Dec 22, 2010 (CalcuttaTube): In 1974, the play ‘Sakharam Binder’ was banned apparently due to its violent and vulgar concept. Thereafter this controversial play of Vijay Tendulkar had been translated in numerous languages and been staged in various theatres of the country. So it was no surprise that a packed gallery awaited the staging of the same on the evening of 22nd December at Nandikar’s 27th National Theatre Festival.
Himachal Culture Research Forum & Theatre Repertory (HCRFTR), who incidentally was premiering for the first time in the city, presented this contentious drama that centred a rather complex character Sakharam. Staged just two days after Iran had jailed their renowned film maker Jafar Panahi, it seemed a curious irony of fate that the once banned theatre is now being widely acclaimed by the masses. As Rudraprasad Sengupta, in his welcome speech, correctly pointed out that Panahi’s unacceptable imprisonment was like so many others that history had always condemned, it seems Vijay Tendulkar’s Sakharam brings out the tyrant in many whose acts offer disastrous results.
Sakharam is a highly complex character who, on the one hand openly criticizes social responsibilities, shuns marriage and provides refuge for wives discarded by their husbands, but on the other hand bullies the woman he gives shelter to. One at a time, each woman, is forced to live like his wife, doing all the household chores and satisfying his bodily needs, but he never cares to bind them with the honour or legalities of marriage. Whenever someone dies or he grows annoyed with them, Sakharam used to pack them off to hospital or to their near ones, as the case might be and replaces her by another. His complete avoidance of moral values seems to stem from his disturbed past and he seems to enjoy his dictatorship in the house.
The play begins with Sakharam bringing in Lakshmi, deserted by her husband for delivering a baby girl and he makes her wise with the rules of the house. A meek individual with tradition written all over her, Lakshmi silently endured the agonies of living with demon like Sakharam. Her only source of entertainment was the birds and insects that she easily befriended and talked to throughout the day. But as a year passed, Sakharam grew tired of her and soon she was sent packing to her relations and he brought Champa, a fiery wife of a drunkard and a dismissed constable, who viewed the world very differently than Lakshmi. A seemingly outspoken girl, turned foul mouthed by the sufferings of the past, she started commanding Sakharam with the duties of the house. Refusing to satisfy the lecherous Sakharam, she ultimately conceded but not until drowning herself in liquor, as she needed the place for staying.
But soon things were to change drastically when Lakshmi returned while Sakharam was still amusing himself with Champa. Now Sakharam faced the dilemma of a great proportion as Champa, taking advantage of Lakshmi’s submissive trait, struck a deal with her and allowed her to live with the condition of managing the household. The personality of Champa seemed too much for Sakharam as he failed to prevent this arrangement.
But as days went by, Lakshmi seemed to plot against Champa, and in order to gain the upper hand convinced Sakharam of Champa’s disloyalty. This led to Sakharam ultimately killing Champa in a rage of fit and the curtains were drawn with Lakshmi helping Sakharam to dispose of the body.
The seriousness and the thrill of the play had never been compromised with but the inclusion of some homourous sequences had made the production a classic of all times. The only complaint is the pace which seemed a bit rapid especially during the conclusion of each act and this may be the only reason that may adversely affect a lasting impression on the audience. Suresh Sharma’s direction and acting as the protagonist were equally bold and his design based on Sarojini Verma’s adaptation of Tendulkar’s play is beautifully depicted by the talented cast. Suresh Sharma himself seemed to carve out the complex character of Sakharm with so much ease that, personally speaking, a future reference to Sakharam will always remind me of him. Besides Sharma’s brilliant performance, Rakhsha Sharma (Lakshmi) and Krishna Bhattacharya (Champa) carefully complimented the other’s characterization which was a must for reaching out to the audience. Raksha, clothed in the traditional Marathi style, seemed to melt in with the character of Lakshmi with so much simplicity yet when she was seen plotting against Champa, It appeared all so natural to the audience. Again Bhattacharya’s spontaneous outburst aptly expressing Champa’s passion was prudently mixed with her concealed softness as she gave shelter to the destitute Lakshmi. Subhash Chandra (Dawood) and Manish Kumar (Champa’s previous husband) brought up the rear with their apt support. Another bit of complaint was the costume department, that never cared to change, even for once, Lakshmi’s attire which did not do justice to the fact that more than two years had passed while Lakshmi was first introduced, not speaking of the same for Dawood. Govind Singh Yadav’s décor was simple yet perfect while Abhimanyu Kumar’s light arrangements focused the characters in the true colours that the acts demanded. But the best part was Kajal Ghosh’s music that keyed in the right mood for each and every backdrop.
With the concluding episode, as the HCRFTR ensemble gathered in the forefront, Rudraprasad invited the renowned actor Debshankar Halder to the stage who conveyed regards to the HCRFTR crew and honoured them with bouquets and K.C. Das’s rasgolla. Finally, like several other previous plays, Mr. Sengupta, on behalf of Nandikar, presented, as a token of appreciation, a bouquet to Suresh Kumar and the Reportory.