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Metamorphosis on stage

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LIFE AS A PIECE OF FURNITURE A scene from the play
LIFE AS A PIECE OF FURNITURE A scene from the play "Centaur's".

ROMESH CHANDER

Anuradha Kapoor's "Centaurs" comes with some laughs, some thought provoking moments.

Anuradha Kapoor, Professor of Acting and Direction at National School of Drama, has written widely on theatre and directed many plays. Theatregoers will remember some of her well-known productions like "Sahib Biwi Gulam", "Antigony Project", "Pata Shaher Mumbai" and "Sunderi" amongst others. Most of her works have been in collaboration with visual video artistes and marked for their socio-political approach.Anuradha's latest presentation "Centaurs" by Heiner Mueller (1929-1995) presented by Vivadi in Ram Gopal Bajaj's Hindi translation that the Delhi audience saw for the first time in Bharat Rang Mahotsav, was premiered in Mumbai in March 2005. The play went to Bonn, Germany last year and a few days back it played for two shows at the World Social Forum in Nairobi. One wonders why such a serious play remained under wraps for so long in Delhi.

Piece of furniture

Heiner Muller's "Centaurs" is located at an imaginary place where everything is as bad as possible, "where victims turn martyrs, where law, order and security exhort the poor subaltern towards death and violence; and where Kafka's Gregor Samsa is transformed not into an insect but into a piece of furniture that receives commands and even thinks to reproduce itself by mating with another piece of furniture," says the director in her note.As the play opens, a man climbs up a wooden scaffolding 10-12 feet high. He could be a police officer or just a common man. He finds himself alone in what could be his office and in the middle of his nightmare. The programme brochure beautifully sums up the play and it is quoted with the director's permission. "Suddenly the world seems to have turned upside-down. The desk in front of which he was used to taking orders, and from behind which he gave orders, has unexpectedly fused into him. He and his desk have merged; he has become his desk. He is half man and half thing and the rules in which he believed till this instant seem entirely bewildering: what is a rule? Is a rule an exception or is the exception a rule? Are rules to be obeyed or are they to be flouted? What defines law and what defies it? Do rules serve chiefly a state of war, and only thereafter a state of peace? Are they in some ways worth more even than life? The man in his nightmare world wants disorder so that peace may prevail." Based on a text by Heiner Muller, which in turn is a variation of Kafka's "Metamorphosis" with passages from Mahmood Mamdani's "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim; America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror." Mamdani's passages undo the current explanations about the need to incarcerate, humiliate, put under surveillance people who do not seem to belong, in this case the Muslim. They also excavate the histories of violence, and show how state terror has been nursemaid to non-state terror and has then duplicated it. "Centaurs" reflects the shifts in the notion of identity in an era where the term nation is equated with religion and security with surveillance. The two actors Harish Khanna and Rajesh Tailang were both good and of course Harish has beautifully interpreted what Heiner Muller and Mamdani are saying.


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