Theatre

The conflict continues

The play Final Solutions. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: mail_grjgm

What do you ask a person, who is arguably one of the country’s finest playwrights of the Indian drama in English, that he has not been asked before? Especially when it comes to Final Solutions — a play about communalism written in 1988, first produced in 1992, and to be staged as part of Live! In August (performed by MYT and Theatre Impresario) this week. But then, Mahesh Dattani is a patient man. After two decades, he’ still game for an interview about his play.

What are your expectations from MYT and Theatre Impresario for Final Solutions , especially since your plays were always directed by (the late) Mithran Devanesan in Chennai?

I’m particularly impressed that a young group chose to do a play such as Final Solutions.

To me, that itself says something about the group: that they’re not just doing a frivolous comedy or trying do something ‘cool’. Mithran himself started as a young man.

If you were to write Final Solution s now, how would it be?

It would be about the political engineering that’s creating the conflict between the North Indians and the Maharashtrians in Mumbai. We as a nation are so terrified of terrorists, we go the other way, and a lot of innocent people are unnecessarily tormented in the name of cleansing the country of terrorism. If I were to do a Final Solutions today, it would be about the conflict between the State and the people.

You use the phrase ‘cleansing the country’. Final Solutions is a Nazi reference, but isn’t the play predominantly about the individual characters rather than the mob?

Any blanket pogrom, no matter how righteous it may sound, whether it is the so-called war against terror, or even slum eradication, displaces people’s lives and is barbaric. Ultimately, drama is about individuals. The cleansing is not discussed in the play because I did not want to write something didactic. I felt the title would give it perspective as part of the metatext while in the text, I could focus on intrapersonal relationships.

The production of which play has been the closest to your vision as a playwright?

The people I work with are the people whose productions I respect, even if they are a little different from the way I perceived them. The most popular production of Final Solutions is not in English, it’s in Hindustani by the Asmita Theatre Group. Critics have also mentioned that the play gains a lot of power because it’s in Hindi / Urdu. I think that’s a great thing.

Have you seen your content evolve with an actor?

In 30 Days of September, directed by Lillete Dubey, Mala was initially played by Nandana Sen. The people who commissioned the play, an NGO called Rahi that counsels victims of child sexual abuse, talked about how there is so much festering inside the victim, it manifests itself in some kind of a physical condition and I remember Nandana had worked in a skin allergy. In very intense moments, she would start scratching her palm or applying some cream, and to me, that was a brilliant physicalisation.

In Final Solutions , there a lot of similarities between Ramnik and Bobby — both are hiding under a façade of secularism. How much do you think this is mirrored by society today?

This whole thing of being liberal-minded and to give the impression we’re above things — that’s a mask we still continue to wear. There are people who feel that belonging to a religion doesn’t mean anything, but more often than not it comes from being made to feel ashamed of who you are. I see that a lot among young people who want to fit in and peer pressure makes them want to change.

It’s been a while since we read a new play by you.

I have just finished a play that is going to be directed by Lillete (Dubey). This is the first time I’m talking about it. The play is about a theatre actor who has lived a life of six decades in the theatre. She’s in her 80s and wants to revive her theatre company.

(Final Solutions, directed by Abhinav Suresh, will be staged at 7.30 p.m. on August 3 and 4 at TN Rajarathinam Auditorium, Durgabhai Deshmukh Road, R.A. Puram (near Adyar bridge). Tickets priced at Rs. 500, Rs. 250 and Rs. 150 are available on www.indianstage.in. Interaction with Mahesh Dattani at 2 p.m. on August 4 at Rani Meyyamai Towers Club House, MRC Nagar, 1 and 2, Greenways Road, R.A. Puram, on a first-come-first-served basis. For details, call 99401-38749)


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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 10:15:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/the-conflict-continues/article3717082.ece

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