Dosh – A very necessary celebration of elderliness

Posted by Kaahon Desk On March 15, 2020

Hindi play ‘Dosh’, a Padatik Theatre & Rikh-presentation, was recently premiered at the Padatik Little Theatre II intimate space on 14th February this year.  The writer and director of the play is Vinay Sharma. This review is based on 15th February’s show. The latest performance of this play has happened again in the same intimate space of Padatik Little Theatre II on 8th March, 2020.

Two people who are known to each other, coming across somewhere all of a sudden or as planned, talking about their past, bringing up some unresolved issues or secrets of the past through mock trials or interviews; getting to know each other once again –this is a very common template in literature, plays or cinemas! Quite a lot of English plays revolve around their characters’ ‘memories’ and there is also a rhetorical name to this genre- Memory Play. Although we tend to assign certain plays by Tennessee Williams and Harold Pinter from the last century into this genre, ‘When We Dead Awaken’ by Henrik Ibsen or ‘The Burned Site’ by August Strindberg of 19th century are considered to be the forerunner of this genre! There are some local examples as well, such as- ‘Jatugriha’ or ‘Ijaazat’ in Indian cinema, or even the more recent one, ‘Praktan’! Vinay Sharma’s ‘Dosh’ follows this structure. A man and a woman who are siblings in relation ruminate about their past in this play. But their past soon transcends the personal circle and becomes thoroughly political!

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The events of the play take place in the evening of 31st December 1999, right at the threshold of the new millennium! At the doorstep of their old age, both Seema and her elder brother (name?) are reflecting about their past lives, accompanied by Old Monk! A very important part of their lives they have spent in the US, in the 60s. Memories good and bad come up in their conversation, Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ blends in with songs from Hindi movie ‘Waqt’(both came out in 1965)! Childhood memories bring up anecdotes of domestic violence and with that, the play enters into the bigger picture of societal violence- it becomes evident that they are actually brooding over the history of the whole century- the history which is bloody and violent! To put it in another way, the history of the whole century runs through the lives of these two characters!

The tagline in the advertisement of this play reads, ‘To obey or not to obey that is the question!’ We are not going into the explicit discussion of why they have put this as their tagline but it can be assured that there is an obvious connection between this tagline and the highly controversial social psychology experiment conducted by Yale University in the 60s! The rest is for the audience to explore! And this play does have a very plain and simple and contemporary message which is intensely political! And it is beyond a doubt that the message was fairly communicated to the audience. This is only possible when all the elements of the play come together and work in a synchronized way. First comes the text- and especially its being undeniably moderate. The whole story gets wrapped up within 90 minutes; nowhere does it include any loud speeches or anything excessive- as if a bit too constricted! For example- when the play takes a turn towards the context of social violence, it was somewhat abrupt.  When the play is talking about the contemporary Hippy or Counterculture movement in the United States, it completely overlooks the context of second-wave Feminism which was in full motion at the same time; whereas the play had enough opportunity and context to bring that into conversation! The set, dress, and music in the play are designed by the director himself. The set is constructed mainly by packing boxes. They have been arranged in a particular way to bring multiple private spaces out of them which blends with the story of the play quite well. Dress and props have been arranged keeping the contemporary time in mind. The Music has perfectly complemented the mood of the play, and never set itself apart! Sound operation plays a significant role in the play; Dinesh Halder has passed with flying colours in that part. Light never played such important role in the recent productions by Padatik & Rikh (Mark Twain, Jaanch Partal), but in this play, Light has been quite remarkably used in two very crucial dramatic moments (Light design- Sudip Sanyal, Projection- Pabitra Sarkar). But the lively performance by the actors surpasses everything! Harsh Khurana as the ‘brother’ in his flamboyant acting and physique has time and again reminded us of Shashi Kapoor in his heydays! He has wonderfully communicated the distress of his character through his vocal and physical acting. Sarika Singh as Seema appears a bit loud initially but quickly catches the tune of composure. Speaking of which, both the actors follow a traditional approach in their performances, but they complement each other with profound professionalism. They are careful towards the complexities of their characters, use the whole space for acting, and with their clear, articulate pronunciation of words and the advantage of intimate space push the audience to the last edge in the climactic scene! But this effect which has been constructed with so effort bit by bit seems to drop right after the climax, the audience comes to feel that the play is nearing its end. A ray of hope is expected at the beginning of the new century, and the play fulfills that expectation as well. But when the actors express that they might live twenty more years, somewhere down the line, it brings back the tone of disappointment again.

Rani Creusa– Rani Creusa after Medea, Greek myths in Bengali theatreThere is neither a single comment nor even the slightest hint towards the political fiasco of present-day India, but the audience clearly understands what drives this play! And they take that message home with them. And thus the work transcends its existence as art only. Although quite different in terms of the making, this play somehow reminds us of the film ‘The White Ribbon’ by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. Standing in 2009, Haneke searched for the sources of future violence in the villages of a century-old Germany. Vinay Sharma’s work is more challenging since he had to do this in today’s India. This play seems to have rubbed the noses of the loud, hollow and too politically rhetorical works of the self-proclaimed theatre-pundits of Bengal! And for the Academy-centric Bengali theatre audience; the physical distance between Academy of Fine Arts and Padatik is a nominal one, it’s time to cover the mental distance as well. And we request the makers too, to free this play from the boundaries of Padatik theatre only. Otherwise, except for a well-dressed, upper-class, elite circle, a large section of the society would be deprived of the play! It’s important to reach them!

Anjan Nandi
A science student, postdoctoral researcher, writer-translator of science oriented popular literature and a dedicated audience of theatre for last two decades, he has observed many changes in Bengali theatre from a very close proximity. He is a regular contributor in Bengali Wikipedia and engages himself deeply in photography and cinema.

Translation: Rishav Dutta

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।

Related Updates


Follow Us

Show Calendar

Message Us