Friday Review

Pulse of the doctor

A scene from the play   | Photo Credit: 12dfrBajel

Started in 2012, Sparsh Natya Rang opened with “Neem Hakeem Khatra-e-Jaan” at Shri Ram Centre this past week to a near-capacity hall, offering the audience a diverting evening.

An adaptation of Moliere’s “The Doctor in spite of Himself” jointly by V.K. Sharma and Amitabh Shrivastava, it is rich in comic situations which the director Ajit Chowdhury has tried to explore. Moliere, one of the greatest comic playwrights and actors of France, exposed religious hypocrisy, the idiosyncrasies of wealthy and the nouveau riches of his time and yet his plays continue to hold the attention of contemporary Indian audience who finds the relevance of his comedies to Indian situation, especially his “Tartuffe” or “The Imposter” with severe satirical comment on imposter in the garb of religious preacher retains its comic freshness.

Helmed by Chowdhury, the young theatre activist and the force behind the Natya Rang, “Neem Hakeem Khatra-e-Jaan” tends to be contrived with a happy ending to entertain the audience with twists and turns. But in a subtle way it exposes the mentality of wealthy bourgeois and the credulity of the common man.

The comedy opens with incorrigible alcoholic woodcutter who is making the life of his family miserable. This is not all. He beats his wife whenever she complains about his criminal neglect of the family and his drinking habit. Disgusted with her miserable life, the wife of the woodcutter decides to take revenge against her husband. Luckily, one day she comes across two servants of a wealthy man desperately searching a good doctor.

The servants tell her that famous doctors of the land have failed to cure the daughter of their master who has all of a sudden become dumb. So they are searching a doctor who should be the greatest of all the doctors.

Pleased with herself, the woodcutter’s wife seizes the opportunity to avenge her husband for his cruelty. She tells the servants that if they are really serious about their search for a doctor, they should go to the forest and get hold of a woodcutter who is actually a doctor. Being a great doctor he is cynical and blatantly refuses to accept that he is a doctor capable of treating patients with incurable diseases.

She tells the servants to beat him mercilessly till he accepts that he is a doctor and merely feigning to be a woodcutter. The servants literally follow the interactions of the woodcutter’s wife and after thrashing him, take him with them to the house of their master. The wealthy man is shocked to see a dishevelled man with quaint habits introduced to him as a doctor. However, he has no choice but to welcome him as ‘a great doctor’ and request him to treat his daughter.

Predictably, the daughter of the wealthy man is feigning to have lost her speaking power. In fact, she is in love with a young man who is poor but her father insists that she should marry only a wealthy person. In hurry to marry off his daughter, he invites suitable young people who reject his daughter on the ground that she is dumb. The way the ‘doctor’ interacts with the girl, her rich father and her nurse, creates comic situations that keep the audience in good humour.

The woodcutter fully enjoys his new status of a doctor which has been thrust on him by force. He even tries to seduce the nurse of the daughter of the wealthy man. One of the servants of the house happens to be the husband of the nurse. The seduction scene makes the situation funny. Chronic patients start visiting the doctor for treatment from far and near.

Director Chowdhury could have made his production thoroughly hilarious if he had brought more energy to the production and employed some farcical elements like physical antics and a little bit of pratfalls in the acting style to make production eminently entertaining. However, some performers give effective performances as comic actors.

Saurabh Pandey as the woodcutter is the main source of humour whose doctor enjoys boastfully his status as a ‘great doctor’, attending patients and receiving money.

In a dialogue he says, “Everyone is obstinately determined to see a great doctor in me.” Ankita Gusain as the wife of the woodcutter exudes the determination, cleverness and a sense of forgiveness of her character in a lively way.

Akhilesh Kumar as the servant of the wealthy man whose wife becomes the object of seduction for the ‘doctor’, Prakash Chander Joshi as the servant of the rich man, Nitin Bansal as the wealthy man and Pushpa Vishwakarma as the nurse manage to impart comic flavour to their portraits.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 1:41:44 AM |

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