Sunday 2 April 2023

'Gharwali' - a play based on Ismat Chugtai's story performed at Andheri (Mumbai) on 01.4.2023

Wife minus marriage

हिंदी में समीक्षा के लिए -   यहाँ क्लिक करके क्रम सं. 14 देखिए 

"Dispose of the marriage for happy conjugal life with your wife" - howsoever absurd and obnoxious the statement goes you will agree to it after watching the play 'Gharwali' - a theatrical presentation of Ismat Chugtai's story. The context in which this story is set takes you to a point where you begin to sympathise with the most fallen and loose kind of woman, Lajo. The whole story puts man-woman relationship vis-a-vis marriage and analyses it with an unprecedented finesse! The hypocrisy of  male-dominance on character front is being peeled off ruthlessly by the storywriter to such a level that you will think hundred times before saying anything demeaning to a woman in general.  A glaringly visible and declared lecherous woman's stature stands much much bigger than a so-called socially acceptable  civilised man. 

The normalised seductive coquetry and loose behaviour with every Tom, Dick and Harry are what you can expect from a girl who could never know what is virginity since she grew. Lajo is such an orphan young woman who is handed over to the shopkeeper bachelor Mirza by his friend. After some hesitations, Mirza allows her to stay at his house as a maid servant. Lajo is young, beautiful and bold and in no time is the cynosure of every male in the surroundings. The glare of her deep black eyes is intoxicating and lips are like hot embers. Her sensual moves can leave everyone hearts quivering. Mirza's air is undoubtedly like a gentleman of the time and how can he like such cheap manners of her housemaid? So he is highly upset.

Before the time Mirza take a firm decision on removing Lajo from his house he is actually himself trapped by her flirtations. Lajo is experiencing like being the owner of the house of Mirza so she is enjoying her stay and in no mood to leave. After the passage of some time, Mirza becomes more possessive about Lajo and is strictly against her companionship with others. So with an aim to claim complete ownership on Lajo he plans to marry her even though Lajo is indifferent on marriage issue. Here one thing is noticeable that Mirza uses to go also to a prostitute Kanjari everyday for his regular gratification. The day he marries Lajo his attaction for her diminishes and he begins to avoid giving time to her though she was expected to stay in full celibacy like a wife. Lajo somehow bears her destiny and obeys the social custom of restrain. So, it is seen that she lost both her flirting entertainment and also the contiguity of her husband and now is being treated like a woman who has no desires of her own and as if she is proud of just getting confined like a wife. One day when Mirza comes to his house untimely he finds his wife is in love talks to the neighbour Mithua. He beats up Lajo badly but even after sustaining injuries Lajo is still loving Mirza. The remarkable aspect in her mind is that whenever other men used her they passed her on to some other man after the use, this nice man Mirza treated her like his own and never allowed to go to others. She is now unused by her husband but his full claim on her is itself enough for Lajo to let the love crop up for Mirza. But on the other side, Mirza is also concerned about his social prestige and he divorces Lajo after giving the 'mehr' of Rs.32. 

Lajo was already not enthusiastic about marriage and so is somewhat happy on getting divorce. She hires a room in the neighbourhood and begins again to live her flirtatious life full of enjoyment. Now Mirza is disturbed as she is her ex-wife and has been raising her stake of love with each and every man in the vicinity. One day, a cleric suggest him that his earlier marriage with Lajo was invalid because her birth is unknown and any marriage or divorce with a person with unknown birth is invalid. People also come to know that Mirza's marriage with Lajo was invalid and so is divorce. Both Mirza and Lajo are happy on this news and reunite to live together again without marrying each other.

Krishna Upadhyay performed the whole story in solo with an incredible finesse. While watching his show one is fully immersed in the story and I can say that cent-percent virulence of social hypocrisy was delivered by Krishna as might have been intended by Ismat Chugtai. His female dance sequence was not just a starter but a true prelude of the events going to happen in the show. The nimble feminine steps and moves combined with waist rolling, finger postures etc. were charming was his whole body as if turned into that of a young dancing belle. When the story proceeded, his facial expressions both as Lajo and Mirza were perfectly matching with the respective character's dialogue-delivery. The toggle between man and woman was so seamless in his acting!

The show performed with least stage properties and settings will be remembered for long for the actor and director Krishna Upadhyay's equal proficiency in expressing male and female sentiments.

Review by - Hemant Das 'Him'
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