A positive buzz is surrounding this play. Many writers, directors and actors from the contemporary Marathi theatre flocked to see its 25th show. Its youthful subject and the fresh cast are evidently proving to be a big attraction.
Clad in a nine yard saree and topped with a transparent raincoat, young Amruta (Priya Bapat) walks into her new home to discover Rishikesh (Umesh Kamat), her husband of their four-month-old marriage lying supine on the floor! As she shakes him, he jumps up from his shavasana that has extended into a nap! The easy bonhomie between the newlyweds is endearing.
But soon you realize that since theirs is an arranged marriage, they are still discovering facets of each other's personalities. Rishikesh is eight years older than Amruta and is more composed and serious in his disposition. Amruta on the other hand is childish and brash. She also doesn't mind using cuss words freely. The friction between the two sparkles with wit, humour and love...until Amrita's childhood buddy Himmat Rao (Hemant Dhome) pays them a surprise visit.
Although an Oxford educated naturalist and a butterfly specialist, Himmat Rao has retained his uncouth, rustic mannerisms as well as his native accent. Amruta and he share an intimate yet carefree bond - much to Rishi's annoyance. But Himmat is too easygoing to take such objections to heart. He continues his hearty back slapping with Amruta. Eventually, Rishi's jealousy surfaces violently and he begins restricting his wife - he asks her to remove her revealing photographs from the on-line album and restrains her from meeting Himmat too. Meanwhile he invites his old acquaintance and colleague Ketaki (Prajakta Datar) home and then for morning exercise sessions too. He tries to make his wife jealous and succeeds at it.
The dual confrontation between the couple over their respective friends reaches its zenith and they are on the verge of separation. Will better sense prevail and will the young couple be able to salvage their marriage through "mutual understanding and respect" and not through "compromise"- is the poignant query that debutant writer Kshitij Patwardhan poses.
The first half is teasing and engaging - Priya Bapat's feisty portrayal of 'bindaas' Amruta keeps you hooked. Himmat Rao's sassy one-liners like - never say no to "chahacha ghot ani baicha oath" (teacup and a kiss) evoke spontaneous laughter. Umesh Kamat's dilemma ridden husband is also well etched and equally well enacted.
Patawardhan is a master at building up intimate, delicate moments of domesticity; he's also incisive about picking on the male ego. He captures Ketaki's desperation through her pathetic attempt at seducing Rishikesh rather adeptly. Where he fumbles, however, is in underestimating a woman's ingenuity and native intelligence. Only if open-minded Amruta had with dealt with her husband's female friend more casually and only if Ketaki had denounced her mom's outdated 'marry-within-caste' dictum (which the mom shouldn't have raised in any case). Please, grant the fairer sex with more fairness of thought and action!
Since the major twists and turns of the tale are already over by the interval, predictably the pace slackens in the second half. The narrative is caught in a vortex of centrifugal force where things just go round and round and no further. The metaphorical 'stuck door to the balcony' and the shower of rain in the climax are far too contrived - rather out of sync with the closer-to-reality first half. Nonetheless, if Patwardhan manages to maintain the tempo of his writing - he certainly has the potential of being a successful new age theatre writer.
Director Sameer Vidwans creates an entertaining spectacle with his direction. He draws out inspired performances from his players. Prasad Walawalkar's set design befits the script and Rishikesh Kamerkar's music provides the requisite lifts and lilts. On the whole, it's a modern marital drama with some authentic moments and thought provoking instances.
*Deepa Ranade is a film and theatre reviewer. She has been an entertainment journalist for over fifteen years.