The walls of the Gangubai Hangal Auditorium were filled with a multitude of applause following the two centre stage performances by Manipal Institute of Communication’s theatre and dramatics club, Kalamanch, in their grandest production for this semester.
The first performance was an adaptation of the legendary Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar: Sakharam Binder followed by an original script of a brilliantly executed dance-drama called Surpayan.
Sakharam Binder revolves around the life of its namesake, a stereotypical Indian male chauvinist, whose life constitutes primarily of three things: his liquor, his chillum and his women.
Possessing an oppressive and abusive persona, he wholly rejects and looks down upon the institution of marriage. He chooses to instead welcome women who are castoff from their husbands, giving them shelter and food in return for a medium to quench his lust. We watch his life take an unexpected turn when he crosses paths with Lakshmi and Champa, two of his domestic servants.
Drenched in the monstrous colour of lust, Sakharam is a scurrilous daily-wage worker who would not think twice before assaulting a woman. He additionally experiences ego-inflation and would go to any degree to establish his predominance. Easily provoked, his uncontrollable rage is relentless, which is evident in multiple scenes where he mercilessly flogs women who disobey him.
Critical points to Binder’s character include him beating Lakshmi up due to her disapproval of Dawood, a Muslim, praying to Ganesha, him slapping Champa and forcefully making her drink alcohol as she constantly probes him by standing up against his sexual antics and the final scene of him committing the greatest crime known to man: Murder.
The very talented Pranjal Hooda does a great job showcasing the true chauvinistic nature of Binder, yelling and beating his co-actors in such a realistic manner, taking the audience by shock and surprise through every one of his movements.
Majorly victim to Sakharam’s barbarities, Lakshmi is the cliché Indian homemaker. She is ragged and battered by her abhorrent partner and readily surrenders herself to him whenever he sought sexual pleasure. A devout Hindu and an Orthodox woman, she is disapproving Binder’s ungodly lifestyle, coaxing him to change his ways. We watch, through a dream sequence, wherein she proclaims her innate love for the stubborn man. She is seen to be delusional, often talking to her ant friends as well as laughing maniacally on stage.
Akanksha Kimothi is the greatest actor throughout the play, showcasing the true naïve nature of an Indian woman as well as portraying an abusive woman in love through her terrifyingly real screams and pleas that resonated within the walls. She brings the audience to tears at the mere sight of her helpless position.
Champa is the more boisterous and flamboyant one between the two women, to an extent where the contrast between the women is an underlying theme of the play. Unlike the submissive Lakshmi, Champa keeps Sakharam’s lust at bay and dares to stand up against his dominating stature. Her fierce attitude comes from a very abusive background – married off as a child, her husband drugged and raped her. She is seen as a blasphemous outlook by the conservative Lakshmi, because of her drinking habits.
Pooja Parekh, with her witty comebacks and rowdy looks, seized the stage as soon as she stepped foot on stage, on par with the intensity of Binder.
Dawood is Sakharam’s humorous and innocent sidekick and neighbour. He often joins Sakharam, smoking chillum. He fancies the charming Champa, as shown in an adorable scene of his fantasy with Champa. Eventually, a scandalous courtship is hinted between him and Champa, but nothing is certain.
Milind Goyal never breaks character on stage. With his forced hunch and dim-witted outlook, Dawood is justifiably brought to life.
The excessively alcoholic husband of Champa, Shinde isn’t the abusive and assaulting person portrayed by Champa. Throughout the play, he is shown as a heartbroken man, drowned in his alcohol, carries a rose, desperately trying to win his love back. His character brings the humour in a hitherto intense and severe play.
Purva Pathak is definitely the highlight of the play. With her silly accent and drunken slurs, we watched her improvise on stage, and that gave moments for the audience to both guffaw and empathise in equal measure.
Director’s Note: – The questions that this play brings forth in 1972 still remain relevant in the 21st century. When we started directing the play, we hoped to answer these unanswered questions. But with every passing day, we realised that this is exactly the beauty of Vijay Tendulkar’s works. It leaves you with more questions after each time you try to understand it.
– Pooja Parekh and Malavika Nair with Shweta Pal as assistant director
The second performance was a dance-drama, inspired by Kavita Kane’s book ‘Lanka’s Princess’ . An all-female lead is in lieu of Kane’s work, which talked about the life and struggles of Meenakshi, better known as Shurpanakha, Ravana’s sister and the princess of the mythological kingdom of Lanka. The episodes of Ramayana are seen through her perspective.
