Navigating the concrete jungle

Disturbing details: A scene from “Uble Daane Toast Par”

Disturbing details: A scene from “Uble Daane Toast Par”  

The Hindi adaptation of Girish Karnad’s “Boiled Beans on Toast” depicted human condition in a metropolis

In Delhi, we have seen most of the plays of playwright Girish Karnad. However, his “Boiled Beans on Toast” was staged for the first time in Delhi by Final Year students of National School of Drama at Abhimanch auditorium recently.

Mythology, history and folk theatre are the main source of Karnad's creative world, as a dramatist. Arguably, in the play under review, he depicted human condition in a metropolitan city for the first time. In terms of structure and tone, it transports us to a concrete jungle, inhabited by people who belong to different social classes with different motives and social consciousness. Most of them suffer from insecurity, nursing the illusion to make it big in a class divided society. Each class has a story to tell about its ambitions, hardships and struggle.

The play, “Uble Daane Toast Par” in Padmavati Rao's Hindi translation, opens in the house of a successful businessman, a self-made man. His wife and her friend Dolly are seen talking about some social issues. Simultaneously, we watch a smart domestic help performing routine domestic chores swiftly, skilfully, enjoying herself while doing her work. She has won the confidence of the lady of the house.

Unconventional character

At another space, Kunaal is engrossed in playing his musical instrument who is hardly bothered about family business. In a brief conversation with his mother, it is suggested that he is a rebel against values and ethics of a business house and conventional sexual norms. Enters Prabhakar, a young man who is in a hurry and desperate to impress his employer. He requests to meet the head of the family, his employer, who has asked him to meet him at his residence for an urgent work.

Having hailed from a rural area, he has got this job only recently and is staying with his wife in the city, dreaming of a bright future. When told that the boss is away from home for business purpose, he is disappointed. Dolly observes this ambitious young man, comes closer to him, praising him for his intelligence and dynamism, promising to provide him with great opportunity he is truly cut for. The mirage Dolly projects before Bhaskar mesmerises him. He leaves his job, sells his land and forces his wife to go back to village as he is going abroad. This misadventure ruins him. In a violent confrontation with Dolly, he demonstrates that he is ruined but not broken.

In the denouement, the focus is on Kunaal interacting with her mother. The mother was once a singer who lost her ability to sing. She meets a young man, and regains her singing ability. Their relationship ends after a few years. The mother remains silent when Kunaal asks some uncomfortable questions about the nature of the relationship between his mother and the young man. However, she replies in a candid manner, "He left her saying there is no point in staying with a married woman." The scene is treated in a restraint manner, revealing the disillusioned, lonely, bored and empty life of the rich in a metropolis.

Dramaturgy is by Himanshu Joshi who interpreted the script to the performers in the rehearsals. The play is directed by Robijita Gogoi with sensitivity. The set, designed by Rajesh Singh, reflects ingenuity both in conception and execution. There are multi-focus points which allow more than one scene to be staged at the same time. Though there are several layers, shifting of action from one layer to another is seamless. Upstage, at the height of nearly ten feet, there is a platform. On this space are set scenes where the shady world of urban lumpen elements are enacted. This space is also used to watch the race to create the illusion of fast racing horses in the distance. The mise-en-scene enables the director and her dedicated student cast paint characters, their eccentricities, morbidity and illusions with intensity and dramatic force.

Paalin Kabak as Kunaal creates the portrait of a rebel youth with subtle touches. Masood Qadir Malik’s Prabhakar displays tenacity to rebuild his fate in the metropolis despite being ruined by a sadistic lady of high society. Payal Amar Pande as the shrewd and smart domestic help and Amir Khan as a policeman give highly satisfying performances.


In the story, “The many facets of Hari”, published in these pages on January 17, the title of the third biography of Hariprasad Chaurasia should read as “Breath of Gold” and not as mentioned. The error is regretted.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 8:23:38 PM |

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