Theatre

Violence robs innocence

#Supernova is a gut-wrenching play on child trafficking and sexual abuse

As middle-class India turns a blind eye, human trafficking continues unabated. Every year, thousands of women and children, from small towns and remote villages, are trafficked. While mainstream films have failed to highlight this issue, theatre has.

In a recent production, #Supernova, a play written by Rahul Rai, and directed by Abhishek Majumdar, brought alive the gut-wrenching reality of child trafficking for sex. The play opens with a young boy, Santosh being whipped and brought to submission by the client who wants to engage in sex with him. Back home in Gorakhpur, Santosh’s father is in desperate search for his son.

The fast-paced play reaches a crescendo with deeply disturbing violence. At many instances, I wondered if some scenes ought to have been so graphic, if it could have been toned down. But even though it is a fictional play, #Supernova is representative of a shameful reality. It was unbearable to think that even as we watched the 90-minute production, a child, somewhere, lost and terrified, might be facing a similar fate. The reality is that even as we are numbed by our lotus-eating lives, isolated by technology, trafficking happens in our backyards.

The set design created an ambience of horror, heartlessness, and brutality of clanging chains and cold, hard steel. The soundscape, created by Nikhil Nagaraj and M.D. Pallavi, has clearly set a benchmark for theatre. Well-thought out and executed, the sound created an ambience of a range of moods, alternating between ruthlessness and a longing for lost humanity.

It was, however, the stunning performances by Sandeep Shikhar and Avneesh Mishra that stole the show. It is hard to put in words the depth of Sandeep’s performance, combining the innocence of a supernova-loving Santosh and the unbearable emotional and physical turmoil of exploitation. Avneesh Mishra took the audience through the mind of a ruthless sexual offender, who doesn’t always seem like a monster, but who, at turns, can be seductive, using love as manipulation. Rahul Rai’s script is basic with a terrific plot. The only glitch was the ending — it could have been better rounded.

The third performer in the play is the audience, which lent a layer that hits at the root of our collective complicity. Indian Ensemble is known for highlighting socio, economic, and religious issues in their productions, and with #Supernova they have taken it a notch further as it blends theatre and technology with rare excellence.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 9:49:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/violence-robs-innocence/article18723089.ece

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