Jag ki jo sunta jaega, vo mu ke bal gir jaega. Jag ki nazron se tu na dekh, tu dekh dekh aaina dekh!”
The Aaina Dramatics club of Manipal has once again outdone themselves and proved their merit to the college. For their first production of the new academic year, Aaina presented ‘Double Bill’, a two-play event that took place on Friday, 23rd August in the MIT Library Auditorium. Among the new batch of students who joined the Institute, the event was a prime attraction.
The first play of the evening was ‘Khamosh! Adaalat Jaari Hai’, a Hindi satirical drama revolving around the life and problems of a typical Indian woman in the 70’s culture and society. It portrayed the scrutiny faced by a young woman who took a step towards independence and freedom from the clutches of orthodox social norms.
The second play was an English murder mystery involving a father, three children, and a persistent step-mother- ‘The Scavenger’s Daughter’. As the plot progresses, pieces of the puzzle start falling into place only to be later shattered apart by the investigating detective. Throughout the show, the audience was glued to their seats. The climax was unexpected and thrilling.
Involving the efforts of more than fifty dedicated members, Aaina Dramatics have once again cemented their status as a crew to be reckoned with in theater.
KHAMOSH! ADAALAT JAARI HAI
‘Khamosh! Adaalat Jaari Hai’ is a courtroom drama written by playwright Vijay Tendulkar. The story begins with a group of people who are beginning to stage a play. Since one of the cast members doesn’t show up, a local is asked to replace him. To make him understand the courtroom procedures, a rehearsal is arranged with a mock trial. The rehearsal quickly turns into a gripping drama about desire, gender issues, power, and control and the story quickly takes a twist when the pretend-play suddenly turns into a grim charge as lines are blurred between reality and fiction.”
CAST & CHARACTERS:
Isha Apte as ‘Benare’- The character of Benare was a representation of the classic Indian woman who was looked down by society simply because she refused to follow socially accepted norms. Benare was a teacher who was very much liked and admired by her students, and a young child at heart. Calm, composed and loveable- a fair idea of what a teacher is expected to be. She played the role of the culprit who was being tried in the script of the play which ends up revealing a very grave secret regarding her life.
Isha Apte was without a doubt the most celebrated artist of the evening. Be it as the role of the culprit, or the character of the independent woman who had been betrayed by love, Isha Apte carried a certain grace while shifting between her roles. Most acclaimed feature of her performance was the monologue she delivered towards the end of the courtroom drama scene, wherein she spoke about how a woman’s freedom and trust depended on the goodwill of men around her.
“The scene of the play is set in the 70’s when women who dared to live were looked down upon by the people in her life. Society dictated what a woman should wear and how she should live her life. It felt good to play this character and feel how far we’ve come from then.”, said Isha Apte.
Piyush Pandey as ‘Sukhatme’- Sukhatme was the depiction of a typical underemployed advocate in a social group. He played the role of both the defence lawyer and the prosecutor in the courtroom drama. In both capacities, his arguments were very reasonable and he seemed well-versed with the perks of his profession.
The nicely straightened hair, the casual, lethargic walk, and the lazy tone- Piyush Pandey lived up to his character with perfection. He carried a bold voice with the occasional tones of subtle humour which suited his character well. Another appreciable aspect of Pandey’s performance was his clear enunciation and the variation of expressions.
Abheek Mittal as ‘Samant’- Samant is a young, innocent kid who follows Benare around and seems to have a kind of infatuation for her. He feels nervous around many people and is pushed around by everyone given his obedient character. Regardless of how everyone treats him, he still puts on a smile and obeys their orders.
Even though his role was a small one, Abheek Mittal performed his roles as a witness and as the young boy beautifully. The nervous breaks in his voice and the tinge of blush on his face were distinguished aspects of his act.
Spandan Majumder as ‘Ponkshe’- Ponkshe was a young man who assisted Benare and others in the enactment of the courtroom play. In the skit, he played the part of a well-known scientist at the university and a witness in the case. He had a short fuse and would often burst out on the people around him in Marathi. He was essential in giving a humorous side to the play.
Spandan Majumder’s typical Marathi accent was the best part of his performance for the evening. He played a sufficiently good supporting role in the play.
Ayush Mitta as ‘Rokde’- Rokde is the young and somewhat dumb son of Mr and Mrs Kashikar. He is always the one being teased around by everyone and easily gets cranky about it. At many instances, his own father shows signs of disappointment in his son and the way he is unable to anything correctly.
Ayush Mittal’s facial expressions and his whiny tone were helpful in reflecting Rokde’s annoyance and his desperation to not be teased. This was important in aiding the humour side of the play.
