Theatre

A family story

A scene from the play.   | Photo Credit: 29dfr bajeli2

Ravi Teneja has been actively engaged in the amateur theatre movement in Delhi for the last three decades. As an artistic director of Collegiate Drama Society, he is carrying forward the legacy of the late Prof. C. D. Siddhu, who had authored about 40 full-length plays in Punjabi and popularised theatre in multi-languages – Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu and English – with his band of young enthusiastic university students. Apart from staging Prof. Siddhu’s plays, Ravi is participating in seminars organised by the Punjabi departments of various universities on the vast body of dramatic works of Prof. Siddhu, who is considered a trend-setter in Punjabi dramatic literature and theatre. Following in the footsteps of Prof. Siddhu, Ravi directed Mohan Rakesh’s “Adhe Adhure” as “Halfway House” in Bindu Batra’s English translation for Collegiate Drama Society which was presented recently at Shri Ram Centre in New Delhi. A few months ago Ravi staged Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters at the auditorium of Russian Cultural Centre, Ferozeshah Road in English. The production was neat, the dialogue well spoken but it could not bring to the fore the deeply disturbing soul of the play. However, “Halfway House” was intensely gripping from start to end. The director has thoroughly rehearsed his production with the young cast truly living their parts.

Mohan Rakesh, the tallest playwright in Hindi, had mastered his art and craft. He also had the good fortune of being closely associated with leading theatre directors like Shyamanand Jalan of Anamika, Kolkata, Om Shivpuri of Dishantar, Delhi and Rajinder Nath of Abhiyan, Delhi. This close interaction with these practitioners enabled him to master the intricacies of stage craft and the necessity of creative collaboration between the director and the playwright to write a perfect script for the stage. He had evolved a new theatrical language and his dialogues are skilfully chiselled, economic and pregnant with deep meaning. Bindu Batra in her English translation has captured the vigour, the economy and freshness of the original. Ravi's cast has delivered them aptly.

Over the years, “Adhe Adhure” has been directed by eminent theatre directors like Shyamanand Jalan and Amal Allana. It continues to fascinate young directors. Every year we watch one or two productions of this play on Delhi stage with varying successes.

The play depicts a dysfunctional family. The sole breadwinner of the family is the mother, Savitri, and her husband Mahendranath is a parasite. The son, Ashok, is unemployed who has no intention to look out for a job. He is a kind of a rebel without a cause. The elder daughter, Binny, has eloped with Manoj, a one time lover of the mother. Her relations with her husband are cold and both are indifferent to each other and she loathes staying with her husband and returns to her mother. The younger daughter, little Kinny, remains all the time in a defiant mood and frequently remains absent from home and constantly reprimanded by family members for her erratic behaviour. In fact, she is lonely and victim of neglect by the family. It is a house at war against itself. It is a kind of a hell from which there is no exit.

To impart a touch of irony, the name of the mother is Savitri. The mythological Savitri finds her life without her husband, Satyawan, meaningless and no purpose to stay alive in the event of the death of her husband. In the play the modern Savitri tries her best to get rid of her husband so that she could live in peace. She is desperate to discover a perfect man. In the process the men that come to her life are Jagmohan, Juneja, Manoj, Singhania who are all successful with social status and wealth and honour. In comparison, her husband is nincompoop, wretchedly poor and brute. Her much maligned husband Mahendranath tries to liberate himself from his family to get rid of perpetual disgrace but deep down in his rotten family there is something that brings him back to the family-it is his undying love for Savitri who hates him from the bottom of her heart.

Using symbolic set, Ravi has freed his production of heavy props providing his actors enough space to act freely, enabling the audience to focus on actors. The play is a series of confrontations which director has aptly projected, one confrontation leading to another maintaining rhythm and pace to lead the action to a climax which is deeply affecting.

Geeta Ahuja as Savitri gives a restraint performance which makes the inner turmoil of her character to reveal effectively. With suppressed anguish and nuanced pauses, she delivers these lines – “All of you… Every one of you… All alike! Exactly the same. Different masks, but the face…? The same wretched face… Every single one of you…” Geeta’s Savitri finally comes to the heart-breaking conclusion that all men are same – imperfect, incomplete-wearing masks of respectability. To be in tune with the leitmotif of the play, Ravi Taneja plays the roles of Mahendrantha, Juneja Singhania and Jagmohan delineating them with panache, bring to the for their different idiosyncrasies. Pooja Tiwari as Binny, the unhappy elder daughter, Naveen Gupta as Ashok and Lalita as Kinny give credible performances.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 12:32:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/a-family-story/article7256192.ece

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