Arms And The Man

Direction : Naseeruddin Shah
Writer : George Bernard Shaw
Cast : Faezeh Jalali, Ratna Pathak Shah, Shivani Tankshale, Amit Sial, Saahil Vaid & Naseeruddin Shah

Arms And The Man play review

Sudhir Raikar

ARMS AND THE MANAfter the entertaining Shavian assortment called BY GEORGE, Motley now brings us ARMS AND THE MAN, Shaw's victorious coup against the classically hyped notions of war and love, intentionally set against the backdrop of the 19th century Serbo-Bulgarian war. It highlights the triviality of any manufactured strife that can eventually turn into a catastrophe - in this case the First World War. The play's timeless quality makes the production by Motley even more special. As we can see, the futility of class struggles, romantic notions of love and marriage, and even the threat of needless war continue to haunt us in different contexts and situations.

Director Naseeruddin Shah makes the most of Shaw's ingenious wordplay and satire - of misplaced items, mistaken identities, sudden revelations, and comic blunders amongst others - to highlight the conflict between hollow idealism and practical wisdom.

On the whole, the largely young cast is impressive and all players contribute in some measure - of course, some more than the others. Not surprisingly, the husband-wife duo of Naseer and Rata Pathak Shah play Major Petkoff and his wife Catherine with characteristic flair. Amongst the others, Amit Sial clearly stands out as the Swiss officer, Captain Bluntshcli. Bluntschli's composure, his presence of mind, solution-minded approach and even his undistinguished appearance...Sial comes closest to the character that we have met in Shaw's script. His diction though leaves much to be desired. The native intonation is distracting at times.

Faezeh Jalali has her moments as the heroine Raina, so does Saahil Vaid as Nicola - the servile Man Friday of the Petkoff family. Randeep Hooda is picture perfect as the stupidly vain Major Sergius. Sadly, he fails to capitalise on the physical advantage with an average portrayal. One is intrigued why he should take the liberty with Shaw's script (the only instance in an otherwise religiously loyal adaptation). At the very end, he says "What a man! Is he a man?" instead of the original "What a man! What a Man!" High time he learnt that not a single word of Shaw's is devoid of significance.

With the exception of Naseer, Ratna and Sial, we saw the actors unable to resist the temptation of needless emphasis - an extra jump here, a repeated jerk there... especially in situations that are bound to cause applause, thanks only to the underlying humour of the script.

The inventive set helps the director's cause immensely; the minimalist approach is adequately colourful in taking the audience on a joy ride back in time. This is even more pertinent as the play's target audience is children. Given their clean slates of imagination, they stand to appreciate the genius of Shaw more than the adults who pick only what they choose to.

Waiting for the next Shaw from Shah!

*A cost accountant by qualification, Sudhir Raikar brings with him over 17 years of experience in writing that includes journalistic reports & stories, book and film reviews, analytical writing, critical appreciation, marketing communication, translations and business writing for leading media houses and corporates. His passion is fit-for-purpose writing.

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