It was time for social justice to be given a shot with "Mohan Das" staged in the Capital this past week.

Presented by Indian People's Theatre Association at Shri Ram Centre this past week, "Mohan Das" indicts a social system in which depressed people are denied basic human rights. Remarkable for contemporary relevance, the production shatters the illusion of the achievement of social justice as claimed by the Indian ruling class.Based on Uday Prakash's story, it is dramatised by Manish Shrivastava. Uday Prakash is a leading Hindi poet and short story writer. A few of his stories like `Tirichh' were seen on the stage. Winner of various literary awards for his contribution to enrich Hindi literature, he is said to have evolved a new metaphor to expose social dichotomy.Structurally, the adapted version appears to be disjointed. The central theme deals with the miserable plight of a young man who happens to belong to a socially marginalised caste but it goes on referring to various struggles of people against political and social tyranny, distracting our attention from the main theme. There are images of victims of construction of huge dams, drowning cultural and historical legacy of tribals and poor farmers. This is not all. Performers come out of their characters frequently, start commenting on the anti-people socio-economic policies being pursued by the State. This kind of treatment does not help creating a dramatically coherent structure. As the title suggests, it is the pathetic story of Mohan Das, who even after securing a first class B.A. degree, remains unemployed, is cheated, brutally beaten up, insulted and humiliated by forces who dominate a feudal society. A youth of high caste unabashedly poses as Mohan Das, using his first class B.A. degree, works in a public sector concern. The impostor continues to have a good time while the real Mohan Das is condemned to live a life of penury and drudgery of a bamboo craftsman, a work his ancestors have been doing from generation to generation.

Play of protest

The play is directed by Rajneesh Bisht who was associated with the TIE Company of National Social Of Drama and is doing street theatre for the marginalised sections. His theatre is one of protest but when he is doing a proscenium theatre it should be as socially relevant as artistically valid. The dominant tone of the production is that of pessimism and gloom. The protagonist is too weak to resist his tormentors. The image of the ailing father of Mohan Das, who is seen all the time sitting on a cot and coughing, is irritating.The production appears to be inadequately rehearsed. In the opening sequences the performers deliver their lines in a barely audible voice. Their movements lack powerful motivations. Halfway through the show, it acquires momentum. The best part of the production is the way the climatic scene is composed. It exudes revolutionary fervour and a commitment to bring about social change. The scene is indeed the redeeming feature of the production, enabling it to make its point clear.