Set in and around a college campus in Poona of the 1940’s, A Friend’s Story is about three students – the diffident Bapu, the carefree Mitra, and the deceptive Nama. When Bapu’s improbable wish of getting to know Mitra oddly comes true, little does he know that he would soon become party to her inner struggles with her sexuality, and eventually get drawn into a game of vacillating sexual politics between her and Nama; the girl she desires.
Nama, on the other hand, enjoys being in a relationship with both, her aggressive boyfriend Dalvi and Mitra. Bapu starts getting accustomed to his new unconventional friend even as he becomes the guardian of her secrets. But when Bapu’s only other friend, his roommate Pande, gets smitten by Mitra, he finds it necessary to reveal to Pande that Mitra is ‘different’ and not interested in men.
Essentially a love triangle, A Friend’s Story is Vijay Tendulkar’s understated ‘Greek tragedy’ about obsession, jealousy, betrayal and a search for redemption. Based on events that took place around the middle of the last century, the play is about a theme that many still consider taboo. The play that once expanded the horizons of Indian drama stands out even today, as an avant-garde tour-de-force.
Tendulkar’s plays have been performed regularly and repeatedly over the years. Except perhaps one, which for the sheer quality of its writing, deserved to be staged many more times than it was: Mitrachi Goshta (A Friend’s Story). One of the reasons for this could have been that it was written before its time and its first staging was received with some discomfiture. The growing relevance of its theme, the sensitivity of its characters, and the complexity of its structure offered a challenge that I couldn’t resist.