Firstly given the theme of the play, it was awkward to see it in Hindi. Quite early in the play I thought that this is essentially a Kannada play. Hindi does not suit it. English would also have been fine given the Kannada vs. English controversy that sets the pitch for the play. And it turns out that I was right. It was indeed a Kannada Play, translated into English and later into Hindi. But I really don’t complain. 4 months in Bangalore has done nothing to teach me Kannada really 🙂
Story wasn’t particularly unpredictable, moving or brilliant. But the presentation and acting by the solo actress Arundhati Nag was good and would make you sit through it. The dialogs and script were also good and the touch of humour that the author has been able to bring in once in a while were also good.
The story is essentially about a local writer, Manjula Nayak, who is a professor in English, but writes short-stories in Kannada. But this time she writes a novel in English which wins her international acclaim. The critics back home, however, are not pleased with her desertion of Kannada and she gets her share of assault. A TV channel decides to bring a Kannada Telefilm based on her novel and invites her for a 15 minutes address before the movie. In the address she takes the critics hands on and does so very successfully. She also reveals the source of her inspiration for the novel which depicts the fight for life by a young girls impaired since birth. She says it was inspired by the life of her younger sister, Manini Nayak, who was in similar situation until she dies. However, as the story unfolds after the address, it turns out that the novel was actually written by Manini, who used to think and talk in English, not in Kannada, unlike Manjula, the elder sister. Being paralyzed in the lower portion of her body, she was bound to her wheel chair all her life, but never lost the zeal to live. She was more beautiful, more intelligent and more sensitive than Manjula. Because of her disability she got more attention from their parents and they also left a larger part of their wealth for her after their death. She more than made up for her disability by her readings, intelligence and a quest to learn. After their parents died, Manjula brought her to her home. But it turned out that her husband and Manini got very intimate. Manjula with her shallow nature became the villain in this whole situation. Despite realizing what was going on, she could never expose or confront either of them. Probably without knowing it herself, she wished for the death of Manini. Manini, the sensitive girl, however could see through her elder sister. After Manini died, Manjula found the novel in his husband’s drawer and was almost shocked by it. One was the sheer talent that oozed out of the novel and the other was the identifiable vile character that was inspired by her own in the novel. Overcame by jealousy and anger, she decides to publish the novel in her own name and take a revenge by hogging all the glory. She succeeds in doing that, but her husband is angry and leaves her. She is pretty much alone. The final message of the play was that Manjula may think she has won over her sister because she is alive while her sister is dead. But in essence it is Manini who had won because if her purpose was to make Manjula realize just how vile she was, she has succeeded in doing that.
I think the play would have done better not to characterize good and bad in black and white like this. There was a scope of subtlety. Sibling rivalry, particularly fueled by the fact that one of them is getting more attention from the parents since childhood due to her disability, provided a scope of more nuanced representation. Manjula is not so obviously a villain. Probably she is very well a victim, who did not get enough psychological support when she needed it. There was no one to help her check the feelings she developed for her sister. This only got worsened by the fact that she did not have a natural maturity or sensitivity that some people have.
Thus, overall, I think the story is not great. But other aspects were good and despite the weak story, you feel like the time was well invested.