The Company Theatre, Mumbai, presented “Detective Nau-Do-Gyarah” at Kamani Auditorium recently under the auspices of Aadyam Theatre. It was an attempt to stage a play that was inspired by the gangster films genre. It is a genre which is rarely seen on the Delhi stage. The sensational theme acted out by actors trained in physical theatre and adept in improvisation kept the audience in good humour throughout the show which lasted nearly for two hours.
Written jointly by Pallav Singh and Niketan Sharma, the play is directed by Atul Kumar, one of the founding members of the Company Theatre which was formed in 1993.
Over the years, Atul has directed some significant plays for the group. Its production of “Priya Bahrupiya” brought laurels to the group. His present offering seems to be high on the use of technology with a thin storyline. In their endeavour to create the structure of the play based on gangster films genre, the playwrights have contrived some elements commonly used in the genre like spies engaged in espionage, endangering the security of the country, and murder mystery. In the nefarious game of betraying one’s country, at times simple people unwittingly dare to oppose these forces. Circumstances force them to rise to the level of a national hero. Shekhar Kumar is one such character in the play under review.
The play opens with a performer addressing the audience about life of ordinary citizens and their humdrum daily routine, mostly adhering to conventions, seldom trying to chart out a new and exciting lifestyle. And then he gives some broad hint of murder which turns out to be mysterious with little clue about the murderer and his motive. Upstage in the dark using lighting effects we watch movements of hands, gloves and knives which evoke feeling of suspense and fear. After the fade out we watch in the brightly lighted stage musicians sitting on a raised platform upstage with a variety of musical instruments. Some performers as audiences occupying centre and downstage are curious to listen to the live music. The venue known as Royal Opera House is famous which attracts lovers of good music. The patrons in light-hearted mood are eager to listen to the music to enjoy themselves. Rushing frantically, a young woman joins the lovers of music.
She requests Shekhar Kumar, unknown to her, to protect her from criminals who are chasing her with a view to kill her. Reluctantly, he allows her to stay at his house for one night. The simple-minded Shekhar is shocked to discover the young lady with a knife thrust on her back. Before she dies, she tells Shekhar about her killer, a dreaded criminal with one eye, indulging in the heinous crime of espionage, selling security secrets of the country to enemy. The lady tells Shekhar her name as Naini D’Souza. The police suspect that Shekhar is the killer of the woman and pursue him who manages to hoodwink them. The international espionage gang is aware of the mission of Shekhar who are also chasing him with the intention of killing him. Shekhar takes upon himself the noble duty of a patriot and is determined to expose the enemies of the nation. All these diabolically opposite forces are desperately engage in playing cat and mouse. As the play moves towards the climax, the game becomes exciting.
Despite the dangerous game, Shekhar is playing, he reaches to the head of the gangster of the underworld. On the way to the den of the gangster, Shekhar not only faces danger to his life and also encounters romantic entanglements, confronting them all in the spirit of a sportsman.
The production would have become consistently more engaging if it had dealt with some socio-political issues in a plausible way. We have seen gangsters engaged in daring bank robbery and sinister looking gangsters dangerous for the moral fabric of civil society. The play under review depicts the danger to the sovereignty of the country by espionage network. It also talks of a ship and its invisible character controlled by the enemies of the country. A naïve man suddenly rising to the occasion endeavours to save the country tends to be far fetched. At a time when espionage operations involve high-tech, can a naïve person stand a chance to outsmart these evil forces. The projection of a espionage ringleader as one-eyed appears to be a cliché.
Atul’s design is innovative which effectively creates the right ambience, providing enough space for the dramatic action which moves towards denouement with fast pace. Though the Royal Opera House is the main space where most of the action is set, the production captures the arduously dangerous path our protagonist traverses, using the right kind of properties to create the backdrop for the action. The street scene with lamppost gives us the impression that the action is taking on streets. The placing of live orchestra lends the production visual aura. The several entry and exit points and the stylized lighting effects evoke a sense of suspense. The director has incorporated elements like slapstick, clowning and comedy of policemen who display their utter incompetence to comprehend the alleged murderer. To make his production amusing, the director has also portrayed underworld operatives in a manner that makes them ridiculous. They pretend to be wise but turn out to be foolish.
All the members of the cast give brilliant performances, displaying remarkable sense of timing.