Theatre

Of the star-struck

A scene from the play.   | Photo Credit: 07dfr taramandal2

“Taramandal” leaves behind a clutch of endearing, enduring images. Amputated ambitions waft through the play, yet keep the mood light. Probably, that's the strength of “Taramandal”. Written and directed by Neel Chaudhuri, the play presented by Tadpole Repertory, recently took home The Hindu MetroPlus Playwright Award. Performed at Akshara Theatre this past week, “Taramandal” boasts some skilful performances, but its bane is its length.

Taking off from Satyajit Ray's short story “Patol Babu, Filmstar,” “Taramandal” burgeons into many tales akin to Patol's fate. If Patol's persistent fascination for acting is smothered by a mere exclamation in a movie, he has many comrades in “Taramandal” — a production predominantly in English with a smattering of Bengali and Hindi. Patol's story runs as the linking thread, as many similar tales of ambition, creativity, heartbreak and disappointment unravel along the way. None of them bog you down by the weight of loss — the lines keep laughter close at hand.

The play opens with Patol's dream turning into a nightmare — an actor/king robbed of his crown. The sentiment is of an aspirant reaching out to his/her aspiration, yet never finding it within grasp.

Creative disenchantment

“Taramandal” arrests creative disenchantment at different levels. For young Madhav it is not being part of the Beatles musical in school. Reba and Sanjeev thrive in picking up instances from life and enacting them. They merge the idea of the real and the imagined. Acting takes them to realms within themselves, hitherto unknown. So when Sanjeev leaves for Mumbai to dabble in acting, it is his creative chemistry with Reba that dies prematurely.

Dushyant tells a familiar tale — of a theatre actor at heart steered to medicine to keep alive family tradition. “There was a genuine effort to convince me that we were the most advanced stage of the species. ‘Doctor man',” he announces to squeals of laughter.

Lavanya, a wannabe actress, and Vicky the agent, give a convincing story of many aspiring actors in filmdom. Devika, the Omniphone model, never rises beyond the only contract she has.

Amongst this profusion of stories, Patol lingers. He is sketched immaculately, but it is Andrew Hoffland who breathes life into him. He is superbly believable as someone who would listen to Mozart in the dark to fit into the character given to him. His starry gaze and his quiet equanimity even when he knows all he has to say is “Oh!” — all delicately bares Patol.

The sets of a few portable boxes and planks work well in “Taramandal.” It evokes a quaint sense of the space, which anyway shifts rapidly. Actors work with military precision after each scene getting in the sets. At times residues and sets from the past scene lingers on giving a sense of the whole. The lights don't play truant either.

But “Taramandal,” at close to two hours, suffers, as those part of it loved it too much to trim it. Silence is a potent weapon in a play; it does have a power that words often don't. But in “Taramandal”, silences have been pampered and stretched. Since all sub stories have a similar fate, editing out one, or pruning the tales wouldn't have tampered with the soul. In the crucial scene, where Patol gives the shot of his lifetime, director Aruna Malik sits with her back to the audience. So when she says, “Clap when we're ready, and please don't say “Action” this time,” the exasperation on her face is left to us to imagine.

Despite the flaws, “Taramandal” succeeds in delving into nooks of an actor rarely seen.


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 5:14:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Of-the-star-struck/article16298756.ece

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