Siddhant Pandey as ‘Karnik’- He is the organiser for the courtroom drama and directs as well as acts in the play. He has some kind of a theatre background and is very proud of himself as the only guy with that kind of experience. He too played the role of a witness in the skit.
A very noticeable feature of Siddhant Pandey’s act was his quirky wardrobe. The purple polka dots shirt and the occasional self-acclamation comments raised a few laughs in the audience. He too played a supporting role in the play: small, yet significant.
Aditya Singh as ‘Mr. Kashikar’- Kashikar was a slightly aged man who held a lot of respect in the society. Everyone looked up to him and his wife for their support and guidance in the skit they were organising. He played the role of the judge and a witness in the courtroom drama. He has a very orthodox mindset about a women’s role in society and criticizes those who try to rise above his beliefs.
Aditya Singh played a very important role in carrying the stature of Mr. Kashikar. The thick, Marathi accent and the agitated look on his face portrayed the typical Indian male in earlier times. Not only were his dialogues well written, but the command in his voice when he spoke to everyone around him was admirable too.
Shreya Bansal as ‘Mrs. Kashikar’- She is a perfect representation of a woman in early Indian society who often lived in the shadow of her husband. Mrs. Kashikar too was very respected by everyone around her and referred to as ‘Aayi’. However, unlike her husband she had a certain charm about her, contrasting to the constant irritability on Mr. Kashikar’s face. She shares her husband’s orthodox beliefs that a woman is supposed to live by certain norms and restrictions in her life; that includes getting married early and take responsibility of a household.
Mrs. Kashikar was a very lively character, and as mentioned above, required a certain charm about it. Shreya Bansal played this part with great sincerity and beautiful poise. Her wardrobe too had a particular elegance to it with the gaudy saree and the nicely arranged ‘gajra’ in her hair. Another appealing part of her acting was the softness in her voice while responding to any of the other characters on stage.
LIGHTS & MUSIC:
The lights setup for this play was simple at most times and suited the scenario on stage. When required, the colour and mode transitions were carried out with great expertise and perfect timing.
The music in this particular play was a little ambiguous at times and unclear what the intended emotion at the time was. Several times throughout the drama the notes played delivered an air of mystery, which at that moment seemed inappropriate and unnecessary. The reality of the plot was not revealed then and the eerie notes definitely did not suit the scene on stage.
For the rest of it, the break in the musical notes and the background music was played efficiently and were well coordinated with the artists as well as the lights.
‘Khamosh! Adaalat Jaari’ Hai was a huge challenge for us since the play is primarily one courtroom scene with all characters on stage at all times. But our work was made much easier because of the hardworking ADs, the extremely talented musicians, and the cooperative cast that we got, and thus we created some amazing memories with each other which we will cherish for a long time. We hope you enjoy watching our play as much as we enjoyed directing it.
-Astha Garodia & Nikhil Dubey
I was very much impressed by the concept of this play and the way it was expressed. I had never witnessed such a play which constantly migrated back and forth between reality and fiction. The directors had done a wonderful job in managing this project and their efforts were clearly visible. It was very easily possible to confuse between the two sides of play had it not been so well defined by the directors.
A special note of recognition to the monologue scene at the end of the play. Everything from the direction and acting to the lights and music was perfectly coordinated and one could feel the emotion in every word that the artist was delivering. The play reminds us to be grateful for living in a time where freedom comes as easily as it does today.
THE SCAVENGER’S DAUGHTER
“The Scavenger’s Daughter explores the impact of senile dementia and mental instability on a single family. When their father John is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, middle-aged Alan, Brian and Connie Pickett find themselves in a virtual war with their step-mother Ruthie, who at every whim – whether ignorance, stubbornness or insecurity – thwarts their efforts to secure John’s care and the family’s financial stability. The beginning of the scene is of a suicide that Detective Maxine Travis senses is really just murder. The play unfolds in police interrogations and a series of flashbacks. Travis must work her way through sibling conflicts, family secrets and a case long cold.
Will she be able to solve the murder mystery? Or does destiny have other plans?”
CAST & CHARACTERS:
Abhinav Borah as ‘Alan Pickett’- He is the eldest son of John Pickett and is seen as the most responsible of all his siblings. In the very beginning of the play he is shown taking care of his sister when she is devastated by their stepmother’s death. He is a professor at a university and is shown to have a respectable position in society.
Abhinav Borah’s expressions and poise certainly played a helpful part in his enactment of Alan. There was a certain coolness in his voice that went well with the character he was carrying. His costume could be considered the most stylish and classy of the cast.
