A darker shade of truth

Jointly presented by Behroopiya and Katyayani at Alliance Francaise this past week, “Tattoo” deals with a theme that shocks the audience, exposing a devilish father who indulges in an incestuous relationship with his two daughters. Written by Dea Loher, a contemporary German writer, and directed by Sohaila Kapur, a seasoned theatre artist, the production is neat and aptly designed. Through a kind of family melodrama, the director’s realistic mode of presentational style allows the performers to reveal their agonised as well as complex psychology in a restrained manner.

There are four characters in the family — father, mother, and two daughters — and one character is an outsider who marries the elder daughter while she is pregnant. On the surface, the family members are leading a quiet life but there prevails an ominous air. The director captures the bitter moments in the life of the female characters when the family dines. The presence of the father is frightening, intensely hated by his daughters and wife, who are too timid to express their anger against him. The daughters are unable to repulse their father’s act of assault. Terrified by her pregnancy, the elder daughter makes efforts to seek out a boyfriend. She succeeds in her mission; eventually she marries the young man.

The entry of the young man impels the action forward. As soon as the father comes to know that his daughter is having an affair and getting married to her boyfriend, he becomes furious. He threatens the young man to get out of his daughter’s life. Despite the dark and menacing shadow of the father chasing them, the young lovers marry with the hope of living happily as husband and wife. Soon the daughter delivers a baby. The young man knows about the biological father of the baby but is magnanimous enough to reconcile with the situation.

An enemy of social morality and ethics as the father is, he enters the house of his daughter when she is alone. Unabashedly declares that he is the biological father of the baby and forces his daughter to return to his house as he is missing her.

Another twist to the story: The younger daughter comes to her sister’s house, beseeching her for protection from the father who has started to abuse her sexually.

The action takes place in three locales — the home of the family, the house of the young man in love with the elder daughter and the street where the young man runs his small business of selling flowers. The shifting of action from one locale to another is smooth. The offstage sounds, lighting effects and music create the right mood, enhancing the grim atmosphere. The intricate and tense atmosphere thus evoked reveals the turbulent inner world of the characters being tormented by a morally debased father who derives sadistic pleasure from the sufferings of his victims.

This is a most provocative piece of theatre, focusing on the abysmal failure of the family as a social institution to protect the daughters from sexual maniacs in the guise of parents and close relatives. These days, newspapers are reporting such incestuous relations which were once considered forbidden, indicting the moral and ethical bankruptcy of contemporary urban society. In a recent report a girl killed her abusive father brutally with the help of her boyfriend. . In Suhaila’s production the female victims are passive, timid and terrified. In fact, the need of the hour is that the victims should retaliate and expose their abusers so that the sanctity of the family can be protected. The play presents the image of a family in which the victims meekly submit to the Satanic force embodied in the character of the father. The boyfriend too is weak to confront the criminal. The climactic scene should have been enacted with intense motivation and dramatic intensity.

Ramesh Thakur as Mr. Wolf, the domineering, brutish and morally debased father, Arti Sharda Nayar as the psychologically wrecked mother condemned to watch the sinful acts of her husband who destroys her daughters’ innocent world, describing his beastly acts as “a tattoo which you will keep my signature for a life, a mark, indelible”, Jyotsana Sharma as Anita, the elder daughter, Sonali Sharma as the younger daughter and Gautam Mehra as the young man in love with the elder daughter bring their characters to vivid life, displaying emotional and psychological complexities.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 2:31:37 PM |

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