Adhe Adhure, the celebrated play by Mohan Rakesh, was a much awaited one at the META this year, with Lilette Dubey’s direction and production by the Prime Time Theatre.
The play started with the protagonist Savitri coming home to an empty house and cleaning it up in anticipation of a guest to come later. All throughout the cleaning, Savitri is engaged in a monologue about how the room is dirty, in disarray and how no member of the household seems to contribute to the upkeep of the house. Quite literally, it would be not be wrong to say that the house is the other main protagonist in Adhe Adhure. It is the site of all the conflicts between the characters and often these conflicts emanate from the subject of the upkeep of the house itself. In other words, the house is symbolic of the mental spaces inhabited by the characters in the play, and the fact that the house is in disarray speaks for the disenchantment of the characters themselves. Handling the complex relationship between Savitri and Mahendranath are the actors Lilette Dubey and Mohan Agashe. Even as Savitri continuously blames her husband for being unemployed and having frittered away his life in fruitless pursuits, Mahendranath is completely disempowered and emasculated in the face of his wife who is the only earning member of the family. Bringing into question the normative ideas of femininity and masculinity, Adhe Adhure does not seek to give the audience any easy answer as to which of the couple is actually morally correct. Even as Savitri is the working woman and provider, her nagging of her husband is shown to have utterly destabilized the family, while Mahendranath, even as he stands helpless, is shown to have had physically abused his wife and children in the past.
An understated yet noteworthy performance was rendered by Ira Dubey as the couple’s eldest daughter, Binni, who comes to the realization that even as she had apparently run away from home to get married for love, that was not the reason for her running away at all. Instead, she had run away from facing the everyday conflicts that this house brought upon her.
A classic play talking about the contemporary issues faced an by ordinary middle-class home in India, Adhe Adhure is ultimately a play about victims of circumstance, who are not innately demonic but are rendered so because of their pecuniary concerns and expectations of society.
Special mention must be made of Mohan Agashe for playing the role of not only the emasculated husband but also of Savitri’s old beau Jugmohan, her boss, and Mahendranath’s friend who comes to talk to her about him. Agashe is particularly brilliant in the third role he takes on, that of Savitri’s boss, and brings much humour to an otherwise intense play.
Lilette Dubey as Savitri brought forward an entirely believable yet muddled interiority of a middle-class working woman in India today, who desperately aspires to not only push her children to a brighter future, but also engaging with her own desires as a woman who is no longer (or never was) in love with her husband in the first place. She brings the complexity of the character as etched by Mohan Rakesh to META – it is perhaps the easiest thing to dislike Savitri, but despite the fact that her character is often a controlling one, Lilette’s finesse in delivering a compelling and powerful performance must be commended.
The bar has been raised for the nominees playing at META tomorrow: Journey to Daakghar (Bengali & English) at Shri Ram Centre, and Baghdad Wedding (English) at Kamani.