Shakespeare revolutionised theatre and brought shades of grey to its traditional forms. He portrayed human nature as a spectrum of thoughts, beliefs, and ideas. Modern theatre works along these lines, where the theatre is not simply a reflection, but a source of reform and awareness. The confusion in the hearts of people is constantly portrayed, and the art itself is becoming a form of reckoning. Aaina dramatics, in its recent event ‘Double Bill’ put up 2 such plays:‘The Cockroach Collector’ and ‘Tara’.
The first play of the night, was ‘The Cockroach Collector’, a one-act play by Anushka Ravishankar. The play began with a conversation between a girl, Alka, and her mother. They talk about Mano, Alka’s brother who collects cockroaches for a hobby though nobody knows why.
Amit (Devansh Sood) enters to meet Alka (Khushbu Tiwari) and her mother (Aishani Lotliker). He provides the 3rd person point of view into this family’s nature. Amit also interacts with the playwright on stage, adding to the comic element, and maintaining an amount of randomness to the play which grabs attention. Amit’s interaction with the brother sets the plot into motion. It is revealed that Mano protects cockroaches because everyone looks at them with contempt and disgust and only wants to kill them. The cockroaches soon become a metaphor for humans and human lives. Mano, in gory detail, describes the killing of a man while referring to him as a cockroach, and later so does Alka. Amit breaks under the pressure of the realisation, and he kills a cockroach. The play ends with Mano killing him in a fit of fury, and Alka pointing out that his blood is white, that he too was a cockroach.
A line in the play by Alka “… Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die” from the poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, references the soldiers during the Crimean war who were brainwashed into accepting their fate and charging ahead to a war of certain death. Both these metaphors bring out the futility of war and the degeneration of humanity.
The play had a brilliant tempo and was engaging. Notwithstanding the strong script of the play, the actors did a brilliant job at the delivery of dialogues. Raza Mehdi did an exceptional job at portraying the disturbed child, Mano. It was convincing, to the say the least and it was clear that something was definitely fishy, and that he had a greater reason to collect cockroaches. While the lights had minor glitches, there was nothing too noticeable, and the overall quality of the play and acting more than compensated for it.
Dhananjay and Shiv did an unparalleled job at directing this play, adding elements at every point that enhanced the nuances of the complicated emotions. The play doesn’t tell us what happened to Mano and Alka, but it did leave the audience with the thought that violent events can change people forever.
The second play of the night was a two-act play written by Mahesh Dattani, a playwright famous for making hard-hitting and soul-shuddering plays.
This play is the story of Siamese twins, a medical marvel. While most Siamese twins die an early death, they had survived against all odds. The central character of the story is Tara, the girl twin. She was headstrong, outspoken, brilliant and sharp. At the opening of the play, the family has just moved back to the city of Bombay, where the twins’ surgery took place many years ago.
As the story progresses it is made clear that something dark happened in the past. The mother, Bharti (Avani Mogadala) seems to be overcompensating for something and tries to make it clear that Tara (Saman Khan) would always need her. The boy – Chandan- on the other hand, is more independent and creative.
The family of four people remains rather dysfunctional, with the father not participating much. Bharti falls ill, and the father unfolds the truth of the past. Tara is uncontrollable and needs to know the reason behind the secrets and restrictions around her. The story has an underlying tone of misogyny and daughter-hate, not from the father, but from the grandfather, on whose insistence the third leg of the Siamese twins was given to the boy, whose body could not sustain it, even when the girl’s could have. She was also left nothing from her grandfather’s will while her brother inherited everything.
After many years when the brother recalls this tale, he receives the news of his mother’s death. Tara is long gone and now he feels rather at ease. There is nothing left for him in India. Being settled abroad, he decides to never go home to this hateful place. These truths are sharp, and regardless of how developed we have become, instances such as this make us realise the fickle and futile nature of society.
Mahesh Dattani stories are very hard to pull off and the team that did such a laudable job in the play deserve kudos. Dipro and Anvesh stood out as the directors of this story and a keen eye was given to detail. Pratyush (Chandan) and Saman had an enjoyable chemistry, which never appeared forced. Suryansh and Avani too brought out the conflict with comfort and did a great job at setting the premise of the play. The lights had minor glitches and in all probability, a few scenes could have been made in softer colours. The most admirable aspect is that this play, like the other, was practised and perfected in a week. It is ambitious to attempt a Dattani play in such a short span of time, but their gutsiness paid off and brought beautiful results.
Both plays picked on the evils of society but remained short and catchy. They were not stretched out and were kept crisp with the actors, juniors and seniors alike, stealing the show. They have declared with booming voices, that talent is not only innate but can also be nurtured, developed and made perfect.
-Qais Akolawala for MTTN