Thursday 7 September 2023

"Laadki" - Gujarati play staged in Chawpatty (Mumbai) on 3.9.2023

 A daughter in father's lap

( हिंदी में समीक्षा के लिए -   यहाँ क्लिक करके क्रम सं. 31  देखिए )

The surgeon knows well that the probability is much less than perhaps 0.01% but a father is confident that his daughter will emerge from the surgery alive and completely healthy. A surgeon is a surgeon and a father is a father but alas! Both are the same person in this case. 

Never get confused with what is conspicuous in the script. Try also to read what is not written. See also what is not shown. And I tell you what is that. God is just another name of love. He has different forms for different persons. And for a loving doctor-father his patient-daughter is God. Saving her life is the biggest worship he can do. It is his staunch belief that his God can never die notwithstanding what the statistical probability is. He rejects to participate in religious rituals because he believes that there is no such hopeless case in his daughter's treatment that one should pray Almighty. He is the best surgeon in the world with 100% success track record and so his surgical treatment must work in the case of his daughter too.

A world-renowned surgeon has a very playful daughter whom he loves too much. He has amassed a good wealth which he wants to spend in his daughter's marriage. This news comes to a mafia and the extortion game turns bloody in which the daughter suffers bullets hits from her back. The bullet is at a very sensitive point on the spinal cord and as the medical team believes even if it is removed she would not survive the complications out of it. The daughter knows the futility of her treatment and pressurises her father to discharge from the hospital. The father knows that a patient who is already on various kinds of medical support in the hospital would not survive long after the discharge. So he denies to discharge even to the utmost chagrin to the daughter. On this the daughter files a case through her boyfriend and the court sentences in her favour.

Just the  moment the daughter comes in the house her father begins to beg to her to accept the forthcoming surgery so that the attempt to save her life should be made in full sense. But the daughter knows it is futile and she is going to die soon anyway either after or without surgery. So she decides not to undergo surgery. But the father is adamant. Seeing the father's sentiments, the daughter agrees for the surgery but before that she requests her boyfriend to marry her so that her father's duty is fulfilled on this vital social obligation. The wheel-chaired daughter wears red 'chunari' for marriage and the boyfriend puts vermillion on her forehead. She asks where is her darling father who wants her go get the surgery. Her mom and other say that he is the operation theatre and is waiting for her from there. On this, she allows her to be taken to the operation theatre. Just after her departure from the house, her father is seen sneaking out of his bedroom and wading through with heavy steps towards the operation theatre. Actually he wanted to ensure that the daughter has given the consent for the surgical operation. After all, it was going to be perhaps a journey to, God knows life or death. 

After the surgery, the scene becomes too poignant. Many inattentive viewers would again see what is shown. But the context is totally different. What is being shown is not intended to be taken on its optics value. The scene shown was that the surgeon-father is beseeching his wheel-chaired daughter to stand on her feet, come to his lap and let him fondle her as he used to do in her early childhood. It is also shown that there happens a trembling in her whole body and slowly she becomes normal and actually wobbles her way to the lap of her father. The moment she reaches there, her father dies. This scene is symbolic. Actually a discerning viewer might have seen that the father's love to his daughter remained alive and became healthier but his confidence that love can change impossible to possible dies.

Among the hundreds of plays watched by me in the last nine-ten years this was one which moved me from within and left absolutely helpless in keeping myself composed. The show was a live testimony of the fact that drama is the strongest medium of conveying a feeling. In the last scene, the way the protagonist called on his daughter to come to his lap was not an acting but like an exudence of a soulful poem into action. I bow to the excellence of this exceptionally talented actor! This pithy scene was elaborate and in fact,  incorporated all the essentials of the play. And it all was nothing but the sheer, unbound, selfless love of a father to his daughter.

This play shows a fight of a father to a surgeon, a fight of feelings to facts. A human life is not like a car which runs simply on petrol. A human life is wait, excitement, pain and danger of a journey.  This  goes much beyond the maps, itineraries and fuel. If you feel it you live otherwise you are just spending your days. 

A legal buff will find the script vulnerable on many counts of ethical and human right issues. After all, what a father-cum-doctor was doing? He was forcefully trying to keep the patient within the hospital against her will. And the pressure was so hard that the patient had to seek the judicial remedy. Even after she was lucky enough to get a judicial favour and so discharged from the hospital, the pressure was again mounted on her for undergoing a surgical operation which she absolutely hated.

But the stunning aspect of the wrangle was that the love between father and daughter was not diminishing and still got growing even in midst of their confrontational stances. The father and daughter both knew that she is going to die soon anyway without a regard to whether she is kept in the hospital or she undergoes the surgical treatment. The daughter wanted to enjoy the normal love and pleasures in her last days but the feelings of a father-surgeon was not giving way. His optimism was alive till his daughter was and so he was not ready to let any stone unturned in making his daughter cured. Even if the chances of success was too meagre he wanted to take because of his staunch optimism towards his daughter. 

Though the playwright has tried his best to come out scot-free on ethical ground and has perhaps succeeded in getting a narrow escape. This is because the doctor-father went to the operation theatre only after ensuring the consent of his daughter. But again, whether the question is not here as she might have given consent under emotional duress of her father? Whether she did not know that she was going to die instantly and whether that was not the reason she married her boyfriend before the surgery so that the father should be freed from the guilt-feeling that he could not marry off his daughter.

I find no words to express the excellence of the playwright's work. Such a masterpiece in a regional language is simply a boon for the whole humankind.  The name of playwright is Vilopan Desai and the director of the show was Dharmesh Vyas. The artists who acted were Pratap Sachdev, Gazal Rai, Hitesh Upadhyay, Sharad Sharma, Sanjivani Sathe and Rajkamal Deshpande.

Full credit goes to the playwright and the protagonist of the play. The direction was powerful which kept the viewers engaged throughout the play and let them feel it like the real life story in their neighborhood. The sombre outlook of the play was successfully tuned down to the normal, time to time with the natural comedy scenes of the nurse in the hospital and the uncle in the house. I have already mentioned about the acting of the protagonist in the sixth para above. Had the  daughter not matched her father in delivery of her acting skills it would not have been possible for the protagonist (doctor) to take the play to the new skies of emotions. Her acting was actually more challenging because she had to remain bed-ridden for most of the time. But the director made her bed half-risen from the back side which allowed the viewers to make an eye-contact with the vital character of the play. Other actors who acted as the patient's boyfriend, mother, uncle, aunt, don and goons also did their stints in a meaningful manner. 

This play will lie in the memory of the viewers like a cherished memory for lifetime. 

Review by- Hemant Das 'Him'
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