Badal Sircar’sEVAM INDRAJIT that went on to become an expression of the modern Indian situation has perhaps lost its sheen in a globalized age with youngsters who are fortified in many ways than their ancestors were. And yet, the play is as much about the existentialist question as it is about the urban youth of the sixties then. While the stories of Kamal, Amal, Vimal and (evam) Indrajit may superficially hold no meaning for today’s "Generation Next", their dilemmas, especially Indrajit’s will forever remain. Badal Sircar did not merely write about the coming of age of four friends, he actually wrote about the vagaries of existence itself and it is this quality that makes the play a true classic, eternal in scope and magnitude.
A re-working of the play therefore was an exciting proposition that Chennai based groups ‘The Madras Players’ and ‘Evam Entertainment’ took upon them seriously enough. The result- a surreal set, wide screen projector, laptop and keyboards serve as the visual stimuli in the play. This paraphernalia is integrated well into the play to give it a contemporary ethos. Kamal, Amal, Vimal, evam Indrajit are after all protagonists of the twenty-first century. They eat pizza, drink coke and are glued to the screens of their desktops. They however have to contend with issues like marriage, housing, maximizing profit, etc. just as the Kamal, Amal and Vimal of the sixties and seventies did. Indrajit then asked questions about the banality of existence and he still does. For him, there is no option but to walk the road. Condemned like Sisyphus, his very existence had no reprieve then and can think of none now or forever. The writer who guides the audience through the story of the four friends can himself never hope to alleviate his frustration unless of course he reaches a state of sublime awareness and detachment.
In a way then, the circular design on the surface of the set is symbolic of the whirlpool churning in the Writer/Indrajit’s mind. The screen serves its purpose well enough as we get sucked into a virtual reality whose texts and sub-texts are no different from the ones of the pre-computerized age in India. The similarities as such outnumber the differences between the "then" and the "now" which explains why most members of the audience could react favourably to this contemporary production of the play.
But unfortunately most of the actors lack the maturity that seasoned and well-heeled actors possess. Although the play’s style of presentation is appealing, it fails to balance it with the nuances of expression and emotion, which in turn is quite a loss to a play that fluctuates between the real and the imaginary, the practical and the philosophical. In this contemporary production, the relationship between the writer and Indrajit is sorely missing.
The writer ends up as a distant, pontificating observer, at times too self-engrossed in his actor’s projection of the character. At such times, Konstantin Stanislwasky’s crisp warning of "Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art" rings true. It was quite evident too that the actors were not comfortable with the set. Movement was at times awkward and clumsy. Could the set have been made simpler to facilitate easy and fluid movement?
It must be mentioned that ‘The Madras Players’, one of Chennai’s oldest theatre groups was actually the first group in the country to perform the English language production of EVAM INDRAJIT in the seventies. ‘Evam Entertainment’ (the group derives its name from the play) is the youngest group in the city. The play is therefore significant for both the groups. One would imagine that Indrajit’s question as raised by ‘The Madras Players’ does not find an answer; it is not meant to. His journey is what counts. The young group ‘Evam Entertainment’ would do better to concentrate on the finer nuances of this play. They have the style but could do with some attitude!