SAINIK Play Review

Neha Shende

Direction : Makarand Deshpande
Writer : Makarand Deshpande
Cast : Makarand Deshpande

 SAINIK Review

SAINIK, written and directed by and starring Makarand Deshpande, is a 75-minute monologue about soldiers and war. Deshpande narrates the story of an unnamed war as a soldier and war photographer. The monologue is an angry, angry performance, like Juvenalian satire.

Through several sections in the monologue, Deshpande talks about the politics and economics of war: how big countries back smaller countries to fight proxy wars, how politicians label enemy states and make use of the sentiment of nationalism for elections, how powerful corporate lobbies of weapon manufacturers back, even instigate war, and how common people, who have absolutely no idea about the actual horrors of war, are swept up in manufactured waves of nationalism that really only serve those in power.

The needs of those most affected the soldiers who actually fight in this war, who get injured or die are ignored, because to the decision makers, the soldiers are merely pawns used to serve their own ends. The psychological scars that war leaves on those who have actually been on the frontlines are never acknowledged and once war is over, these same soldiers who were earlier touted as heroes, are disposed of like broken toys.

Throughout, the performance is high decibel, and despite some of the dark humour, lends no respite to the audience. While it can get heavy for some, that is perhaps Deshpande's intention all along. A strong pacifist play must evoke in the viewer a feeling of horror, even emotional exhaustion that necessarily accompanies war. And Deshpande does that with great skill and energy.

The set design by Sumeet Patil, light design by Amogh Phadke and music by Ashish Gade all meld beautifully with the monologue, bringing war to life. The drying autumnal leaves on set, the bloody bodies with severed limbs peeking out from behind jute sacks, the war siren suddenly turning to party music as the soldier returns from war and the dance of light and shadow enhancing the atmosphere, all deserve special mention.

This angry monologue is really a pacifist plea, and it drives its point home well.

*Neha Shende is an avid theatre-goer and enjoys watching old Bollywood movies in her free time.

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