In "Veronica Decides to Die", director Gyandev Singh Channi has been able to draw out the best from his young actors.
The first thing that struck one was the large audience for a students' production.
For the last few weeks the performing spaces in NSD have been humming with rehearsals and presentations of the final year students who would soon be joining the ranks of professionals. Having keenly followed their progress in the last two years or so one was keen to see the Design and Production Course students. And so this critic decided to see "Veronica Decides to Die", designed and directed by Gyandev Singh Channi. The first thing that struck one was the large audience for a students' production and that too in one of the NSD theatre halls that has most uncomfortable seating arrangement. The audience was a mix of youth and the middle aged. Since there had been hardly any publicity for the play, at least for this critic, it was an assurance that theatre in Delhi was drawing new audiences.As the lights come up we see a girl propelling herself on a swing and talking to herself. She is happy but suddenly she is very depressed. She screams and shouts and is at the verge of becoming violent. Attendants rush in and force Veronica to her bed, and a doctor gives her an injection. From her behaviour it is obvious that she is suffering from what is called clinical depression. As we go along two more persons are rolled in to what may be called a five-star mental asylum. They are Mari and Edward, intelligent and well educated who could not cope with the pressures of life. They have been diagnosed as suffering from mental illnesses. Mari suffers from what is called panic attacks and Edward is schizophrenic. And to introduce the characteristics of their illness, Gyandev Singh right in the beginning symbolically gives some indications of their characteristics; as for instance, we had earlier seen Veronica's quick change of moods in the swing scene or Mari who has panic attacks talk in a fragmented manner. All these and many more were artistic theatrical devices to underline characterisation. To underline the inner conflicts of the characters as to what they really are and what they project to others, the director has given to each character his or her own personal corner or space to underline that in this world we wear two different masks, one that we put on when we are in our own private space and the other when we are in a public space. Indeed a noteworthy device to underline the inner conflicts of the characters as to what they really are and what they project to others.
Gyandev uses yet another interesting device of fragmented speech with no relation or reference to what the other character was saying. Since in this particular presentation one was primarily interested in the director's innovations and his exploration of the medium, this critic has deliberately not talked of the cast's performance without which no production could be complete. But suffice it to say that Gyandev was able to draw the best from his actors to project the points that the play was making. One would give full marks for his understanding and artistic projection of what Paulo Coelho has said in his novel (The play is based on his novel by the same name). Needless to say but for Gauri's tight script running to just about one hour it would not have been possible for him to achieve what he did. Well done, Gyandev!ERRATA In last Friday's theatre review of Mirza Bagh, instead of year 1975 (as Mushirul Hasan tells us in his legacy of "Divided Nation", it should have been "as the translator-adaptor Sabina Mehta Jaitley tells us, the year is 1976. Zehra (Surabhi Goswami) has been mentioned as Qasim Ali Beg's wife, whereas she is his sister.