Director : Atul Pethe
Writer : Jayant Pawar
Cast : Atul Pethe


Deepa Punjani

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Crime and detective fiction commands a special place in Literature. There have been great and lesser pens. Mystery and suspense make an irresistible concoction that can be heady and liberating. In the company of sensitive and erudite crime fiction writers, the dark, underbellies of our society and our collective demons lie bitterly exposed - our minds are challenged and our hearts are cleansed. Jayant Pawar's TARKACHYA KHUNTIVARUN NISATLELE RAHASYA can be read as a tribute to this time honoured, venerable genre.

A writer is visited by the ghost of his kaka, (uncle) and is compelled to complete the crime novel that his uncle, a famous a writer of detective stories, has left unfinished. As the writer struggles to make sense of his uncle's visitation and becomes increasingly absorbed with the task, a bigger unravelling is at hand. Art and life merge. The writer begins to recall his eccentric uncle. As the uncle from the dead, continues to guide his nephew and new found protégé with the nuts and bolts of building up suspense and drama, the nephew recollects his uncle's past - a past of which he too is a part of - but always as an observer of his socially outcast uncle. There is an emotional bond between the two but it never gets sentimental. Events from the uncle's unconventional life run parallel to the novel's plot and the writer finds himself getting caught up in the vortex of events, real and imagined.

Pune-based actor, director and producer Atul Pethe assumes multiple roles in this solo, dramatised stage reading. He is a strong narrator with a keen sense of character, time and pace although his stuttering, foul-mouthed kaka is a bit of overkill bordering on caricature. Pethe's narrative skills combined with a simple, stage design of alternating placards indicating the chapters of the whodunit, with music (by Sanjay Deshpande, Narendra Bhide and Atul Pethe) and lights (by Pradeep Vaiddya) are sufficiently atmospheric, and deliver the story to a climatic, yet clever and unanticipated end.

Jayant Pawar's text has humour, irony and pathos spread through psychological motivations even as the mystery of the novel itself ends up being tame, just like some of the stereotypical sketches on the placards. But maybe this is deliberate. The drawings are perfectly representative of B-grade, potboiler stories. The cliched end is redeemed though by another 'twist' in the story. The racy is confronted by the ordinary; it's a neat stroke. It is here at the very end, and in other instances, such as the writer's office job of writing reports for the Mumbai Mahanagar Palika (The Mumbai Municipal Corporation) that we detect the corrosive tension and the rot circumferencing the metropolis and its people- but these remain peripheral aspects. The trade of creating and writing suspense is integral to the story, doffing its hat to the very spirit of crime fiction. It is intensified by the writer's psyche and his uncle's personality - interesting, but up to a point.

Please click here for the Marathi review of the play.

*Deepa Punjani is the Editor of this website.

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