April 23, 2010

INDIA: Those Lonely Sunset Days

. NEW DELHI / The Hindu / Friday Review / April 23, 2010 Those lonely sunset days By Diwan Singh Bajeli Play of age A scene from “Khela”. ‘Khela' vividly captured the difficult and often pathetic world of the aged, whose kids live abroad. Globalisation has offered opportunities to young qualified Indians to work abroad. Occupied as they are with their career, they tend to forget their parents back home. ‘Khela', which was presented by Theatre Platform last week at IIC, captured the pathetic mental state of lonely and aging parents whose son was working abroad. Written by Sisir Kumar Das in Bengali, it has been directed by Shamu Ganguly with remarkable sensitivity, projecting the emotionally shattered world of senior citizens in an urban setting. The rich elderly couple suffer from alienation, no one visits them because most of their relatives are either dead or are too old to come to meet them, their only son is working in the United States. He has no time to visit his aging parents back home. This is an issue that has immediate point of reference to aged people belonging to the urban middle class who suffer not only from alienation but from insecurity. We have seen plays on this theme. In 1978, National School of Drama's Repertory Company presented Jaywant Dalvi's ‘Sandhya Chhaya' in Hindi translation by Kusum Kumar. Directed by Uttara Baokar with Manohar Singh and Surekha Sikri in the lead roles the production overwhelmed the audience emotionally with its tragic intensity. But ‘Khela' goes beyond capturing the pathetic world of the aged and lonely by introducing the element of professional actors who enact the role of their near and dear ones, trying to bring some happy moments to their drab and pathetic lives. An ordeal In the play the aged husband has difficulty in physical movements but he is mentally normal. His wife is suffering from psychiatric problems, her behaviour is abnormal and frequently starts screaming. On such moments a hapless husband shouts at the domestic help. For them life has become an ordeal with no hope of alleviation. The device of the drama-within-the drama imparts the narrative intricacy. Two actors, one male and one female, land in the house of the couple, claiming to be their son and his wife who have come all the way from America to visit the parents. They act out the lives of their son when he was with them, which brightens up the mood of the couple. There is a conflict between the truth and imagined truth. Initially, the old woman takes the actors as her own son and daughter-in-law and gradually it dawns on her that they are mere actors. The husband knows that they are actors to be paid for their performances. Nevertheless, the woman derives some pleasure out of this performance. The way the old woman interacts with her ‘son and daughter-in-law' radiates with bitter irony. In a subtle way the production comments on a consumerist society and on an economy driven by unbridled market forces which has no place for such noble human sentiments like love, emotional attachment, filial obligations and affection. The play was presented on an open air stage. The offstage sounds and the light effects created the right ambience, deepening the painful feeling of alienation. Purmendu Bhattacharya and Averee Chaurey created convincing portraits of old couple through their gaits, facial expressions and style of dialogue delivery, revealing the psyche of old people, their anxieties, fears and inner pain. [rc] Khela > Writer: Sisir Kumar Das > Director: Shamu Ganguly > Plot: Captures the dismal world of the aged and lonely USP: The device of drama-within-the drama makes the narrative intricate Copyright © 2010, The Hindu