Touchstones & Mrs. Moorthy - A review by Kay S


A Play Written By Vijay Padhki & Madhu Rye Directed By Anshulika Kapoor

"The theatre was created to tell people the truth about life and the social situation." - Stella Adler

More often than not we come across people, instances, or events that force us to go into introspection about our lives, the people related to us, the world around us, and the people who we meet.  We love to live abysmally thinking none of these people or events or experiences we have through them are relevant to us because ignorance is indeed blissful and knowledge requires you to act upon the information you have.  In concurrence with the above quote by Stella Adler, I came across such a truth about life and the social situations plaguing us through two plays I watched today, “Touchstones” and “Mrs. Murthy” written by the theatre veteran Vijay Padhki, the founder of Bangalore Little Theatre & Madhu Rye, which was brilliantly directed by the multitalented, multifaceted director and established theatre personality, Anshulika Kapoor or Red Polka Productions.  I had just begun to get over the hangover of “The Nukkad Shuffle” directed by her for Tedx-ISBR by which time I watched these two shows today as part of the celebration of Mr. Padhki’s contribution to Theatre.

At the offset, the first play, Touchstones starts off slowly weaving a beautiful tapestry of sorts in the form of a story.  It takes us through various emotions from laughter to thought-inspiring to introspection portraying the life of a mother with respect to her daughter, her trials, tribulations, emotions, and their relationship through different generations.  It reiterates on the superficial and transient nature of this beautiful relationship of a mother and daughter in the present day scenario, the effect and affect and after-effect of the same on the next generation, and the realization of the depth that was missed.  An amazing transition and change of position of authority vis-à-vis a mother chiding her daughter with the daughter rebelling and the daughter turning into a mother later on realizing and going through the same trials and tribulations her mother went through.  What a beautifully directed piece taking you through such sensitivity and sensibility that you carry the aftermath of it as though the taste of beautiful caramel custard lingering on your tongue long after you eat it. The apathy of the older generation in today’s world is gently woven into the story to resonate with the happenings in today’s rat race where everyone seems to be running to reach an imaginary goal that seems to ever be moving away further from its original position.  Good job, Samanvita Shetty and Shantheri Mallaya!!

The second play, Mrs. Murthy is a solo performance by Shatarupa Bhattacharyya, a brilliant actress who I have seen in many plays each one of which has left me awestruck, dumbfounded, and inspired.  This time around she is seen as a travel agent who is full of life and answers to every problem anyone could face with regards to travel and boy does it excel at her role just as always leaving a stark memory of the character in your mind such that you go home and live with that memory for quite a long time.  Mrs. Moorthy is a play depicting one of the most ignored aspect of marriages with grooms from abroad vis-à-vis addressing two of the most dreaded menaces of the society existing in our part of the world, domestic violence and dowry harassment.  World over 85% of domestic violence victim are women and 15% men.  According to a survey conducted in India, every third woman in India suffers sexual or physical violence at home.  However, the most worrying part of the spousal-violence is that almost every third married women, who has experienced spousal violence, reported experiencing physical injuries, including eight per cent who have had eye injuries, sprains, dislocations, or burns and six per cent who have had deep wounds, broken bones, broken teeth, or any other serious injury. Yet, only 14 per cent of women who experienced this violence sought help to stop it.  But the helplessness of stopping the violence being inflicted on them isn’t the only worrying factor. Women in India, surprisingly, are supportive of domestic violence.  Under Indian law, police officers who fail to register a complaint of sexual assault face up to two years in prison. However, Human Rights Watch found that police did not always file a First Information Report (FIR), the first step to initiating a police investigation, especially if the victim was from an economically or socially marginalized community.

Keeping in sync with these above matters, Mrs. Moorthy seems to have touched the right chord addressing an issue that needs extreme caution, attention, and deep introspection of every citizen who might come across such instances.  The play starts out with a very easygoing, cheerful banter of the travel agent played by Shatarupa with a customer, Mrs. Moorthy, later on revealed as Hema Moorthy, who wishes to travel abroad.  The beautiful feature about this play is not only just the way it has been directed or portrayed, but also the choices of old Hindi classics belted out in between scenes that has you swaying, tapping your toes, and clicking away or just humming with them putting you into the most relaxed moods possible.  This amazingly directed story by Anshulika, which starts out on a very casual note between a travel agent and a customer eventually unfolds ever so subtly, smoothly yet glaringly revealing some shocking truths about the customer’s life as though you are unraveling all the wrappers to reach to that delicious Godiva chocolate within.  The play is directed with such élan by Anshulika Kapoor weaving in all the important aspects of drama such as comedy, sarcasm, mystery, treachery, and tragedy in such a way to make it so endearing that one would want to revisit this subject again.  The director and the actor have made a stupendous job of addressing domestic violence, dowry harassment along with the apathy of a native woman in a foreign country who becomes a victim of these two double-headed snakes along with being held captive where her husband has confiscated her passport to discourage her from an escape from the situation.  The play has judiciously and so meticulously portrayed the role that a society (in this instance, the travel agent) can play in taking the right steps to protect and rescue a victim of domestic violence while addressing the danger and risk that the protector or empathizer could face due to his or her act.  My overall assessment of this play would definitely be a 10 on 10 for all the aspects required and more.  It resonated with a lot of experiences I have come across and I thank you both for having addressed and portrayed it so brilliantly.  Theatre has always been paramount to society in order to evoke and bring about a change.  Tove Jansson, a Finnish author, novelist and painter put it so rightly when she said, “Theatre is the most important sort of house in the world because that's where people are shown what they could be if they wanted and what they'd like to be if they dared to and what they really are,” and I am extremely proud to say that today, you all achieved this.  I am honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to watch all of you perform and look forward to seeing more of you on stage.  Good luck with to you all in all your future endeavors!  Congratulations on a job done brilliantly carrying off the essence of the plays with panache!!!!!

A review by Kay S - Author of Unfinished - A Woman’s Tryst with Destiny


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