From the Hindu Metroplus

Dhruv Mookerji

By Abhishek Majumdar , Prashant Prakash, Kalki Koechlin and Neel Chaudhuri
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2010, pp. 182, Rs. 250.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 8-9 August-September 2011

The bountiful nature of the publishing business in India in recent years has brought tens of new voices writing in Indian English to the bookstores and bedside tables. Not all of this mishmash of themes and writing styles makes for great reading, and almost always the blame lies in for pretentious, uninspiring writing. But the Hindu Metroplus, with its Playwright Awards has taken the initiative to encourage original writing in Indian English theatre and struck gold, as evidenced by Three Plays, a book of their winner’s works from 2008-2010, published by Penguin. Those acquainted with English theatre in the country will have noted at some time or the other that fresh voices writing powerfully is certainly one of the needs, if not the need of the hour. Four writers, all of them from the newer generation of writers have won the award for Best Play. Abhishek Majumdar gives us Harlesden High Street, a poetic, passionate piece about a Pakistani family in West London. Prashant Prakash and Kalki Koechlin together script The Skeleton Woman, a surreal and engaging play about a writer and his inner demons. Neel Chaudhuri turns Satyajt Ray’s short story Patol Babu Filmstar into his power punch of a play, Taramandal, about a nobody who gets a walk on part in a film late in life. Giving these plays bottom lines does them a disservice, for they are more layered than that. As an observation purely, not as tagging, there are common themes of loneliness and frustration running through all of them. The writing styles vary, from the languidly poetic to the hard ground realistic—across plays as well as sometimes within them. Harlesden High Street deals with two vegetable sellers, Karim and Rehan, and Karim’s mother, Ammi. The sellers barely get by, driven by little else than necessity and hope for betterment. Rehan is in love with Karim’s sister, who is never shown but is s strong presence, like both their fathers. Ammi is a powerfully etched character. Rather, powerful lines are given to her. The script relies largely on soliloquies and poetically charged remembrances and thoughts. The beautiful language, while not seemingly in sync with the kinds of characters etched out, is more the author’s voice, threaded into the characters, rather than realistic speech itself. The memories of the mother serve as a window into the hearts and thoughts of the ...

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