Adha Adhure – Successful staging of a timeless drama on middle class mindscapes

Posted by Kaahon Desk On July 19, 2019

Adhe Adhure is one of the most acclaimed and by far the best work by the eminent Hindi litterateur Mohan Rakesh. In this play he delineates the picture of the miserable and conflicting lives of people in crises stuck in the reality of life. The monotony of daily life of the middle class family gradually develops itself into a habit. When the mutual relationships and feelings among the family members are weighed down by duties, responsibilities and rights, everyone feels lonely. They blame each other for their plights. The unfulfilled thirsty mind fumbles around to achieve fulfillment. And everyone goes on in this search in their own way. This play deals with that complex psychological exploration. The play was first published in 1969. Since then it has been translated and staged in unnumbered languages and places, needless to say, with success. The play was jointly translated into Bengali by Pratibha Agarwal and Samik Bandopadhyay. The Bengali translation was named Adha Adhure. It was brought to the Bengali stage by Shohan theatre group, directed by Aanish Ghosh. On 16th July the show was performed but this review is based on the  third presentation of this play, staged on 2nd June at Girish Mancha.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

At the very beginning of the play we come across a nameless character who is equally uncertain of his own identity and this play. This focuses our attention towards the uncertainty of our personal and social life which is reflected in this play’s characters and actions. Mahendranath, upon failing in his business, has long been sitting at home. His working wife Savitri alone feeds the family of five. They hate each other for their predicament and nature but cannot leave due to societal compulsions. To Savitri, Mahendranath is someone who is lazy, devoid of any personality and lives under her shadow and therefore she has no respect for him. She never expected someone like him as her life-partner. Like them, incompatibility is perceivable among other members of the family as well. Every one of them accuses the other for their own sorry state. Their son is an educated but unemployed youth. Although Savitri managed to get him a couple of jobs with her references, he could not keep hold on any of them. He stays at home like his father Mahendranath and collects pictures of film heroines. The elder daughter Binny runs away with Savitri’s former lover. But she is back home now since her strife ridden marriage never worked out. The younger one Kinny is an arrogant, mulish character who pays no heed to anybody. She indulges in discussions concerning sexual relationships with her friends at a still immature age. The toxic relationship between Mahendranath and Savitri casts a heavy influence upon their children’s minds. This play drives our attention towards how the changes in the relationship between the husband and wife (or parents) strongly affect the foundation of the family and other relationships. Savitri gradually becomes tired of her monotonous and mundane daily life. She finds no satisfaction from her husband, children or family. Unfulfilled, she strives to quench her thirst in the outer world. She seeks contentment in the other men in her life like Roychowdhury, Himangshu or Jagatbandhu. But she never reaches any closer to it. Instead they are all the same underneath, differed only by their masks. And they all resemble Mahendranath in a way. This play portrays the complications of the middle class and the incongruity arising from it. What appears to be the cause of these complications is the unbridled demand of this consumerist society which, since a middle class family can never possibly afford to meet, gives way to a perpetual frustration.   On the other hand, blinded by pride, instead of acknowledging their own shortcomings they lay the blame on each other, giving rise to a complete chaos within the family.

The cornerstone of this play is its acting. Anirban Chakraborty is without a doubt one of the best actors today. His flawless articulation, expression and movement can bring life to any character onstage, creating an impact upon the audience. He can mould himself to the needs of any character and this makes him an independent actor. His acting in this play has added another dimension to it. Along with the opening character he has played the roles of Mahendranath, Roychowdhury, Himangshu and Jagatbandhu and has equally enthralled the audience in all five of them. In case of the character of Mahendranath, his actions, such as, crunching the newspaper, hitting the chair on the ground, blatantly throwing it down in the name of looking for a file etc, bring out the suppressed angst within the character. On the other hand, the talkative nature and flamboyancy of the character of Roychowdhury reveal his pride of power and lasciviousness. By slightly altering his articulation and expression he has distinctly presented the two characters of Himangshu and Jagatbandhu. Sumana Mukherjee as Savitri perfectly matches Chakraborty’s flight onstage. She has wonderfully portrayed the dismayed woman and her fretful mind who has sacrificed her own wishes and dreams for her family’s well-being. Her inability to speak her mind while talking to Himangshu clearly brings out the conflict she is undergoing.  These two layers of the single character are beautifully sketched out. Besides, Madhumita Dam’s performance as Binny also deserves commendation, especially her helpless and silent expression in the end is hauntingly impressive.

The stage itself becomes a character in this play. The topsy-turvy arrangement of things on the stage resembles a scattered, incomplete family. Light (Soumen Chakraborty) and Music (Goutam Ghosh) play an important role in this play; such as, the intensifying blue light projected on Savitri’s face is suggestive of her dream while she prepares herself to meet Himangshu. Furthermore, the projection of a red tinge over Binny as she recounts her appalling experience is symptomatic of her anguish and pain. Careful use of little sounds has made them quite meaningful. With the sounds of Mahendranath’s throwing away books and papers, hitting the ground with the chair’s legs or dressing vegetables by Savitri the internal conflicts of the characters are thoroughly manifested.

Mohan Rakesh while writing Adhe Adhure in the later part of the 60s drew the picture of the hopes, dreams, complications, incongruities, achievements and failures of the middle class with minute detail. Even after so many decades, this play is equally relevant; making it one of the timeless texts of this field. It is not only about the middle class sensibility but also about life. And therefore it is capable of creating an impact at all times. We will always be thankful to Shohan for presenting such a classic play on the Bengali stage.

Pradip Datta
A post-graduation diploma holder of the Department of Media Studies, University of Calcutta, he has been a theatre activist in Bengal for the last twenty five years. He is a freelance journalist by profession. Besides theatre, his passion includes recitation, audio plays and many more.

Translation- Rishav Dutta

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