For Rahul Seth, it is an occasion to rejoice over the maiden show of his first play, “Running on Empty”, in Hindi translation at Shri Ram Centre recently. Under the direction of eminent theatre director M.K.Raina, “Anterdhwani” was also a theatrical event for the discerning audience to watch a new script that explores the agonised inner world of characters in the context of violence unleashed by terrorists and the State. The professionally trained and experienced performers impart insight into their characters’ inner world. The play was presented by Long Jump Studio.
Playwright Rahul Seth has worked nearly for three decades in the US and is staying in India for the past seven years pursuing his passion for theatre . Trained in stage direction at Shri Ram Centre and at Yale University School for Drama, he is the Founder of Long Jump Studio. He wants to expand his creativity by staging his own plays and the short stories written by his mother Rajee Seth with fidelity to structure and finer nuances of language of the stories. Right now he is planning to direct his second play “Lived Words” under the banner of his own group.
Jointly translated into Hindi from the original in English by Santwana Nigam and Ujwala Daodhar Seth, the play opens in the drawing room of upper middle class family engaged in the prospects of business deal facing formidable rivals but they are obsessed with unhappy conjugal life. One character has already divorced his wife rationalising with the thought that every relation becomes cold and weak in the long run. Another character – Shekhar – is terrified with the fact that his marriage is on the rocks. Gradually, we meet other characters – Nandini, the wife of Shekhar and their daughter Kiran. A pall of gloom pervades in the family. Nandini is a painter who returns home after her show of paintings is over. As a painter now, she is disillusioned with the contemporary art scene as well as with her own creativity.
Her relationship with her husband has become bitter, branding him opportunistic who has betrayed his social and political conviction. Their daughter Kiran, a lecturer and researcher, enters the scene, revealing her own inner anguish and sorrow. Through the heated polemics between these unhappy members of the family, the core thematic layer emerges revealing the death of Kabir, the young son of the family, a deviant who rejected the middle class values and mad race of acquiring higher status in society. He left home and went to a far off place where people are languishing in economic and social deprivation and are victim of violence let loose by terrorists and the State. Step by step, evoking a sense of suspense, we are told about the circumstances under which Kabir became the victim of a bullet in the course of exchange of fire between terrorists and the police – these facts about the death of Kabir is revealed by Saina who loved Kabir and has come all the way to meet the family of Kabir. A finely tuned production, it dissects the theme with mounting dramatic tension, projecting the troubled vision of contemporary society.
However, the play does not identify the locale where Kabir goes, meets Saina, falls in love with her and with the social work she is doing for her people. From costumes and background music, it is suggestively revealed that the locale is somewhere in the North East. Kabir’s political and social ideology is not defined. What was his compulsion to leave his home? At the same time the motives of terrorists are not shown for which they have taken to arms. It seems that the main focus of the playwright is the inner psychological and emotional turmoil of the middle class which has lost its cultural moorings and finds its life without symphony and its future as mirage.
The performers stand out for the striking portrayal of their characters. Rakesh Singh’s Shekhar, the father of Kabir, presents forceful argument to defend himself that he is not responsible for Kabir’s death and considers his death as accident and believes that man makes his own reality and Kabir chooses his own path. Anilla Khosla’s Nandini, the mother of Kabir, brings out the tormented soul of a mother whose son dies far away in a remote place, with telling effect. She condemns her husband for his cowardice reflected in his inability to stop their son from leaving home and pursuing a path that led him to his death. Barnall Medhi plays the role of Saina, the beloved of Kabir, committed to serve her people with force and conviction.