The play has been regularly showcased by various theatre groups over the past few decades.
Years ago, actress Himani Shivpuri made an important decision that firmly set her on the path of the performing arts. She chose to skip Oxford University and joined the National School of Drama instead. The reason? She had watched writer Mohan Rakesh’s iconic play Adhe Adhure in Shimla, back in the 70s.
The play has been regularly showcased by various theatre groups over the decades — its most-recent outing is by the The Jeff Goldberg Studio which has five shows this month.
Sit in the auditorium and hear the kale-suitwallah aadmi (man in the black suit) speak to you directly from the centre of the stage to the beats of Lord Shiva’s tandavs. He is the creator of situations and he demands your response to the circumstances.
He is the patriarch. He is also the common man, the house owner, a man who is forlon and powerless. He is Mahendra.
Mahendra is the head of a five-member family in the vicious net of destitution. It is the sixties, and industry faces lock-down. But what compounds Mahendra’s distress is that he is constantly dominated by his younger wife, Savitri.
The stress and pull in the family — there is a daughter too with a failed marriage — makes it a suffocating cauldron of ranting sub-humans living off each other’s misery. A series of crises are stringed together for the plot to lurch ahead.
Savitri is a modern woman — qualified, responsible and ambitious. But one who struggles to understand through the first half her angst against her husband, which so often leads to manic outbursts. She wants a stable, social life but her ambitions are thwarted with every move she makes. The second half opens the Pandora’s Box, with shocking revelations.
Performing Savitri was not easy, says actress Komal Chhabria. “I have gone through situations that are similar to those that Savitri experiences, and it was painful to relive them all over again for the play. It was in my past, but these experiences helped me get into the character better,” she said.
The method actor is a veteran but this role challenged her. “My kids saw a different mother in me!” she said.
Director Ashok Pandey plays Mahendra, and two other roles that provide a twist to the plot. He did it with élan, changing costumes and attitudes. “I also wanted to experiment with my acting skills. It was challenging to disconnect from one character and play the other, but it was a learning and I feel good about it,” Pandey said.
Other characters are played by Saadhika Syal, Udhav Vij and Urvazi Kotwal.The play is set for the proscenium theatre but this family drama has an intimate setting. Talking about this experiment, director Ashok Pandey said, “This play is very close to me. In a closed set-up, the audience can live next to the characters.” He added: “It is not just my vision… this play gives a lot of scope to be set anywhere the director is comfortable with.”