Monday, 16 February 2009

Khaad - The Trench

Does being married necessarily means we really know the "other" person ? Or are most marriages "of convenience" ? Do we confuse security of marriage with happiness ? And is the identity and ability of a woman still judged by her bearing and rearing capacity.

These are some of the questions which were raised by a Play called "Khaad" or the trench in Bengali. Enacted by a group called Chonnochaara, as part of a Bengali Short Play competition organized by New Delhi Kalibari at the LTG auditorium.

The story is set in a remote hill-station where a seemingly regular couple – Ratri and Kuntal – have gone for a holiday. However, something is amiss. Ratri and Kuntal have nothing to share – their aims, goals and even their “preferences”.
To liven up their lives they play a game of impersonation – something I have never understood is why to invite complications, as if we haven’t had enough trouble with Schizophrenics. And then comes a mysterious stranger – something akin to Garcia Marquez characters whom one cant make out is real or imaginary – who happens to know a lot more about the couple than they themselves. The stranger reveals that our lady is not “capable of bearing children” due to an accident caused by drunken driving by her brother and hence the cause of her frustration and loneliness. At this point of time I was full of sympathy for the husband. Ok I understand the statement – Saari Khudai ek taraf, Joru ka bhai ek taraf – but its something else to bear a lady who is obsessed with child bearing and the poor husband has to listen to her monologues. If I was the playwright I would’ve put a dialogue akin to the one made famous by Amitabh -
“Pehle jaake apne baap ko satao jisne tumhare bhai ko daaro peena sikhaya
Pehle jaake us bhai ko satao jisne daaro peekar gaadi chalayi
Pehle jaake us policewaale ko pakro jisne tumhare bhai ko drunken driving karne diya
Aur tab ....... tab jaake tum mujhe satane aana“
Sadly that was not to be. Instead our mystery man reveals that Kuntal is a bi-sexual and had an affair with the brother of our lady. Now I am ranting. Cmon get hold of this brother Rajat and kill him. This Rajat fellow has had a good time – He drinks and drives, has orgies with this poor guy who must give in to his lust because he needs moolah, and gets his sister married to this guy so that he continues his lustful ways. I mean if this is not just passport to hell, rather passport with H1B stamped on it (I have heard that Hell too has a strict immigration policy these days due to an increased queue of low sin applicants from India)
The thing I loved the most about the play was the last scene. Our lady is sitting alone and the stranger arrives. She probably now knows that this stranger is a ghost (“surreal character” is what the director calls it but lets not split hairs over that) and as she tries to get away, falls into a deep pit (Khaad in Bengali) and dies. Kuntal is relieved, and delivers what must be in the annals of husband-wife relationship a speech that can only be compared to the one given by Martin Luther King for the oppressed black people. A confession par excellence, which shows that husbands are not always mean, lifeless and insensitive – rather their sensitivities lie somewhere else. And while he is celebrating the death, he is not overjoyed but retrospective and while the divide was still there, it was not insurmountable, provided the wife did not lament as much.
Overall a good treatment of a rather sensitive subject - Well the director could have fundamentalists of all hues after his neck.
My suggestions to the director, for Khaad Part II, please get Sallu bhai as an actor and let the story revolve around Kuntal getting a crush on him. Of course Sallu would be more than happy to strip on stage.

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