Based on the classic work of famous writer Mohan Rakesh, Aadhe Adhure (penned in 1969) is a poignant saga of a dysfunctional family on the verge of splitting. Set in the urban milieu of 60s New Delhi, it deals with the unfulfilled dreams, shattered aspirations, insecurities, incompatibility, dissatisfaction and conflicts within a family.
Savitri is a well educated working mother of 3 who struggles to provide her family a decent lifestyle and fails miserably. Highly dissatisfied with her life conditions, she desperately tries to find a panacea to all her woes. She indulges in wheeling dealing, hobnobbing with the powerful men, fake sweet talking to her boss (So that her unemployed (Ah, the 60s!) son gets a job and stability. She struggles to juggle between work and home and tolerates her abusive, ‘good for nothing’ sit-at-home husband of many years. She leaves no stones unturned to upgrade her family’s lifestyle and social standing but with zilch success. Her husband has been a loser whom she blames for the family’s misery. But the husband is not the only family member she is at conflict with. Her son who hates her boss doesn’t want his help to join the workforce. He spends the better part of his life scouring magazines to aimlessly cut the pictures of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, the works! Her elder daughter ran away some years back, only to find disharmony in her marriage. Her younger and worryingly pubescent, daughter is a rebel who is disobedient, high on hormones, bubbly and spends the better part of her life figuring out what adult men and women do with each other!
For a play or film to engage the audience deftly, the most important ingredient is conflicts and there are conflicts galore in Aadhe Adhure. Almost all the characters are in conflict with each other. Years of struggles of coping with each other brings the family to a point where the members can neither live with each other nor desert each other.
This inevitably leads to a spate of high pitched tumultuous confrontations, skeletons spilling out of the closets (read shocking family secrets) and tough life decisions.
The play has several tense moments where you can almost feel the suffocation that the family feels. So much so that even you want to run away from such a claustrophobic environment. But it’s not all murky waters here. Lots of black humour and sarcastic dialogues have been intelligently woven into the play so the tension doesn’t grate on the nerves. These funny moments keep the momentum of the narrative light and yet your mind sub consciously thinks of the lurking doom for the family.
Performance wise, the show boasts of a stellar starcast. I had in fact longed to see this play only to see live on stage my favourite Lillette Dubey (Best known for Monsoon Wedding and Kal Ho Na Ho) in action. She embodies the character of Savitri so well, you can’t imagine anyone but her in this role. Though its hard to imagine her as a poverty ridden character but she excels in her role. She’s different with different men. With her husband, she’s aggressive and dominating. With her boss, she’s obsequious and servile and then she behaves like a coquettish teenaged girl when with her ex lover/admirer. She effortlessly portrays myriad shades of her personality within a troubled women. The tragedy of being Savitri is that despite her sincere efforts to give a better lifestyle to her family, not only does she fails to achieve her goals but her family disapproves of her ways and motives. Though Lillette fumbles with her lines here and there but that is pardonable. Then there was a long monologue where she vents her anger and built up frustrations animatedly. When she started speaking the dialogues, I got the epiphany that I had heard the lines before. And then I realised that during my stint at Anupam Kher’s acting school, ‘Actor Prepares’ , the female students were given the very same lines to rehearse and speak. Most of the students did a fair job but when I compared it to Lillette’s version I was spellbound. The difference in the level of acting was very obvious. Torn between her own aspirations and her responsibilities, she crumbles. Hats off to her. Mohan Aghase, much to the amusement of the audiences, plays all the men in Savitris’s life. He plays different men who are ‘all the same’ beneath the surface. He easily slips in to the shoes of Mahendra, the insecure husband who couldn’t provide the family financial or the suave ex admirer of Savitri who has now ‘moved on’ in life. Not to forget the principled friend of Mahendra or the foolish , lecherous and crass boss of Savitri. He plays all the men with perfection in what seemed like a quick dress change at the back stage. And mind you these were all different personalities which he portrayed with so much finesse. Lilette’s daughter Ira Dubey (Her claim to fame is film Aisha) puts in a good act but at times she’s too theatrical and irritatingly over the top. Yet she succeeds in touching a cord. Rajeev Sidhdhartha plays the angst ridden angry young man with aplomb while the super confident Anushchka Sawhney does a fab job as a troubled teen, whom no one understand and who is always embarrassed with her family’s social standing.
Also worth mentioning are the sets of the play. It’s not very common that the set of a play becomes one of the characters. The set has the 60s feel to it. The furniture such as cupboard, dressing table etc. reminded me of the old furniture at my grandfather’s place. Wonder where did they arrange these gems from? However the avoidably torn and way too dirty curtains were unnecessary. But then it was about times when you didn’t have the money to replace your daughter’s torn socks. To sum up, the well acted play leaves a lasting impact on the audiences’ mind. And I can’t wait to show this play to my parents who grew up in the 60s and understands the social-political-cultural nuances of that era better.
Its Lilette Dubey’s 1st hindi production and I hope there are more!
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