RANGAAI Play Review

Tarun Agarwal

Direction : Trinetra Tiwari
Writer : Trinetra Tiwari
Cast : Amit Kumar Maurya, Khushboo Atre, Trinetra Tiwari, Hrishabh Kanti


The performers of RANGAAI come across as well-trained. The actors have distinct characteristics, costumes and some also incorporate a suitable accent. The music that keeps playing is flawless. Let us say, technically the play is in safe hands; it has some powerful portions and the theme of bonded labour engrosses the audience. There are several parts in which it looks stretched, as if every detail has been over-rehearsed, except that a similar liberty could have been given to redrafting. But overall, the play makes some impact and provides a pleasing outcome for a varied audience.

RANGAAI takes you into the lives of people who feel trapped in their work, be it two painters who colour the walls of an office or a corporate employee who hires them. The topic of bonded labor is sensitively handled. The play is about the tragedy of two laborers in a debt trap. The other characters in the play such as the female boss who hires them, the builder and the prostitute all build upon this theme of what it feels like to be in a trap and how the one above is exploiting the one who is hired. Some parts of the play are extremely intense and bring out the pain of the workforce who are treated as slaves, especially the scenes where the two painters have a heart-to-heart talk. The use of the stage and the props is very elaborate and many scenes are effectively depicted with quick changes in them. The music, a mix of instruments and songs enrich the play.

The actors are well cast in the various roles. Trinetra Tiwari and Amit Kumar Maurya are lively but desolate labourers. They perform their parts with emotion and drama. Hrishabh Kranti carries himself well as a builder who is unconsciously opting for bonded labour. A villain created by society but not one who has an evil heart. Khusbhoo Atre looks the part in her corporate attire with a possibly middle class upbringing. The music team that performs during the play, comprising Anadi Nagar, Ruturaj Bhosle, Tamal Pandey, Prasanna Kalle, make the stage sufficiently lively and colourful.

What is the key success of the play is that it touches upon a topic that has tremendous potential. We see the traditional characters of labourers engaged in bonded labour. They work hard and do not make enough money to pay off the debts that their family finds themselves in. They approach the builder who agrees to bail them out provided they sign an undertaking to do everything that he asks them to do. Relieved, they spend a day drinking alcohol. One day, they find themselves sent to work in a dark construction site, where no one can hear them. They have been worried about their family matters and want to go and meet them. Only the builder can hear them and he refuses their request.

Bonded labour is a contemporary topic again. For example, Chinese workers have participated in a 'lying flat' protest that is about workers who do a lot of work with too little pay to enable them to emerge from their economic desperation. Closer to Juhu, where the play was performed and rehearsed, there have been modern instances of bonded labour in the film industry, with writers going on a strike demanding better pay, credits and share of royalty. The play discusses a hot topic but sticks to the traditional picture of labourers dealing with it. This is both the strength and the weakness of the play. Perhaps, depicting a modern style bonded labour could have provided an enhanced experience.

The story not only talks about the suffering of bonded labourers but successfully makes us feel for them. As a society it's important for us to watch such plays so that we can sensitise and educate ourselves and work toward being a better society. Presented by Manav Kaul, it gets a platform to be taken seriously. It is a play that is overall worth watching which is hard hitting in parts.

(*Tarun Agarwal is the author of Hope Factory: Business Ideas For Everyone, and has directed a short film, Honesty Weds Dishonesty)

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