Famous playwright Eugine Oâ€™Neilâ€™s autobiographical play LONG DAYâ€™S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT was a masterpiece and a runaway success in 1956. It was produced posthumously. Its Hindi adaptation by Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub made a debut at NCPAâ€™s Centrestage festival this year. This realistic and scathing story of a family trying to cover up its scars, wounds, and tragedy makes for compulsive viewing.
Yashpal Singh Sahney (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub), an ageing theatre superstar, is now facing faded glory. But his vanity and narcissism are still intact. His wife Bala (Rasika Agashe) is a seemingly charming homemaker celebrating her sonâ€™s birthday and is trying to bring her crumbling family together valiantly. However soon it is revealed that Bala is just posing hard to put on a rosy picture of a blissful domestic scene. She is just back from rehabilitation for drug addiction. Owing to loneliness and depression, she has became a morphine addict. The eldest son, Raj (Aseem Hattangadi) is a struggling TV serial actor, an alcoholic and a wastrel who visits brothels just to humiliate his illustrious father who had introduced him to acting. If that were not enough, the youngest son, Aayush (Tushar Pandey) is suffering from cancer.
The bold confrontations, the duplicity of relationships torn between love and rage, an all-pervading sourness set off an introspective mode in the audience. Human fallibility and our desperate redemptive attempts are conveyed powerfully through the play. Flowing effortlessly, this very real family tragedy is staged with great sincerity. The director, Rasika Agashe, who also doubles up as the listless and concerned mother captures the essence of the plot effectively. The set of a derelict house with a courtyard strewn with dry leaves brings out the pathos of the situation. The boxes double as seats and storage for the several props used during the play. It is of great convenience in instances where Raj fishes out a whiskey bottle, takes a swig, refills it with water and replaces it in the box to fool his father. This is a well-adapted play with an interesting set comprising ramps and inclined planes serving as metaphors in the story. The cast is spontaneously into the act - Rasika as the listless drug addict and Aseem Hattangadi as the vindictive, embittered son are realistic. It is a play that makes an impact - a deep one!
*Deepa Karmalkar is a film and theatre reviewer. She has been an entertainment journalist for over fifteen years.