Prishita Das as ‘Connie Pickett’- The youngest of the Pickett siblings, Connie Pickett, is a nervous and shaky person who later turns out to be one of the most important characters of the plot. The play’s climax very much revolves around Connie’s past life- a crime she committed for her protection- the consequences of which would find its way back to her. She is the only one shown to have a decent relationship with her step-mother, Ruthie.
Prishita Das gave a fabulous performance in her role as Connie. The most distinguishing aspect of her performance was the effortless voice modulation and change in expressions. From the nervous, scared sister at the beginning of the play to the fierce, determined step-daughter towards the end, Das managed to grasp the emotion every time.
Avi Giri as ‘Brian Pickett’- He and Alan Pickett have been shown to be the two sides of the same coin. He has the same care and concern for his sick father and his little sister, but has a different way of showing it. Right from the very beginning, he seems to be agitated to be called in for questioning by the police. As a bounty hunter, he has a fair understanding of the law and police department and tries to protect his brother and sister from letting away too much information. There are moments during the play when he can be assumed to be the culprit.
Avi Giri’s walk, posture and tone of voice have adequately suited the carefree character of Brian Pickett. He had donned a very casual wardrobe, which along with his dishevelled hair and makeup gave a very convincing picture to his dialogues. The expressions of rage and the impatience on his face was another aspect very much in his favour.
Spandita Das Sharma as ‘Ruthie Olson Pickett’- Ruthie is the second wife of John Pickett, married for twelve years. While she seems to be devoted and caring towards her husband, a more obsessive and vengeful side of her is seen while she deals with her three step-kids. Her dislike of John’s will to his kids is made very evident in the play. She is the victim in this play, around whose murder the plot revolves.
A slightly grave tone in the voice and a somewhat weakened posture, Spandita Sharma played her role very efficiently. Her enactment of an old woman was very close to perfect, and that of a spiteful step-mother is appreciable as well. Besides these parts of her character, she was able to pull off intimate scenes without a shred of nervousness.
Shivalika Choudhary as ‘Maxine Travis Easley’- Maxine is the detective who investigates the murder of Ruthie Pickett, and she is shown as a fine one too. The way she speculates over every small detail of the Pickett kids, and the way she adapts different tones with all three shows her aptitude at her job. Her character takes a sudden change when the play’s climax comes into picture. An entirely contrasting side of her emerges which proves to be a significant aspect of the play.
Playing the role of Maxine meant an adaptation of two different characters and a swift, effortless transition between the two. Shivalika Choudhary, by all means, has done the same with great efficiency and done justice to the character. Even while she played detective she carried the determined walk, tone and posture for it.
Shaunak Date as ‘John Pickett’- Although much of the plot revolves around John Pickett’s life and well-being, his role in the play is a very small one. He is seen only in the scenes of memory flashbacks as his three children narrate their stories to the detective. John has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s which results in his lack of consciousness at times and his blackouts. He has become weak and is taken care of by Ruthie who had him pulled out of a nursing home for her own reasons.
Shown as a weak, forgetful man the character of John Pickett required a certain amount of adequate gestures. Shaunak Date successfully pulled off the slight tremor in the voice and the feeble walk of his character with ease. His wardrobe and makeup too suited the idea of an old, forgetful and ailing man.
LIGHTS & MUSIC:
Aaina musicians had done an exceptional job to keep up the air of mystery in the auditorium. Throughout the play, a thin note of threat and mystery echoed around, which had a certain grasp over the audience. Along with this, a distinct chime could be heard whenever there was an unexpected twist in the plot. This again was very well suited to the scene, story and the setting. The one error that could be noted was that at times the background tunes would overshadow the dialogues of the characters on stage. Parts of the conversation would go unheard which could have affected the audience’s understanding of the plot.
The lighting setup for the play was well arranged. There were no flashy changes or unnecessary shine on the stage. The few transitions which were there were smooth and in perfect sync with the background music. As and when the notes varied, the colour and brightness of lights followed accordingly. It was appreciable the way lights were managed to capture scenes of both, the present and the past.
It’s been a beautiful journey for both of us throughout alongside our amazing ADs and cast. We created amazing memories and learnt a lot in the course of these few weeks. The play will always be cherished since it was a great experience for us. Hope you all enjoy watching the play as much as we have enjoyed creating it.
-Abhinav Tewari & Angkrish Gural
As much as I felt engrossed in the plot, there were moments when the mystery of the crime did not appear that mysterious to me. Given that the number of suspects in the plot were very few, it was tough not to make a calculated guess after a certain point. The performance of the entire cast and crew was quite admirable, but I would have liked it much better if the plot would thicken just a little bit more.
Written by Tejas Mishra for MTTN.
Photography by Sauveer Sinha for MTTN.