DIWAN SINGH BAJELI
C.D. Sidhu’s “Mangoo Aur Bikkar” offers a slice of real life.
“Mangoo Aur Bikkar” by Sahitya Akademi Award-winning playwright C.D. Sidhu, presented by Collegiate Drama Society at India Habitat Centre recently, is a bitter comment on the young people who abdicate their obligations to look after their old and ailing parents. At another level it celebrates deep human bonds that still exist in a rural milieu.
Set in the rural landscape of Punjab, the play had its premier nearly 20 years ago, its revival evoked encouraging response from the audience. Despite a lapse of two decades, the play appears all the more relevant today.
Director Ravi Taneja has aptly conceived his production on an open-air stage which brings about immediacy between the performers and the audience and is able to bring out the best from the team of his amateur but experienced actors.
As the title of the play suggests, it revolves round two elderly people – Mangoo and Bikkar. Mangoo is 75-year-old and his uncle Bikkar is 90. They are all alone; Mangoo’s children, two sons and a daughter, are settled in cities. Mangoo has full faith in his children that they would stand by him in case of emergency. Life is not a bed of roses for the elderly people in the village but Mangoo, a retired village teacher, is managing to cultivate his land to make both ends meet and look after his old uncle who is solely dependent on him. Despite hardship, the harmonious social life offers them some moment of small joys. Suddenly the lives of the uncle and the nephew take a critical turn when Mangoo’s leg is fractured in an accident.
At this point the playwright brings all the dramatic personae at the home of the elderly people in the village bringing to fore the conflict between the bed-ridden Mangoo and his two sons and a married daughter. In the process the empty lives of his offspring and their mean mentality stand exposed. Woven in is the love-hate relationship between Mangoo and his uncle.
Their frequent quarrels and bickering are marked by the bitterness, helplessness and a sense of defeat and loneliness. At times their quarrels become ridiculously humorous. When they become tired of fighting they discover a kind of mutual love and attachment for each other.
As the play moves towards climax in a cohesive way, Mangoo sees through the ulterior motives of his offspring who have not come to see their bed-ridden father but to grab their share in his landed property. The play projects both its rural ambience and characters in a style that is down-to-earth. This enables the audience to strike an emotional cord with the characters and deeply empathise with the plight of the old and ailing. .
Ravi Taneja delivers a brilliant performance as Mangoo.
His Mangoo is emotionally involved in the care of his uncle and is ready to sacrifice his own happiness for his sake –At the time of the premier of the play Ravi performed the role of Bikkar.
Sita Ram as Bikkar imparts impressive touches to his portrayal of an effete old man bringing alive the senility, the helplessness, the insecurity and the suffering of a parasite.
Dhirendra Gupta as Nishan Singh, a village farmer who is providing the helpless old people with food and his company and Chetna Chowdhary as Gurpreet Kaur, a young widow who has dedicated her life to serve her old in-laws act admirably.
Saharsh Bhalla as Rawail Singh, a village student, symbolises the obsession of Punjabi rural youth to go abroad with the fantasy of making it big.