This play highlights corruption among cops and politicians

Updated: Mar 11, 2019, 09:37 IST | Shunashir Sen

An Indian adaptation of a satirical play by Italian playwright Dario Fo highlights the issue of corruption among the police and politicians

This play highlights corruption among cops and politicians
A scene from Operation Three Star

The world needs The Maniac. That's the name of the central character in a play called The Accidental Death of an Anarchist, written by the Nobel Prize-winning Italian Dario Fo in 1970. The plot is highly political. It involves the protagonist infiltrating a brutally corrupt system, and exposing the powers that be as being the emperor with no clothes. And in the process, he has the bad guys scrambling for cover since their misdeeds are out in the open. These villains — specifically, the police force in this case — are forced to resort to 10 lies to hide just one.

The same play has been adapted in an Indian context by Amitabh Srivastava, and is called Operation Three Star. A staging of it will take place in the city this weekend, directed by Arvind Gaur of Asmita Theatre. Gaur tells us about how the story line is timeless, and can fit any part of the world where there is an unjust hierarchical structure at work. But before we examine why that is, let's draw an outline of the plot.

The Maniac being interrogated

The curtains open to reveal an inspector interrogating The Maniac for being a fraudster. But the dim-witted policeman's IQ is no match for the highly intelligent Maniac's. So, the latter constantly outsmarts him. He intercepts a phone call that the cop gets when he is away for a little while. The caller is a superior who wanted to let the inspector know that he is needed back in the police station for a case where an anarchist has been accidentally killed. A judge is about to arrive to find out about the more minute details of the case. And hearing this, The Maniac gives the inspector the slip and decides to go to the station himself, posing as the judge.
Once there, The Maniac inadvertently learns that the death of the so-called anarchist was not in fact an accident, but a murder at the hands of the police forces. The latter are thus now trying to concoct an elaborate web of deceit to wipe their hands clean. This leads The Maniac to assume the role of a crusader, and trick the police into admitting their own guilt. And the curtains fall with an open ending, where The Maniac asks a journalist covering the case to choose between two possible scenarios.

Arvind Gaur

So, how does the same plot reflect our own times, in India? "It's through the metaphor of encounter killings, for one," Gaur tells us. He says, "There was a time when encounter cases were rampant. But then people started talking about the issue. A hue and cry was made whenever there was such a killing. And the start of that conversation eventually led to the numbers reducing, because if you think about it, there are a lot less encounter cases now than before."

Gaur adds that since there is no one superhero called The Maniac who can single-handedly rid society of corruption — there are, for instance, ethical hackers, rights activists and investigative journalists collectively doing the same job — the onus lies on individuals to address any corruption they come across. "Each of us needs to identify an issue and then talk about it to reach a solution, because if we stay mum, the unjust will get away and things will carry on as they are," he explains. The power to make a difference then lies in our own hands, he says, meaning every member of society is The Maniac to some extent. And it's just that the world needs us to recognise ourselves as being one.

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