FRIDAY REVIEW

Breaking news, making news!

Socially relevant “Breaking News”

Socially relevant “Breaking News”  

ROMESH CHANDER

Avijit Dutt’s “Breaking News” is worth a watch.



Founded by Joy Michael, Rati Bartholomew, Roshan Seth, Sushma Seth and Marcus Murch in 1964, Yatrik Theatre remains a noteworthy name in Indian theatre today. Michael steered the group for almost four decades. She handed over the reins of the group to Sabina Mehta Jaitly and now Prakash Bhatia leads as the director. And if life begins as they say in the 40’s, Yatrik with its latest play, “Breaking News” written and directed by Avijit Dutt has just begun to express itself.

Avijit, a theatre activist, shifted to Delhi from Kolkata in 1983. He has directed and acted in over 30 productions in English, Bengali and Hindi. He co-dramatised and directed “Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa” with Shyamanand Jalan and did theatre workshops. His first play in Delhi, if one remembers right, was “Queen & the Rebels”, directed by Bhaskar Ghose for Yatrik. In the next few decades one watched Avijit’s work both as a director and an actor. Productions like Brecht’s “Three Penny Opera”, Dario Fo’s “About Face” and “Virtuous Burglar”, Hanif Qureshi’s, “Borderline” and Peter Weiss “Musibat ka Mishra Murari” were memorable. His roles in “Mahabhoj”, “Death and the Maiden”, Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” and in the Dario Fo plays are unforgettable. His ability to work in Hindi and English gave him a special focus.

Best experienced is his “I’m Not Sheikh Chili” which went on to be one of Sahitya Kala Parishad’s plays of the year for 2005. Gradually, we saw the evolution of Avijit the playwright with “Bamboo Flower” (a time in the North East when the bamboo flower blooms and hunger reigns, the Mizo National Front was born in one such period); “Bombay! Bosnia!” on the Bombay riots of 1993. He was also seen in the street play written by him “Mahatma Mar Gaya” a protest against the religious polarity and politics of hatred. This was the only time Yatrik went to the streets performing with regularity in the distressed colonies.

Mature work

“Breaking News” to one’s mind is his most mature work so far. Using all elements of multi-media, the play shows the inner workings of television news. With biting humour and sarcasm the play depicts how our imaginations are held captive by TV and in search of eyeballs how they not stop at nothing. Strangely the farce becomes reality when political fates are decided based on the maps laid out on TV. In the play, a State minister comes on to the reality show ‘Maya’ and realises he will not be able to last in his constituency. So he makes a break for it. The show has no protagonist now but the channel has to hold on to the viewers, so the false evidence and political plants of subterfuge begin tumbling out. Balwaan Singh the minister flees to the house of a failed writer, whose wife incidentally has a score to settle with the minister!

Dhruv Jagasiya as the minister, Neeraj Yadav as the politician, Prakash Bhatia as the chief of police, Abhay Manas as the journalist and Avijit as the failed writer were impressive. Of the women Simriti Kalra as the anchor, a new find and Priyanka Jhijaria were outstanding.

On the opening night the ending seemed a little abrupt and philosophical with the playwright pondering about memory. One felt the end was rather weak and the next day this critic discussed it with Avijit decided to change the ending. The play now works much better. “Breaking News” must be kept alive for it is a must for all those who may have missed it.



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