Conjoined by guilt

Engrossing tale: A scene from the play  

Mahesh Dattani’s award winning play “Tara”, presented at India Habitat Centre recently under the joint direction of seasoned stage director Sohaila Kapur and Mumbai-based actor Divya Arora, was a tour de force that deeply disturbed, shocked and anguished the audience.

Sohaila Kapur

Sohaila Kapur   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

An outstanding Indian playwright writing in English, the dominant thematic elements of Dattani’s plays are gender discrimination, child sexual abuse, communal frenzy and sexual preferences in the context of changing metropolis outlook.

Non-linear form

Sohaila and Divya directed “Tara” in original English version with remarkable sensitivity. Using minimal stage properties, the directors have ingeniously used the acting space. Since the narrative structure is non-linear, the dramatic action mostly takes place in flashback with action shifting to different locales and from present to the past and vice versa. Finely tuned, the production acquires momentum steadily, moving towards the point of crisis where the outrageous family secret is revealed.

The play opens with the entry of the narrator who occupies his position downstage right. In a tense mood, he is working on a script, revealing his emotionally tumultuous life, his dysfunctional family. The space is faded out and the focus is on his family, his childhood and adolescent life back home in India. We meet the family members — worried father, mother, trying to suppress her feeling of guilt, Tara, who is confined to a wheelchair, and her twin brother Chandan and their neighbour Roopa, an adolescent girl.

The mother is obsessed about the physical condition of her daughter Tara. We come to know that the play is about the life of conjoined twins who are separated after performing a major surgery to separate the twins. After the surgery, the twins survive. However, Tara is reduced to a stage where she will remain confined to a wheelchair all her life, while her brother Chandan is physically normal with slight limp while walking. The operation has made the relationship between the parents bitter.

Mother’s sacrifice

The mother is fanatically concerned about the daughter and the father is desperate to see that Chandan grows up as a successful man to look after the family business. But the twins are emotionally attached to one another.

Chandan longs to stay with his sister all day at home reflecting deep emotional connection between the sister and the brother. In the encounter between father and son, father’s prejudice against the daughter is clearly manifested. The mother, unable to bear the plight of Tara, bribes a teenager who is a neighbour, to give company to the alienated Tara and be her friend.

Meanwhile Tara’s condition deteriorates with multiple organ complications. The doctor attending on her recommends kidney transplant. Despite opposition by family, the mother donates her kidney that is transplanted to Tara. After the kidney transplant, Tara comes home and is welcomed but she is sad not to see her mother at home. There is a sense of mystery where the mother has gone. Later, the mother’s tragic fate is revealed.

Forceful separation

The playwright has imaginatively revealed the secrecy about the forceful separation of conjoined twins by a surgeon. In an emotional outburst, the father discloses that Tara would have led a normal life if the surgeon would not have amputated her leg and transplanted it to Chandan to enable the male child to lead a normal life at the cost of his sister’s. To undertake such an heinous act which is blatantly against medical ethics, the surgeon was bribed by the father of the mother who was a rich and influential person and Tara's mother was complicit in this abhorrent act. This disclosure left an atmosphere of gloom and doom; the brother feeling guilt leaves for England.

The play has several vital strands — the dark and inhuman view of patriarchal society and the blatant violation of medical ethics by the surgeon. The play also indicts the hypocrisy and insensitive attitude of society towards differently-abled community. The playwright eschews attempt to give moral sermons.

The highlight of the production is the casting of Divya Arora as Tara. Divya herself is differently-abled in real life. This is an event where real life and art meet creatively to create a new form of realism. Divya delivers her lines with inner conviction, revealing her resoluteness and will power to face a hostile world. At the end of the show, she is given a standing ovation.

Sunit Tandon as the surgeon who operated on the twins remains seated upstage, frequently brought into focus to elucidate the doctor’s version in a voice marked by fine theatrical elocution. His presence enhances the value of the production. Kavita Seth as the guilt obsessed mother of Tara, Nikunj Wadhawan, as the twin brother of Tara and Jimmy Hasija as the distressed father of the twins create striking portraits of their characters. Sachin Khurana, as adult Chandu living in London under the pseudo name of Dan, is attempting to atone his guilt sustains the intensity of his inner conflict and anguish until the end.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 4:14:46 AM |

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