The sheep and the bully

A scene from Anshuman Acharya's award-winning play, Bully. Photo: Special Arrangement  

You may think that writer and theatre artist Anshuman Acharya’s play Bully is about bullies. But that is not the only focus of the play. There are multiple threads interwoven in the plot, from the notion of home, to identity, to conflicts between generations. At the rehearsed play reading of Bully, winner of The Hindu MetroPlus Playwright Award, 2014, organised by Toto Funds the Arts, held at Atta Galatta, Lekha Naidu, the director, chose excerpts that brought out the essence of the play.

The first scene opens with Leo and his friend Abbas playing chess. It establishes Leo’s character. He is an Anglo-Indian, of French origin, in Lucknow and runs a bistro. Leo and Abbas grew up in the same orphanage, but each is a foil to the other’s character. While Leo is belligerent, Abbas is meek.

The next scene has Leo visit his eldest son, Antoine, in London, who has done a doctorate in post-colonial literature, and though Leo is proud of his son, there is an underlying tension between them. Leo tries to play matchmaker even as Tony resists his every attempt to do so.

The third scene has Antoine’s friend, visit Leo at his Bistro. And though the scene further brings to the fore Leo’s feelings of superiority — he doesn’t think the friend, who has settled in Australia, is really quite up to the mark, and hardly pays him much attention — the way Lucknow of yore was described through dialogue stood out.

Antoine confronts his father over his mistreatment of his mother and Francois, his younger brother, is powerful, but as an audience member pointed out, the expletives used by Leo to describe his wife made me squirm in my seat. But this is a harsh reality women face. And as Anshuman pointed out, the play highlights how the male ego can be destructive and devastating. What also struck me was how the character of Francois is at the periphery. I was quite intrigued by his character.

Considering that it was a play reading with no make-up and minimal props, the actors played their parts brilliantly. Tarun Agarwal powerfully portrayed Leo, showing restrained anger with alacrity. Abhijit Pakrashi as Antoine was excellent particularly in the scene where he confronts Leo. Swetanshu Bora was a complete natural as the friend. Shrunga B.V. was convincing as the bullied Abbas and Alistar Bennis played the part of a submissive Francois well.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 2:05:26 PM |

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