Thursday 12 October 2023

"The Caretaker" - English play staged in Versova (Mumbai) on 7.10.2023

 A maze of blind alleys

( हिंदी में समीक्षा के लिए -   यहाँ क्लिक करके क्रम सं. 36  देखिए )

Whatever you wish is certainly not going to happen. The maze of tantalization will lure you all the way but nothing will come in your hand. 'Uncomfort' is the biggest norm in today's human society.. To brag about is the only implement available to you for solving all the trickiest problems in your life. These are some of the ideas in a nutshell that emerge from the play "The Caretaker" written by Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize winner in literature for 2005.

A homeless bearded old man Davies is given shelter in the house by Aston, a man who is suffering from the aftereffects of severe electrical shock therapy he has undergone in his past life. The damage of some part of  brain has converted him farcically into a more compassionate man. The moment Davies puts his steps in, he begins to criticise vehemently the unkemptness of the house and several other matters. Moreover, he keeps bragging about himself. He complains about his bed, about the seeping roof and about the wrapper he would put on his body. Aston tries to solve all of his problems and even pleads his brother Mick who is the actual owner of the house for making that homeless a 'Caretaker' of the house. Mick has already knocked down Davies badly on the presumption of he being  an intruder. But Davies being an ever-changing man succeeds in satiating the ego of Mick to the level that he agrees to make Davies the caretaker of his house. Now Davies think himself a king and takes no time in challenging his original rescuer Aston that he cannot throw him out of the house since he is now an appointed 'Caretaker' of the house by the actual owner Mick. Moving ahead, Davies has the impudity of mocking at Aston forgetting all the vital help he received earlier. While talking to Mick in friendly terms he whispers against Aston many a times. This is too much for Mick and after a fresh round of thrashing he throws Davies out of his house. Now when Davies begs for help to Aston there is no response comes from his mouth while he continually stares out of the window.

Before we discuss about the play we should be ready beforehand that we are entering a terrain which is perfectly dark, doomed and disconcerting. Actually a human society is not as bad as shown in absurdist plays but will certainly become so if they doesn't mend ways. In the present play, the viewers see that the person whose brain is damaged is rather a more compassionate and considerate one than the others who are in possession of fully capable brains. The implicit satire is suggests that in nowadays society, people use their brain only for ill motives. The person who has no shelter is not happy when he is provided with by a kind person and is rather somewhat angry over him just because he is more docile and mentally weak. This uncovers a very dark aspect of societal dynamics that those who are sufferer will suffer even at the hands of those whom they extend help to even on their own initiative. This is definitely frustrating. 

The set-design was impressive and gave a perfect impression of neglected household. This house was a threat to the hostel of bachelor students in terms of untidiness and rather it was hundred times higher in degree. Every belongings of the house were dispersed in a haphazard manner and the ambiance was like a jungle. A jungle surrounded by roof and walls. There were big buckets left hither and thither on the room floor to take care of the seeping roof. A massive pile of garbage was put right on the top of a cupboard as if it were a medal to be showcased. The clothing without fold were dropped in a random manner. Aston was mostly seen busy trying to repair plugs picking up from the electrical garbage dumped heavily in a prime spot of the bedroom  

An incompleteness cries all through the play in a silent and yet deafening sound. Aston is incomplete because of his mental damage which he tries to fulfill with a companionship but fails. Davies has no identity in this society. Even he has no document proof to show who he is. So he tries to fabricate stories and boasts of himself. He moulds his identity as per the incumbent circumstance as if he is that kind of person only what is needed at that moment. His consistent mention of the downtown Sidcup where he has supposedly kept all his important documents of his identity is nothing but a lie. Because he makes a series of excuses to avoid going there. First, he says he has no shoes to go there, and when a pair of shoes is provided, he finds that it is an unfit pair in his feet. When he is given another pair of shoes by Aston he complains about the different colour of the laces because of which he can't go wearing them. Mick seems to be an energetic person always ready to assault others but himself is nothing but a dreamer. He has big ambitions but never put steps to fulfill them. Still, he is overpowering over the rest two because of his comparatively sound mental and economic condition. So, he is both the owner of the house and mentally normal. This makes him violent and he never miss a chance to thrash Davies for no reasons. He has no much attachment with his brother too but somehow maintain terms with him.

There is a bag throw sequence. A bag perhaps having inside the things of utility for Davies is brought by Aston and shown to Davies. The real needy person is Davies but the bag keeps rolling over from Aston to Mick and never comes to Davies. Though the bag is offered to Davies many a times but whenever he reaches to get it, it is thrown to other person. This is nothing but a reflection of mirage a deprived person is most likely to pass through all through his life.

In this play by Harold Pinter, there is neither story, nor music, nor mystery, nor thrill, nor ideal, nor bizarreness, nor entertainment, yes there is a little humor, that too based on saddness.  But for such plays only, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 because his plays are closest to the truths of life.

Design & Direction was by Sonu Pilania who succeeded in maintaining the sombre outline of the theme with full vigour.. Saajan Kataria, Sandip Mishra, Sanjay Joshi and Sonu Pilania were the actors who left the people laughing or stunned time to time. Light design came from Subhratanu Mandal and his work was really vital that lived up to the expectations. 

This kind of play gives a unique experience and I would  say that the absurdist play will never let you feel that it is a play rather you feel that you are peeping out of your window and seeing what is really happening around your house.

Review by - Hemant Das 'Him'
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Wednesday 4 October 2023

"Tagore-nama" - Hindi play performed in Versova (Mumbai) on 30.09.2023

To hell with male!

