the winner. However the play is not just about this poetic justice. When the image suggests to Manjula that the winner probably was Malini, she furiously lunges out to disconnect the cables on the rear and kill it. Only to merge with the image. On the screen you see the same face, but now speaking as the ethereal Malini gravely cribbing that she will now have to exist in the world as Manjula!As Arundhati Nag who essayed the double roles of Manjula and the pre-recorded image of her with fantastic timing and controlled ease put it, Me to be acting with myself like that. God, it's a scary thing? It could sometimes be unnerving. Indeed, too many unnerving questions crop up. The image acquiring an identity of its own. And becoming a confessor, a psychologist and an inquisitor. The unsparing supremacist brutality of an intellectual mind (Malini), facilitated not the less by her felicity with English, the language of power. And you are left wondering: pray, in whose consciousness and mind, is all this being played up? Is or isn't that an image, or well, a construct. Bikhre Bimb is a masterly statement on the heaps of broken images we wade through day in and out. It's a transfigured world we have in the electronic, globalised age. You feel thankful for having it a little decoded. The SN School and the other departments of the university, which collaborated to facilitate this visit of Girish Karnad and the Ranga Shankara troupe from Bangalore, deserve all praise. It's high time the University of Hyderabad at Gachibowli equips itself with a modern theatre auditorium -- they have too many for seminars! That will be a great contribution to the performative spaces available in the city.