It’s a psychological thriller for Shantaranga Theatre’s maiden production in Hindi
The group presented its first Hindi theatre production Raat on 7 May at the Don Russell Performing Art Centre. Written by famous Bollywood script writer Javed Siddiqui, and based on the famous English play Death and the Maiden by Arial Dorfman, it is an intense psychological thriller.
Director Sushanth Shantaram specifically chose this play for his debut production.
“I was really impressed when I saw the Kannada version Thotada Mane (Farm House) in Bangalore where it was first staged in 2003,” he recalled. “Almost a decade later, I approached its director Shri MS Sathyu to get the script and he was very kind to give me the scripts of both the Kannada and the Hindi versions. Shantaranga made its debut in 2015 with Thotada Mane which was very well received.”
The positive response to the Kannada version encouraged him to stage a Hindi production of the same play.
The play stars three characters Aashi, Bobby and Kabir. It opens with Aashi waiting in the house for her husband Kabir. Her husband comes in agitated as his car had a tyre blowout, but a good samaritan Bobby gave him a lift home. Bobby makes an entry the next day, in an inebriated state. He is a light hearted character at first sight.
As Bobby is too drunk to drive back, he accepts Kabir’s offer to sleep over at his house. However, in the dark of the night, Aashi emerges with a gun, hits the sleeping Bobby on the head, and ties him up in a chair. She lands punishing blows on Bobby. When Kabir comes on the scene, he is shocked. Things become clear soon. Aashi believes Bobby is the officer who tortured her years ago in police custody. Bobby denies everything. Aashi’s accusations seem credible but she has never seen her torturer. Has Aashi lost her mental balance or is Bobby a great liar? Kabir is caught in the crossfire, as he tries to overcome a disastrous situation. The audience remains on the edge of their seats till the very end.
Bobby’s character, played by Bharat Shenoy, brought out the subtle grey tones of human personality as he plays a likeable character with a dubious past. Aashi’s central role, played by Deepashree Chayapathi, is intense and full of angst. Kabir’s role, played by director Sushanth, does justice to a character who feels hopelessly trapped. Never for a moment did the audience sense this was a debut performance for amateur actors Bharat and Deepashree.
The finale is spellbinding as Aashi counts down to pulling the trigger on Bobby. In the final few seconds, Bobby admits his guilt but claims he was just a pawn following orders from above. Aashi does not pull the trigger. She lets go of her anger and finds release from her troubled past.
Talking of the theatre group, director Sushanth Shantaram said, “Shantaranga is our endeavour to bring peace and tranquility (shanta) through the strong and powerful waves (taranga) of theatre.”
He was pleased his team overcame the challenges of staging a complex play, a tough rehearsal schedule and the difficulties of promoting the event.
“We strive to bring the magic of Indian theatre to the community here and encourage local talent,” he said. “We have many interesting projects in the pipeline both in Hindi and Kannada.”
He plans to take the group’s productions to other states in Australia as well, and invites support and participation from the community.