Review

INSHAALLAH

Direction : Ajit Bhagat
Cast : Sushil Inamdar, Gautam Berde,Sudesh Barshinge,Santosh Patil & others

INSHAALLAH Play Review


Deepa Punjani



 INSHAALLAH Review
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Awishkar revived the late Satyadev Dubey's semi-autobiographical play INSHAALLAH for the NCPA Centrestage festival 2014. Written by Dubey in Hindi, the play was translated into Marathi by the late Chetan Datar who was Dubey's protege and a talented playwright and director in his own right. Awishkar was home for both Dubey and Datar. Kakade kaka (Arun Kakade) of Awishkar recalled them tearfully at the end of the show. Indeed both men in their own ways contributed to not only Awishkar but also to the very spirit of the modern Indian theatre on the larger national stage. Datar left a little too early while Dubey was ageing on, his health further compromised by neglect and lack of rest. Both men are missed.



Datar who predominantly worked in Marathi was able to have a dialogue with theatre practitioners across the country; he was Awishkar's bridge to a national, pan Indian theatre. Dubey was already at the centre of the discourse but still removed from it. He was after all the enfant terrible of Indian theatre and clearly relished being so. Many stories about Dubey's temperament and his style of doing theatre, mostly from his students (many of them who went on to become famous) circulate in the theatre community. Some of these stories have acquired legendary status.

Dubey could be curmudgeonly, contradictory, belligerent and hopeless to argue with but he was also charismatic, intelligent and bravely and firmly committed to the cause of the theatre he believed in. Conversations with Dubey could run into endless hours; he could be tireless but never boring. Working in his corner, away from the coveted posts to which he could have risen, he was nevertheless at the helm of shaping modern Indian theatre's identity. His own writing could be indulgent, sometimes even old-fashioned, sexist and biased in its religious outlook and world view but it was never mediocre or sloppy. It could be deliciously ironic and could provoke too. His theatre- his NSD (National School of Dubey) allowed him to do so.

At the heart of Dubey's theatre were his actors and the spoken word. Neither the acting nor the word could be taken for granted. If you did so you invited peril. Dubey's insistence on sound performance, his ability to get the best out his actors and use the words in a powerful, transforming way, remain his most enduring and impressive legacy. Dubey also understood that the best theatre often requires only the actors and the audience, so he kept the other aspects of stagecraft minimal. It was also always, almost a question of resources and finance to keep his theatre sparse. Either way, it was rare to see a director so immersed with the word and who knew that the word could shine and startle. It was all about communicating, even if you had to do it quietly. It was about harnessing the moment.

Dubey was fluent in Hindi and English; he spoke Marathi too and had a great affinity with that theatre and its playwrights whom he saw as inherently gifted. His linguistic flexibility was also one of the main reasons that led him to direct some of his landmark productions by the modern Indian playwrights such as Badal Sircar, Mohan Rakesh, Girish Karnad and Vijay Tendulkar. Dubey also directed plays by English, American and European playwrights. His canvas was never limiting.

INSHAALLAH is then the play within a play in which Dubey gives us glimpses of his self, his theatre and his ideology, all of which were inter-linked. The play, directed by Ajit Bhagat, is vintage Dubey. It is performed very ably by Sushil Inamdar who plays Dubey. He has got the essence of Dubey's personality and this is best proven in his arguments and counter arguments with Gautam Berde (Devender) and Mrunal Varankar (Gulan). Those who knew Dubey well enough will immediately relate to these arguments and those who knew him intimately would find other personal revelations put obliquely as Dubey was wont to do in his own plays. Dubey's own plays usually had a chorus as does INSHAALLAH and it was always quirky even though its style now looks dated.

Post interval, the chorus disappears as Dubey rages. His tirade is directed towards the larger establishment: the institutionalised theatre overrun by bureaucracy, self-interest and profits. Even the NCPA is not spared. And, that was funny- because here was an NCPA festival staging a play that was bashing it. Dubey's rage contains a kernel of truth but like anything that is grossly opinionated, INSHAALLAH too is overworked by one man's way of looking at life and at theatre. But when that man is Dubey, the frailties and the flaws are more easily overlooked. Dubey was perhaps modern Indian theatre's most enigmatic and contrarian figure. His legacy is singular- of that there is no doubt.

*Deepa Punjani is the Editor of this website.


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