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The scourge of racism

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Issue-based A scene from the play.
Issue-based A scene from the play.

ROMESH CHANDER

“The Indian Wants the Bronx” highlights the plight of a hapless Indian who loses his way in New York.

The Actor Factor Theatre Company is just about a year-and-a-half-old and during this short period has already made quite a name for itself with plays like “Aakar” (Hindi), “Circus” (English), “Bees Minute” (Hindi) and now “The Indian Wants the Bronx” written by Israel Hovovitz, an American playwright; and directed by James Hammerstein that ran for 177 shows.

As the play opens we hear the theme song “it’s all the same/it’s all the same/it’s all the same/the sun goes down in Manhattan/and is dark in Athens. The song talks about racism in all parts of the world. Briefly, the playwright builds his story around K.K. Menon, a middle aged Keralite lost in New York while searching for the way to the Bronx where his son lives. Menon cannot speak English and is holding a slip of paper that has the address etc., of his son. It is late at night, there are just two young ruffians, Joey and Murph on the stage who find Menon a perfect target for what they consider “fun”. Now a look at Joey and Murph who are best of friends from childhood.

Quite early in their lives, they lost their fathers. Joey is still answerable to his mother to some extent but Murph is completely detached. They spend most of their time together on the street. Some years back they went to jail for knifing a kid and stealing a couple of cars. They have to report to a lady police officer on a regular basis. Murph is totally cold at heart whereas Joey still has some emotions left. He comes across as a lot more human. For instance, he gives his jersey to Menon to ward off the cold. In the play, Murph torments and kills the Indian to get back at Joey for he is highly insecure in his relationship with him. He believes that nobody deserves to be cared for and so, when Joey starts feeling for the Indian, Murph senses that and eventually kills the Indian to teach Joey a lesson. Murph is afraid of losing his only friend, Joey.

Physical action

There is a lot of physical action on the stage not only between two friends but also with Menon who is always at the receiving end. The play has been directed by Sunit Sinha, one of the best younger generation actor-directors on the Indian stage today. His own performance as Murph more than lives up to the character that he was playing. He is at his best in his physical action against Menon.

For Aadesh Sidhu who played Joey it was his second time that he was on the stage with AFTC. He played his role well, particularly in his bouts against Murph. But one feels that the streak of kindness in him could have been emphasised a little more positively. And of course K. Suresh is a seasoned actor and one still remembers his performance in “Aakaar”. But Menon, the way he takes his thrashing and the telephone scene just before he is killed, will be long remembered by the audience.

Yet another plus point was the music by Shashwat Srivastava as also the long song written by Sunit Sinha, composed and sung by Shashwat Srivastava and Vaishalli.

The song talks about the presence of racism in all parts of the world. Since the song is very long the director breaks it up in four sectors: the beginning, middle, pre-climax and the end. This helped not only to carry the story forward but also as an element of relief for the audience.

“The Indian wants the Bronx” is one of the best plays on the Delhi stage and should not be missed when on the boards again — November 2 and 13, as the brochure informs us.

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