Putu the Cat

Fear me, if you dare. Meow.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Being a Culture Vulture in Calcutta

I went to watch this play yesterday put up by Jayant Kripalani, based on the script by Manjula Padmanabhan. The play is called Lights Out and deals with how in an ordinary middle class neighbourhood a bunch of men over days repeatedly rape and brutalize a woman while the rest of the neighbourhood which can hear her screams for help stand by in mute impotence. The play clearly suffered from less than inspired acting, but parts of the play are so meandering and implausible that the irony is lost.

The acting was, on the whole, quite poor. Putu must admit some bias here. One of Putu's fat cat cousins was in the play, and Putu clearly felt that he was the best actor on stage. But it's true- till Bikram entered the play was uniformly dull. Even Bornila Chatterjee, who did a wonderful job in the last Kripalani production was too subdued and too one dimensional (i.e. hysterical housewife) to make an impact.

The audience for the play wasn't great either- they kept laughing at the wrong moments. It was only when they were told at the end of the play that the whole situation was real, that they were shocked into silence. But that shock should really have come much earlier. It ought to have been obvious that the play was making fun of the hands off attitude of the middle class in India that doesn't want to get involved because what is happening next door involves 'poor' people, or maybe a 'whore'.  In fact, Putu felt that the prostitution angle ought to have been pursued more vigorously- the entire debate about rape and prostitution is a lively one, and not just in legal circles. However, the brief dialogue between the protagonists on this fell completely flat. The whole religious/exorcism thing was overdone and by the end of it, was so implausible that the characters too were beginning to lose their credibility. The unfortunate bit is that the play had the possibility of opening up a number of different avenues for exploration and tried to do too much, in too little time, with a cast that was clearly not up to the mark, that it ended up being more farcical than it should have.


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