Shraddha’s latest play ‘Chaturangam’ (story and script Anand Raghav, direction G. Krishnamurthy) sought to throw light on the problems of Manipur. Throughout the play, two truculent soldiers play chess (chaturangam), the game being a metaphor for the lives of people caught up in the Manipur imbroglio.
The story darts back and forth between the conversation of the soldiers, and the lives of the Manipuris. But who are the pawns? The people of Manipur- who may yearn for independence, but want no truck with the violent groups? The army? In a sense, the politicians are pawns too, for no political party can be seen succumbing to pressure from groups that challenge the country. Will Manipur not be annexed by some other country, once India exits the scene? In which case, aren’t all these players simply pawns in the hands of Destiny? The play didn’t quite present the scene from such a philosophical angle, although it did pose some of these questions and did throw light on the complexities of the Manipur situation.
The chiaroscuro of light and darkness in the play reflected the conflicting emotions of the characters. Interwoven into the miasma of violence was the tender love story of Bijayanthi. In plays of this kind, one has to ensure that there isn’t a prosy effect to the whole thing, and ‘Chaturangam’ failed this test. As a result, although some scenes were imbued with emotional heft, overall, the emotional appeal was swamped by an overload of detail. The back and forth narrative pattern didn’t work. Perhaps a linear narrative might have been better. Although the acting of most of the team was good, it was Girish as the Inspector, who was most impressive with his air of unconcern and supreme indifference to everything.