Saturday, May 16, 2015

A cluttered life

I had interviewed Alok Rajwade and Dharmakirti Sumant of Natak Company on their recent play, Binkamache Samwad.

All day long we are punching buttons furiously, forming words, sentences and posting, retweeting and forwarding them through several groups that we are members of. In the midst of all this, what happens to our poor brain and our ability to think and mouth original thought? What about the trash that’s generated through the meaningless conversation threads?

This is the germ of Binkamache Samwad, a play by Natak Company. Directed by Alok Rajwade, the play falls in the genre of Theatre of the Absurd, a tragicomedy, that conveys the ‘nothingness’ of the moment that we are living in.

Says Alok, “We are never confronted with simple, straight choices or situations. There are multiple layers and complexities that define our responses to any given situation. Our play tries to decode and analyse the decadence of language, why sending forwards without comprehending is a scary situation.”

Dharmakirti Sumant, who has written the play, says, “It’s written in non-linear format. What happened was that one day we were joking around. The lines were not really funny, but the way they were being presented resulted in much laughter. That made me toy with the idea where we could entertain people, but the audience wouldn’t know at what they were laughing at. We used the reference of Indonesian slang, Jayus, which means ‘a joke that is so unfunny, that you can’t stop laughing’.”

The conversation that we have on WhatsApp, is something like a forced laughter. We are unable to sift important from the trivial, we assume that what we see, hear is the reality, imagination is stunted, words are thrown around without understanding what they stand for.

“There is a crowding of too many words, dialects, lingo, but the original meanings have been distorted or twisted to become the new reality. I wanted to convey all this through a story format. So we thought of doing a play, which doesn’t stick to the structured story-telling form. Yet it answers all the questions — who, why, what and when. I am leaving out ‘where’ because there is no specific construct of location. We do have a wrestling pit, where the scenes unfold. It’s a metaphor for the distortion or manipulation of truth,” explains Dharmakirti.

Themes like these might be too cerebral for the audience, we put forth. Disagreeing with us, Alok explains, “Our play is meant for the audience who can think and reason. An art form like theatre is an interpretative exercise, and everyone has some opinion about it, matching with their experience. We are open to feedback — positive and critical. This play highlights the hyperbole associated with social media, which I think is quite topical.”

Dharmakirti, in his response, says, “It’s the intellectual arrogance of the educated to assume that certain themes are beyond the understanding of the common man. A waiter from a city restaurant had come to watch our play. When we met him later, he raised some points and asked if this is what we intended to convey. He had grasped correctly what we wanted to say. I would like to say that only education or reading does not have the bearing on the impressions, references that we have of life. Comprehension or awareness is defined by experience.”

And, in today’s hyper times, we have to concentrate on generating meaningful, while relegating trash to the background.

The plot
The play, Binkamache Samwad, unfolds through a dream sequence. Fifty-year-old Bhosanka (protagonist played by Abhay Mahajan) buys a smart phone because his Nokia 3202 gets smashed under the wheels of a train. Bhosanka swipes his card to buy an Iphone 6 and is plunged into a wrestling pit, which is placed on a smartphone’s LED screen. There he meets an old college friend Aabeka (Omkar Gowardhan), porn star Loly Loly (Laxmi Birajdar), rationalist Mopremimadhyam (Pushkraj Chirputkar), a right wing activist Oot (Dhanraj Narayankar), R K Laxman’s Common Man or Comya (Suvrat Joshi) and wrestling anchor (Veera Saxena).

In this wrestling ring, Bhosanka raises queries on decadence of language, morality, post liberalised India etc. All his WhatsApp friends vote for a new government and finally ‘Euphoria’ wins. This win is stained by a Facebook image, which makes them realise the hidden poverty and exploitation.

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