Direction : Alok Rajwade
Writer : Ashutosh Potdar
Cast : Nachiket Purnapatre, Omkar Govardhan, Nachiket Devasthali and Sayali Phatak


Jayashree Hari Joshi

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Natak Company´s SINDHU SUDHAKAR RUM ANI ITAR is a theatrical re-visiting and re-telling of EKACH PYALA - one of the famous Marathi plays of the early 20th century, written by Ram Ganesh Gadkari. EKACH PYALA is the story of a docile, subdued and devoted wife Sindhu and her alcoholic husband Sudhakar. The play SINDHU SUDHAKAR RUM ANI ITAR shifts in time and space. Using the narrative of EKACH PYALA, playwright Ashutosh Poddar presents an embedded narrative. This embedded narrative hinges contextually on the framing narrative of the characters in a modern-day design studio and gradually becomes the bulk of the story itself.

Directed by Alok Rajwade, the play begins with the costume designer, Apple, in her studio. Rama and Raghu assist Apple in preparing for a new period film based on EKACH PYALA. Later, a tailor and a cyclist join the team in the pre-production stage. The characters hail from diverse backgrounds, have different skill sets, and are equipped with their own tools. They engage with the sub-plots of EKACH PYALA in their distinct ways. Slowly, a story of the past transforms into a story of the present. The characters from the present merge with the characters of the play to meet us in the here and now.

The play opens with a sequence from EKACH PYALA in 1918, where the protagonist Sudhakar's wife Sindhu dies and Sudhakar commits suicide, bitterly regretting his alcoholism. The story returns to the present day, where two costume designers, Rama and Apple, are working with the tailors, Indar and Rafiq to design costumes for a period drama film based on the Marathi classic. Raghu, Apple's boyfriend, is assisting them. Rama believes in researching the socio-political and economic situation of the era and grasping the history of the characters to be able to design the perfect costumes. During this pursuit, her motley crew gets sucked into the whirlpool of EKACH PYALA. The tailor Indar is preoccupied by Sudhakar, Rama is engrossed with Sindhu, and so on. As they enact the scenes, they try to decipher the multiplicity of the traits the characters of the play portray.

Sindhu and co. travel through the Lebensanschauung that the play offers. The characters in EKACH PYALA are torn apart by argumentation and discussion. Sindhu displays layers of perceptive interpretation. Feminism has focused on how deeply entrenched the male/female division is in society. Apple, (delightfully played by Neha Shitole) is a post-modern feminist, an independent entrepreneur, who criticises the structure of society and the dominant, patriarchal order. According to her, Geeta, Taliram's wife in EKACH PYALA, was ahead of her times. The point of departure for the play is the story of EKACH PYALA, but it talks about what could have happened after the deaths of Sindhu and Sudhakar.

The performances are immaculate. Sayalee Phatak pulls off the dichotomy between Rama, a modern costume designer devoted to her job, and Sindhu, who is a devoted wife to her alcoholic and arrogant husband. Omkar Gowardhan switches effortlessly between Sudhakar and Indar, the tailor. Nachiket Purnapatre does a wonderful job at maintaining a balance between being the poetic cyclist and the drunkard Taliram, who becomes Sudhakar's close friend. Neha Shitole as Apple portrays a woman of substance with elán.

The play excels in its recurring, seamless transition and back and forth between the past and the present. Just when the play starts to get nostalgic, you're yanked back to reality; a superb technique. Towards the end, confusion reigns, for the audience. Following the last scene of EKACH PYALA, all characters in the studio fall asleep one by one. The thoughts plod on. This resembles the classic Borges moment in the Lao Tzu story of the self not knowing whether he is a man dreaming that he is a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he is a man.

The set design makes perfect use of the studio and costume theme. There are paithani sarees hung in the backdrop as a symbol of the past glory aka Sindhu's saree. The sound is woven into the script, not overpowering. There are songs from EKACH PYALA adorning a modern electronic, trance-like rhythm. There is a clever use of the sound of the sewing machine which highlights the transition in time.

SINDHU, SUDHAKAR, RUM ANI ITAR is a play which takes on a classic and analyses it through a dramatic plot and metaphor where characters narrate one story while being part of another. This is a play within a play, performed with conviction. Playwrights use such juxtaposition of nested plays to give a performance of self-reflection and to reiterate the play's main themes. The French term is "Mise en abyme." In Alok Rajwade's hands, it becomes an eloquent argument for the transformative power of theatre.

*Jayashree Hari Joshi has done her M. Phil. Her thesis is a comparative study of Rasvighna / Natyashastra and the Experimental Theatre of Bertolt Brecht. She is working with the Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai as Officer - Cultural Programmes.

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