Namak – A tale of grit amongst a trail of hardship

With the stage doors opening on the evening of the 23rd of March, Srinivas Beesetty’s poignant political production, Namak, which means salt in Hindi, will kick off the 18th edition of the Mahindra Excellence Theatre Awards (META), a weeklong showcase of the ten nominated plays culminating in a grand awards night. The only solely Hindi play at this year’s festival, Namak throws a spotlight on the massive food crisis that affected the poor during the devastating coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Focusing on an issue that was barely talked or heard about, this play reminds us of the grim days during the virus that have now started to become but a distant memory. Even though masks and a mandatory lockdown have ceased to dictate our daily lives, one mustn't be naive enough to forget the hardships that were faced, especially by the less fortunate.

Set in the austere confines of a traditional poverty-stricken household, Namak is a tripartite dialogue between a single mother, and her two daughters. The storyline traces the lower middle-class family who are bearing the full brunt of near-starvation due to a massive food shortage. An interesting and attractive quality that the family displays throughout the play, is a sense of unrelenting positivity and optimism in the face of true adversity. 

Beesetty’s character illustrations of a desperate mother with two strong and independent daughters go a long way.  As a viewer, I can safely say, the performance does a wonderful job of drawing the audiences into their plight. By evoking a feeling of empathy in them, the play makes the viewer almost cheer the family on to pull through their trying circumstances. The elder daughter’s character has a befitting dialogue that sums up the idea of the entire play, “Aakhir mein ameer toh virus se bach jayega, lekin garib namak se mar jayega.” 

The play exposes how a sense of nationalism has been used to cloak administrative incompetence and the heavy price the poor have had to pay. It showcases the way impoverished families had to cope with a lack of dignity, and the dire straits they were reduced to, just to get minimal supplies of food.

Portraying a strong message in a heart-warming way, Namak is a highly relevant production abundant with talent and craft. Throwing focus on the food scarcity problem, this family represents just one of the many who suffered during that time, so I would advise you watch carefully and not take it with a pinch of namak!

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