Shankar Shesh's 'Rakt Beej' presented by Natrang from Jammu in collaboration with Dramatech at New Delhi's Shri Ram Centre recently is sleek, consistently well-acted with a powerful satirical tone. It mocks at social climbers who unscrupulously exploit others to further their goal. Shanker Shesh is perhaps the only playwright in Hindi who has dealt with wide ranging themes that resonate with contemporary concerns. As the market forces are becoming stronger debasing human bonds and values, the relevance of his plays has increased manifold. His works are replete with a strong sense of angst in a society in which the mediocre manipulate to rise, resorting to fraudulent means at the cost of the meritorious. Some of his plays, which are frequently performed, include 'Poster', 'Ek Aur Dronacharya', 'Arey!', 'Mayavee Sarovar' and 'Gharaunda'. In these plays he raises complex and soul-searching questions about an exploitive style but does not attempt to give easy answers. Instead, he involves his audience to reflect on these issues and give answers. Also, he knows his craft well and his language is economic and powerful enough to convey deep philosophical meaning.
Directed by Rakesh Kumar Gupta, 'Rakt Beej' peeps into the inner world of two characters obsessed with the consuming desire to rise in life. Resorting to unethical means, they manage to achieve what they wanted, leaving their victims in a state of agony and intense despair.In one episode a clerk in a big firm, disgusted with his economic deprivation and dreary life, forces his intelligent and attractive wife to become the mistress of the chairman of the firm. He thus rises in the hierarchy of the management. In the second episode a mediocre scientist-turned-bureaucrat unashamedly plagiarises a great scientific discovery of his junior, achieving international recognition as a genius. In the first case the wife commits suicide and in the second the scientist-turned-bureaucrat takes his own life, leaving a note that now he has reached the pinnacle of glory and has nothing more to do, praising his junior and recommending him for the post that falls vacant after his death.The playwright uses the term octopus as a metaphor for the moribund desire of the middle class which is spreading its tentacles to make human society its victim. Director Gupta has used minimal stage property with a few wooden blocks of different sizes. Upstage, huge drapes are hung to provide background for the action. The space between two long pieces of cloths is imaginatively used for entries and exits. This makes the production clutter-free and the transition from one sequence to another rhythmically smooth. The offstage sounds betweensequences aptly reinforce the mood.Gupta's amateur cast gives a brilliant performance. The subtle interplay between the character and his or her inner-self described as Manas, Kirti, Gunjan brings to the fore the inner turmoil of the characters caught in the web of morbidity. These two episodes are delicately woven into the basic theme of the play about death, murder and chimera of the middle class dream of happiness. Comparatively, the second episode involving scientists is really a tour de force. Neeraj Kant as Chhota Purush - clerk and junior scientist, Sangeeta Thapliyal as Estri - the wife of the clerk and junior scientist, Anil Tickoo as Bada Purush - the chief of the firm and the scientist-turned-bureaucrat and Sanjeev Gupta as Manas give brilliant account of themselves. Atima Kala as Kirti and Gunjan brings to life her characters, playing with wit and verve.DIWAN SINGH BAJELI