‘Harvest’, a celebrated play by Manjula Padmanabhan, directed by Nidhi Panicker, was brought to life by the MCH Theatre Club on 29th March 2019. The much-anticipated drama-comedy-sci-fi piece took shape in the Gangubai Hanagal Auditorium in the Manipal Centre for Humanities and invited an excited audience. By six in the evening, curtains were drawn and the stage was set for the opening scenes of the play.
The play began with the amusing bickering of Jaya and her mother-in-law, played by Laya N Kumar and Meena Banerjee respectively. The first few minutes of the drama introduced the audience to the setting and the main characters – a family consisting of the mother-in-law, the husband Om Prakash, wife Jaya, and Jaya’s brother-in-law Jeetu.
The story goes as follows: Om Prakash (played by Abhiram Kuchibhotla) gets a ‘job’ at a rather shady organisation, with an equally fishy name: ‘Interplanta’. Apart from the little information Om reveals about the job, the initially nonplussed audience soon come to realise that Om has pledged to donate his organs to an unknown recipient and that Interplanta is actually an organ harvesting organisation. As grim as it sounds, this is merely the start.
Jaya is clearly not happy with her husband’s decision, but her mother-in-law begs to differ. Om finally meets his recipient through a futuristic video-call of sorts and we find out that she is a rich British woman named Virginia. Gini, for short, is keen on keeping Om healthy and hale and provides anything and everything possible for the family. Her meddling in their affairs changes the family dynamic for the worse. Throughout this process, we see a lot of adult themes addressed, such as the desires and needs of humans, infidelity, and the overall concept of what ‘freedom’ could mean in a near dystopian future.
The biggest twist in the story was kept at the end, when Jeetu, Om’s brother, is forcefully taken away to donate his eyes. Jaya (who is established to have some form of a relationship with Jeetu) grieves at this turn of events. After his return, Jeetu meets Gini through the futuristic video call and is given sight through a device over his eyes (that looks like a VR headset of sorts). He is absolutely infatuated and is ready to donate the rest of his organs without a second thought. Maa gets a portable ‘entertainment system’ where her TV is strapped directly on to her eyes and her daily needs are fulfilled through IV fluids. After Jeetu is taken away, Om leaves to make things right and Jaya is left alone to grieve.
At this point, another twist is revealed- Interplanta has been spying niftily on the family way before any of this had taken shape, and the one person they were truly after is Jaya. And furthermore, the recipient- Gini- is, in reality, a man going by the name Vijay, who has lived by disguising himself with the identities of four other recipients. Vijay, Jeetu, tries to coax Jaya into letting her carry their child. However, the catch is, they can never meet in person. Vijay offers to give Jaya whatever she could possibly dream of, except for the human touch of the one she truly loves- Jeetu.
The play came to a dramatic conclusion when Jaya offers an ultimatum to Vijay- that he should pack his bags and come to Jaya lest she kills herself, annulling his chances of making her bear his child.
The play ended with this dramatic yet grim scene as the curtains closed. The audience cheered for the talented cast. The absolute immersion the audience experienced and the impact the characters left on them, was proven through thunderous applause- of course, one would expect nothing less from the MCH Theatre Club.
-Written by Shalom Antony
-Edited by Niharika Dixith