Theatre

Tender and tragic

A scene from the play   | Photo Credit: 23dfrBajeli

Satish Anand is a versatile stage director, actor and playwright. Beginning his theatrical journey from Patna, he explored traditional folk theatre of Bihar and gave a new life to these forms which were on the verge of extinction and invested them with contemporary sensibility. He gave theatrical expression to popular Bidesiya to evolve a contemporary theatre which came to be known as Bidesiya style. His exploration of folk and traditional forms enabled him to stage Bertolt Brecht’s plays using folk elements.

His latest presentation “Gadal” which was presented by Abhinav Bharti at Mukatadhara recently is a tender, tragic and heart rending love story of two adults.

“Gadal” is essentially a short story written by eminent Hindi writer Ranghey Raghav which is dramatised by Suman Kumar known for stage adaptation of short stories and novels. To transform the story into an effective dramatic format, he has created a few characters and situations that help to explore the inner conflict of the characters in a social milieu that has formulated its own code for its people. In this process Suman has reinforced the dramatic conflict and the thematic core of the story. An aptly rehearsed production, the director has captured the tragic world of two adult people, who love each other from the depth of their hearts but not able express it, with remarkable sensitivity, restraint and poignancy.

The opening scene itself is engaging, evoking a sense of curiosity about what happens next. We watch a young man forcibly dragging a woman who resists and curses her tormentor. Later, we know that the young man is the son of the woman who has remarried a man much younger to her after the death of her husband.

Set in the rural landscape of Rajasthan, the action takes place in modest rural house which seems to be belonging to people of a marginalised farming community. Two young ladies who are the daughters-in-law of the woman dragged by her son pour scorn on her for remarrying a young man of lower caste. A middle-aged man is sitting at some distance. He is forlorn and in a muffled voice he tells the young man to stop dragging the woman. There is pain, repentance and compassion in his voice. His name is Dodi and is the brother-in-law of Gadal. He asks Gadal why she remarried. She says, “You are responsible for it. I have loved you since I saw you at the time of my marriage with your brother. You are a widower and you should have come forward to marry me.” Dodi remains silent. Gadal leaves for her new husband’s house surreptitiously in the night when everybody is asleep.

Defying all norms of her community, she appears to be happy with her second husband, young and full of life. One evening a neighbour of her husband reveals the news of the death of Dodi. She is shocked. Suppressing her emotions, she starts to visit her home to mourn the death of her brother-in-law. But the new husband bluntly refuses her permission to leave his house.

He says, “Now you belong to me. You have nothing to do with your former husband’s house and his kith and kin.” However, in the night she runs towards her home as if in a frenzy to mourn the death of her brother-in-law. Her lamentations are heart-piercing. She is determined to organise a grand feast in honour of her deceased brother-in-law defying the government order to limit the number of guests. A confrontation between the police and Gadal ensues.

To heighten the emotional ebb and flow of lovers’ emotions and their suppressed love, the director has used offstage music of folk ballads of Rajasthan popularly called Dhola which expresses love tale through music that evokes a whole gamut of human emotions. The shattered world of Dodi and his inability to expresses his love for Gadal is conveyed through folk music. He becomes morose, silently listens to the sad melody of Dhola sung by folk singers outside his house and breathes his last while listening to the music. The folk music, musical instruments and the costumes designed on the pattern of Rajasthani dress contribute the right ambience which enables performers to penetrate the agony of love which remains unexpressed.

Hema Sharma as Gadal imparts to her character a great deal of emotional power. She makes her climactic scene memorable when her Gadal fatally wounded with police bullet retaliates with a gun so that the feast organised in honour her brother-in-law continues. Her defiance of police and government orders culminates in her death transforming her character into a tragic heroine. Saurabh Bhati as Dodi, acts in a restraint manner bringing to the fore the agony of a lover unable to express his love. A picture of melancholy, he makes Dodi’s love for his sister-in-law noble and divine. Anil Yadav creates credible portrait of Moni, the second husband of Gadal, who is jealous, vindictive and conspires to spoil Gadal’s grand feast in honour of her deceased brother-in-law.

Correction

In the story, “A tribute so touching”, published in these pages on January 2, it was mentioned that “Aazar Ka Khwab” by Begum Quidsia Zaidi was presented by Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Mumbai. In fact, the play was presented by Academy of Theatre Arts, University of Mumbai.” The error is regretted.


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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 10:23:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/tender-and-tragic/article6811928.ece

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