1 Madhav Bagh is a thought provoking play that delves deep into the sensitive topic of homosexuality
Not every play has to be issue based. But if it is, then the only way to sensitise the audience to the issue is by putting it forth in the most unusual manner. If the banal portrayal of homosexuality in popular media irks you putting you in cringe mode, watch 1 Madhav Bagh.
Penned by one of the doyens of Marathi theatre, late Chetan Datar and directed by Mariam Jetpurwala who comes with years of experience in television drama, the play has acclaimed actress Revathy in a 30-minute soliloquy.
Originally written in Marathi, it was translated into English by Datar's long time comrade and author Shanta Gokhale two years ago. "Generally I keep to the original and don't take any liberties unless absolutely essential.
The cultural context of the play is extremely middle class Marathi, which I call the romantic middle class. To get those nuances right in English, there's nothing much I could do," says Gokhale, who watched the premiere of the play at Ranga Shankara two years ago.
The Marathi version runs for 50 minutes and it was Mariam's idea to condense it to 30 minutes. "I thought it was a bit long and repetitive and requested Datar to edit it," states Mariam.
The play is structured for a platform performance (one that takes place in an intimate space and not in a theatre). It was first performed in the theatre's corridor. This time around, Arundhati Nag has chosen the office room in the premise as a result of which the play is open to only 30 people.
Since platform performances have very little technical support (the set includes a carpet, chair and table along with a computer and speaker), the 30-minute duration was perfect.
"Everyone in Bangalore said it needed editing, partly because Arundhati wanted it in the office space. But the play stands up well even with editing. And Chetan was happy with the outcome," states Gokhale.
Set in the the fictional address of 1 Madhav Bagh, the plot focuses on a son's attempt at coming out of the closet through an entry in his diary that his mother chances upon.
The mother, played by Revathy, is a progressive working woman, who decides to bunk work one day as she feels like watching the rains from her window. It's when she begins tidying up her son's room, that she finds a CD containing the 21-year old's diary.
She is holding a public reading of the diary not knowing what to expect. "As a woman and mother, she responds to the text she's reading and interrupts herself and says, 'If any of you has a problem with what I'm reading, please sort it out with the writer because he is amidst us," reveals Gokhale.
The mother goes through the typical middle class moral dilemma that a situation like this would present. But eventually the son commits suicide because the mother doesn't support him even though she wants to.
According to Mariam, Revathy, who debuted on stage with the play, was very brave to do the play.
"When you have been a screen actress, facing a live audience can be quite daunting. As a screen actress, you internalise a lot. Theatre is more about broad acting. But she does a lot with her eyes in the space that we had, as the audience sits two feet away from her.
So internalising the performance was essential. She memorised sixty per cent of the play and read the rest of it. And it helped that she didn't have any star tantrums," reveals Mariam.
It took Mariam just eight to nine days to put the play together. The main challenge was the subject itself. "What struck me the most about the script was that it deals with the issue from the point of view of the mother which is unusual. Usually a homosexual character in a film or a play narrates his own experiences.
This is the first time the mother talks about it. She goes through the kind of shock that a middle class mother would on discovering that her son is gay.
Besides it's also the generation gap between them. What makes the play all the more relevant is that it was written before the abolition of Article 377 that declared homosexuality as a crime. It requires guts to bring an issue like this out in the open," avers Mariam.
WHERE Ranga Shankara
ON November 12, 7 .30 pm and 13, 3. 30 pm and 7 .30 pm
FOR Rs 100