Dr. Omkar Bhatkar

Writer : Caryl Churchill
Direction : Mohit Takalkar
Cast : Ashish Mehta, Dusha Madhav, Kashish Saluja, Lovleen Misra, Mahesh Saini, Mallika Singh Hanspal, Mrinmayee Godbole, Prajesh Kashyap, Rachel D'souza, Rytasha Rathore, Siddhesh Dhuri


A solemn funeral scene dissipates into a conversation about the census and before we can figure out the numbers, we are caught up in the thoughts of a man who ponders over the philosophy of real numbers, flees the stage in minutes and we find a woman in love with her feminine ideal where she says "she's beautiful, she's intelligent, she understands me" only to reveal that she's talking about her laptop. If this isn't overwhelming then we see a linguist who knows about seven names for the table, a child who doesn't know fear and spends a night all by himself in a haunted house, a sneak peek into the censorship office, an ageing man blessed with memory where he can recall everything from his life including the shot by shot division of the film Godzilla. At the same time, others can't remember who they are. There also is a woman claiming to hear God's voice in a court trial, a woman working on a project that maps memory in chickens; and many such characters as more than 100 of them on stage in a two-hour uninterrupted theatrical extravaganza. LOVE AND INFORMATION is an amorphous play written by Caryl Churchill in 2012 consisting of over fifty scenes in seven sections, designed and directed by Mohit Talkalkar with his theatre company Aasakta Kala Manch in collaboration with the NCPA. Although Caryl's play is in English rooted in the spoken English of a Londoner, Takalkar has in many ways adapted the play to Indian sensibilities and yet mentioned the distinctness of a play penned by a British playwright. Mohit uses multiple languages that we speak and hear around us and exceptional sound design making Caryl Churchill's work accessible even if it lacks a conventional structure and narrative.

There is no one story or narrative arc or any primary characters in the play. LOVE AND INFORMATION is a collection of diverse vignettes bearing the colossal weight of what it means to be human in a world overloaded with information. The script is without stage directions, character and gender descriptions. The possibility of such a script lends a passionate thespian a playground to experiment, investigate newer dynamics and most importantly play with a myriad of interpretations. LOVE AND INFORMATION therefore is a play of possibilities for those who wish to experiment with the form and don't mind knowing where the characters come from, to empathise with their pain. Since each scene lasts for not more than five minutes and the characters never come back on stage to talk about their past or future, one has to only astutely observe the present unveiling in front of them at lightning speed. The highest point of this play could be the sound effects used by Anita Kushwaha and their strategic placements. The sound design and Vikrant Thakar's lights transformed a verbose play into an immersive one. Unlike other plays where the audience is on the journey with the character and therefore better able to empathise with them, LOVE AND INFORMATION breaks away from this by providing only a junction or incident from the journey. The form, style and writing of LOVE AND INFORMATION are reminiscent of the French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltès' last play ROBERTO ZUCCO and Matei Visniec's DECOMPOSED THEATRE.

LOVE AND INFORMATION is filled with characters who love but fail to understand what is important, what is it about what we know, how we know it and how we make meaning from it. Characters (like us) suffer from an overload of information and technology permeating our every space of life right up to our bedrooms and bathrooms by eroding our privacy and clinging to our bodies, entering our nervous system. When we are infiltrated with so much technological information, how much of us are 'we as humans?' Though the scenes were executed well, one can be critical of a scene on schizophrenia as it could have been more sensitively written. Takalkar's actors keep on painting the titles of the various scenes and erasing them on a massive stage-size canvas behind them. The constant painting serves to remind us of the incessant information we receive.

Like most postmodernist plays, Caryl's writing attempts to move beyond the conventions of Language. LOVE AND INFORMATION is a collage of the impact of technological information magnifying human desires, anxiety, loneliness, decay of feelings, cravings, impulses, and the impossibility of being human in a world moving towards technocratization of existence. LOVE AND INFORMATION is close to Wittgenstein's approach to language located at the boundary of sense and nonsense, and Jean-Luc Godard's film GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE.

LOVE AND INFORMATION may require a second viewing since the drama unfolds like a smartphone at our fingertips and a fully charged battery playing non-stop on-stage without a blackout. Also, it seamlessly moves from scene one to two and sometimes even functions simultaneously since the entrancing transitions are punctuated with unthinkably fascinating musical sequences, like using two apps at the same time. At the end of the play, one might find themselves exhausted with the overload of information or simply keep thinking about it and yearn to see it again; or probably wonder at the back stories of scenes and characters. LOVE AND INFORMATION is a postmodernist theatrical experience of possibilities, longing for love in an age of miscommunication, weaving a technological tapestry of 'who we are?'

*Dr. Omkar Bhatkar is a Sociologist and Playwright. He has been teaching Film Theory and Aesthetics and involved in theatre-making, poetry, and cinema for a decade now. He runs the eclectic St. Andrew's Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts and is the Artistic Director of Metamorphosis Theatre and Films.

Image Courtesy: Pushan Kripalani

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