( हिंदी में समीक्षा के लिए -   यहाँ क्लिक करके क्रम सं. 35  देखिए )

The acuteness of guilt feeling is so high that both the real male culprits testify their guilt. But Oh the Male chauvinism! You are still not able to save an innocent homemaker from gallows! Either he is a husband or a magistrate he will put all the blames on some 'she' only with total disregard to all the facts emerging in the open sky. The state of patriarchy was at peak in Bengal in the British era. But has it changed completely? Yes it has changed in favour of woman race but complete change is still a far cry only.

'Tagore-nama-  a motley of small plays were performed at Asmita Theatre Studio in Versova (Mumbai) on 30.9.2023 on the auspicious occasion of 30th anniversary of Asmita Theatre Group. 

A number of Ravindra Nath Tagore's pithy stories were presented in a succession in the form of small dramatic plays. Let me first give a synopsis of the brief content of the plays.

The murder of his sister-in-law has been committed by someone else but the husband requests his wife to take the blame of it so that the actual culprit (his elder brother) is saved from being hanged. He says to the villagers that another wife can be brought but not brother. Hearing this, the wife is numbed. She astonishes as whether she had left her dolls in her father's home and came to her in-laws only to see such a doomed day? But if the husband and all persons in the village are in unison on such a barbarous plan then what's the point to live more! She agrees. (Read the first para again here.) In the end, when she is about to being hanged the officer-in-charge asks her last wish. She says she wanted to meet her mother. When the officer conveys her that her husband wants to meet her. She says,"..To hell with him".

In another story, a girl is married and brought to her in-law's home. But the mother-in-law is not happy for she could not bring a big dowry. The mother-in-law mistreats her openly saying that she would have treated well if she would have brought more dowry. This news reaches the father of the bride. He decides to sell off his house and fulfil the demand. But when he goes to and conveys this idea to his married daughter, she vehemently opposes it. Also, his sons also reach there and oppose on the ground that he takes care of daughter only and not the sons. With a heavy heart he comes back to his home. After some days the newly-wed girl fell ill and wanted to go to her father's home. But the father was refused by the in-laws to take the bride to his home until the balance dowry is paid. She dies for want of treatment at her in-law's home. The same in-laws who never took care of the bride while she was alive performes the last rituals with a great pomp and show. Then immediately another bride was brought in the house whose father gave full dowry.

There was a pathetic story of a servant. He used to take the master's toddler son for a stroll. Once they were walking around, the little boy asked for some flowers visible from the bushes at a river bank. When he went to bring the flower the toddler went into the river out of curiosity and was drowned. The servant was punished for this and was thrown out of his master's home. When he returned to his village, after some time his wife became pregnant. While giving birth to a male child, she died. This boy was reared by his father (Servant) with a great love and care. But when he grew up he developed the traits of a rich person. The servant thought out a plan for repentance. He took his son to his master and told him a lie that this very boy is his (master's) actual son. His issueless master believes on it and takes custody of the child but orders the servant to go away because he concealed the truth from him. The servant pleads to let him stay there. On this the child (Servant's son) suggests his new-found rich father to commit for some pension to the man. The servant went back. When the money-order of pension was sent, it was returned because there was no recipient living there.

The story of a blind old beggar lady was equally moving. She has an adopted son whom she takes care of very eagerly. She had made some wealth out of begging and gives it to the safe custody of a money-lender so that it could be utilised in future for her son. Once her son falls sick. The old lady beggar goes to the moneylender and asks for her money. The money-lender says there is no money of her with him. With great despondency, she comes back. After some days, the condition of her son worsens. She takes her son to the moneylender and beseeches to him for money so that she could consult the doctor and her son's life is saved. But the moneylender denies it cruelly and says to her to go away with her sick son. But the moment the moneylender casts a look on the boy's face he identifies him as his lost real child. After this he requests the old lady to give custody of the boy. The old lady hands over the boy to him saying that now you would take care of him because he is your son, but till it was mine you were wishing him to die. The woman returns alone. But the boy does not recovers and his condition worsens further. The doctor says that the boy is missing his mother and if she comes then he may recover. The moneylender goes to the old lady and begs him to accompany him so that the child is saved. She revenges on him saying she would not care if his son dies. But ultimately she agrees to look after the boy who was earlier her own. The boy recovers under the care of his motherly old lady. After the child is cured the old woman is about to return. Then, the moneylender offers her the money bag she had given to him. But the old woman refuses to accept it saying it was kept only for the purpose of her son who is now with you. 

A story depicted the farce of feelings  in art at the cost of humanity. There is a painter who is mocked at by his colleague  for lack of professionalism in his work. Their comments pinched him badly. Once his son fell ill. His condition became serious. Even though the restless wife kept crying and requesting him to call a doctor, the painter remained busy in completing his artwork  for the forthcoming exhibition. The doctor could not be called and the son died. On this, his wife retired on the bed life a lifeless person  taking the head of his beloved son in her arms. A great passion flashed into the painter's heart and he started a new painting of a mother taken the dead son in her lap. The painting was so realistic that it was the most acclaimed painting in the exhibition and even the taunting colleagues exclaimed their feelings that they would have loved to make him his teacher.

These were some of the stories presented. The artists were the students of this acting school namely Pradeep K Sharma, Prachi A Mishra, Soni Sharma, Manas Keswani, Siddhant Mishra, Navyug Gupta and others. The play was directed by the renowne3d director Arvind Gaur and Sangeeta Gaur had given the music.

This was not only the promptness but also the expressions and sound-modulation of the large number of participating actors that made the show remarkable. The credit chiefly goes to the director. 

Review by- Hemant Das 'Him'
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