Direction : Kumar Sohoni
Writer : Dr. Anand Nadkarni
Cast : Ila Bhate, Amita Khopkar, Vasudha Deshpande, Gururaj Avdhani and Ajinkya Date


Ujwala Karmarkar

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The theme of nature versus nurture and the search of a person for their biological parent is an old one. The writer Dr Anand Nadkarni applies his acumen in psychiatry to explore this subject against the background of schizophrenia.

We thus enter Snehal's life in the week following her father's demise.

All of Snehal's life has been spent in idolising her father. He has patiently endured his wife's schizophrenia and consequent mood-swings, repeated exacerbations and hospitalisations, while raising the two children almost single-handedly. The orphanage that he patronises is also a testament to his selfless life.


The sudden death of her father scatters Snehal's orderly life, as circumstance now makes her the care-giver to her mentally ill mother, albeit with the help of a maiden aunt. Struggling to coax her mother to do simple tasks, dealing with her delusions and hallucinations, gives her a renewed appreciation of her father's fortitude and adjustments. The emotionally fragile daughter and the mentally ill mother are only connected through the memory of the father, with none of the routine parent-child interplay. Indeed, the child plays the role of the parent in such families.

Amidst this emotional upheaval, her mother drops a devastating insinuation that Snehal is the result of her extra-marital affair with a neighbour. But she can get no more details from her mother whose memory and cognition are virtually destroyed.

Trust forms the foundation of lasting relationships, be it between a married couple or a parent and child. When trust between two people is shaken up, the tremors can be felt even years later and affect existing relationships.

A shattered Snehal goes through the turmoil of questioning her own identity. She vacillates between hating her mother and agonising about her ''father's'' acceptance of her own conception.

The voice of caution, logic and reason is her maiden aunt, who argues that biological or not, Snehal is certainly the off-spring of the man who nurtured and loved her, and that she needs to carry on the legacy of her father vis-a-vis her mother's care and the orphanage he was devoted to.

However, by now, Snehal is obsessed with the need to know the truth about her birth. Desperate, she turns to her father's meticulously written diaries to unravel her ''janmarahsya'' or the secret of her birth. What she finds in the pages of her father's diary, forms the second half of the play, giving both Snehal and the audience the answers that are being sought.

The challenges of having a family member with schizophrenia, have been dealt with in the Marathi film Devraai. The search for one's 'real' parent has also been written about endlessly. But, the blending of the two issues is a new touch.

Snehal, the emotional daughter, is played very ably by Ila Bhate. The agitated and repetitive body movements, an emotionless face, the dull voice of a schizophrenic, are handled very well by the experienced Amita Khopkar.

Mr Sohoni's direction is quite good, though I could have done without the right-to-left fluttery walk across the stage several times by the main character. The overdone movement left me fatigued at vital times during the play.

The father's role played by Gururaj Avdhani, emerging as a persona from his diary at critical junctures, is well-essayed, even though it's a small one. The other characters such as that of the maiden aunt Inni (Vasudha Deshpande) and Arun, the erstwhile orphanage kid, who is almost a family member, played by Rahul Kulkarni, support the main cast admirably.

Schizophrenia is poorly understood in our country and the label of ''psycho'' (as the mother refers to herself) is often unfairly applied to patients. The ramifications for a family with a member suffering from this illness are numerous. The play succeeds in creating sympathy for such families and also, marginally increases our awareness of this mental illness.

Produced by Shree Samarth Productions, this is a good play to watch for the performances and the resultant introspection on mental illness is certainly helpful.

*Ujwala Karmakar is an Anaesthesiologist by profession. She likes to watch plays, read, and listen to music among other things. Ujwala has also been writing on women's issues, parenting, travel, etc.

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