Monday, July 16, 2007

Heart firmly in place

Kanyadaan, The Giving of a Daughter

Directed by: Litette Dubey
Starring: Rajendra Gupta, Lillete Dubey, Joy Sengupta, Radhika Apte and Raghav Chanana
Preformed at Nehru Memorial on July 7, 2007

How are you supposed to react when a character in a play screams in English that he is a Dalit and hence does not know the ways of the cultured people, and then goes to prove his point by kicking his upper-cast pregnant wife (who married him at the first place knowing fully well who he is)? Very biased indeed, especially when most of the audience may not even understand the complexities of being a Dalit.
This is the major problem of Lilette Dubey’s adaptation of Vijay Tendulakar’s play Kanyadaan. Tendulkar’s play was written in Marathi and in a Marathi milieu, the story of the clash of ideologies work. But when you trans-create the milieu in English, the language demands much more than literal translation. This is why instead of being politicised statements, Arun Athavale’s dialogues sound crude and over-the-top in English. And, Joy Sengupata’s dramatic body language does not help the cause.
Other than this Kanyadaan, the Giving of a Daughter, directed by Lilette Dubey and presented by Entre Nous at the Nehru Memorial Hall last Saturday was a treat for the city theatre aficionados. You don’t get to see such heart-warming human drama often in English theatre. The Dalit issue apart, the main problem of the play is the clash of ideologies between those who preach what they practice and those who does not, the relationship between a father and a daughter and the conflict between reality and ideology.
Jyoti (Radhika Apte), daughter of an idealist politician Nath Devlalikar (Rajendra Gupta) decides to marry a Dalit boy Arun just because he writes brilliant poetry. Despite her mother Seva (Lilette Dubey) and brother Jayprakash (Raaghav Chanana) opposing the alliance, her father encourages her saying that if casteism has to end, somebody has to take initiative for inter-cast alliances and, why not Jyoti! Conflict begins when Arun begins to treat Jyoti badly, yet the family can’t do anything for their daughter’s sake.
Despite being verbose at some points, the play has its moments of poignancy, and it touches a chord with the audiences. For this the credit must go to the acting. And the scene-stealer is Rajendra Gupta. Those who have grown up watching him in Doordarshan serials, his acting skills are just getting better. How he plays a doting father and an idealist with equal aplomb, how he combines comic and passionate moments together! His dialogues elicit maximum laughter from the audience, and it is the who moves you to tears at the end. Radhika Apte is competent and at most places matches her skills with Gupta, especially at the final confrontation. Litette Dubey is regal as usual, and that’s about it.
At a time when theater means mostly comedies, a play with a heart firmly in its place is a welcome change and a good introduction to Tenkulkar’s work to the English speaking public.

Rating *** out for *****

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