If I had not booked my ticket online, I would have had reason to worry seeing the "House full" board that greeted me as I entered Rangashankara yesterday to see 'Bikhre Bimb' (Broken Images or Scattered reflections when translated to English). The queue started to form as early as 6.45 PM (People usually form queues starting at 7 for a play that starts at 7.30). At the 'Namaskara' announcement requesting people to switch off their cellphones, the conversational babble ceased; the lights slowly dimmed and the stage came into stark view. How I love this part, to me it is something like touching a portkey to be transported to a different place and setting; like entering a trance, only to emerge richer, thanks to whatever transpired during its course.
Arundathi Nag impeccably dressed in a Sari walked in with a remark "Nice. Very Nice" as if commenting on the arrangements at Rangashankara itself. Right at that very moment began the unfolding of a genius. Eminent playwright Girish Karnad and acclaimed theater veteran Arundathi Nag have come together in this play to enthrall the audience. This work is multiple things at the same time; to speak about any one of its identity leaving out the others would be an injustice.
The hindi used throughout the play is so pure and runs like a clear stream unhindered and sure about its course. Arundathi Nag's voice, expressions and tone - the manner in which they undergo changes so very subtle and nuanced - is something that words fall short of capturing! Only the veteran is on stage throughout the length of the play, so the audience gets to see a treat!
As Manjula (Arundathi in the play) explains to a TV audience why despite being a Kannada writer, she chose to write in English, the playwright has had ample scope to talk about the questions that confront Indian writers in English. Why they chose English? Do they write for a overseas audience and cater to their predefined notions or are they genuinely interested in bringing out the 'fragrance of the Indian middle class' as one British agent tells Manjula while appreciating her work?
At the end of the address to the TV audience, an image of Manjula pops up on a TV screen and doesn't let the writer leave the studio. She is initially befuddled, but later opens up to the image. While answering the questions posed by the image, the whole exercise turns out to be an expose of the self. While references to 'Freudian Unconscious', Dostoevsky's Double and Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' (As an aside: I have read this one, it is one of my favorite reads, you can download it here) in the play do not fully capture the plight of the character, I suppose they are merely pointers to the manifestations of psycho analysis.
The play takes on a moral course from then on, how the line between selfishness and blatant wrong doing blur in a manner that is complicated and how the human self deludes itself into vindication. This is exemplary achievement, unwinding layer by layer to get into the core of the psychological struggle.
The appreciation at the end of such of a performance was every bit fitting the performer and the director. The genius of writing lies in leaving the ends open, in informing without sermonizing, in questioning without explaining and in drawing attention to the multitude of layers that abound between black and white. Hats off to the writer, director and the performer for making it possible!