The play opens with Sutradhar, Milind Purohit, who is our guide throughout the story. He is a voice within Meenakshi. It is followed with a wonderful dance sequence, introducing the graceful and beautiful Meenakshi played by Noopur Bhandiwad.
Throughout the premise of the play, she has an inner dialogue with Sutradhar, lamenting about her state of affairs.
We meet Meenakshi’s husband Vidhyuvija, Samadrita Dey, who is killed almost immediately by her brother Ravana, Riya Jana. Filled with shock and pain from losing her love, we hear Meenakshi scream and cry. Here is one poignant moment where there is an upshift in the premise, where Sutradhar tells her that pratishod (revenge) has brought justice over time.
What follows is the plot of the epic, as an enraged Surpanakha tries to find love again. Thus we’re introduced to a new chapter of Surpanakha’s life, we watch the protagonists of the Ramayana; Rama, Lakshman and Sita played by Aradhika Jain, Samiksha Shetty and Annwesha Shyam respectively, come to life.
Surpanakha is seen to be smitten for Rama and comes begging for him to wed her. In return, Rama shows her his devotion to his wife Sita. Surpanakha follows her luck with Lakshman, only for him to reject her as well. Realising that she is being humiliated, the envious Surpanakha attacks Sita only to get her nose and left ear cut off.
Surpanakha starts plotting to get back at Rama and Lakshman. Upon seeing a deer or Hirana, played by Astha Punj, Sita asks Rama to fetch it for her as she has never seen such beauty before. Ever loving Rama ventures out into the forest to find the deer. But while waiting for him to return, they hear a loud scream of the word ‘Lakshman!’. Knowing Rama, Lakshman brushes off his worries. But Sita’s worried pleas make him go look for his brother, leaving Sita all alone at the hut.
He tells Sita to not leave the hut and draws a boundary of chalk around the property, promising her that no evil shall reach her as long as she stays within the lines.
Ravana, disguised as a mendicant, comes to Sita for some water. Offended when she doesn’t cross the line to serve him, he wishes ill on her. Naive and innocent, Sita crosses the line so as not to hurt the sentiments of the mendicant only to realize that it is indeed Ravana.
Brought to the home of Ravana, Sita keeps pure throughout her while, choosing to wait for her lover to come and take her away.
The highlight of the performance was a dance sequence between Surpanakha and Sita, a striking contrast between the envious Lankan, who desperately longs for fulfilment and the content Sita, who is suddenly deprived of her everything – Rama.
As events do go, Rama makes it to Lanka, performing the famous act of Dusshera, killing the only being that Surpanakha had.
The performance concludes with a mournful Surpanakha, who lost everything and everyone for revenge, screaming the word pratishod.
Director’s Note: – We are usually the ones on the other side of the stage – learning to act and listening to our directors. This is our debut as directors and right from ideating everything to putting up this show, it has taken a lot of effort and perseverance. Nevertheless, we are extremely overwhelmed by the results.
– Samiksha Shetty, Noopur Bhandiwad and Rrishika K.
The play has been entirely scripted by Milind Purohit.
Music and Lighting:
Kalamanch chose to use a multitude of instruments to deepen the effects of the play – the Tabla, Dholak, Melodica, Flute and Manjira were used throughout Sakharam Binder, highlighting monologues, witty dialogues and bringing empathy from the audience towards to soulful characters of Lakshmi and Champa.
Surpayan, however, had multiple songs, effectively portraying the emotions and pain felt by Surpankha through the various stages of her life.
Both plays have gritty and dramatic plots, using excessive amounts of lighting to accompany it throughout the play. Intense scenes were correctly lit with a deep red that brought a sense of suspense and fear throughout the audience while more carefree scenes had colourful hues.
Key lighting moments include the violent beatings and monologues of Sakharam Binder and well as Surpanakha’s dance sequences with Hirana, Vidhyuvija and Sita and the greatest moment of the play – pratishod.
In totality, the plays were beyond what was expected of Kalamanch. With the crew of Kalamanch being comparatively smaller to its counterparts, they have seemingly done just with their work, proving time and again that there exist no obstacles if one is hardworking and ever striving of what they believe in. Each play was enacted out beautifully, with their own tones and humour, own pain and power. They were telling stories that are quite familiar; about men and women, their differences, the ever changing times and the ever constant, i.e, love.
Ending the night with a standing ovation, Kalamanch has yet again earned a place in the hearts of the full-house audience.
~ Written by Melissa Carlo and Rishi Kant for MTTN
~ Photo Credits: Timothy Varghese and Sauveer Sinha