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The only human presence in this world is of the Narrator, who is a ragpicker – her name is Shakuntala Devi (Shubha Nigam). The rest of them are ‘despicable’ creatures, the scum of society -with one exception all street dogs. She is all ears on overhearing them talking about religion. Those on the fringe are good observers and at times blurt out truth. One who collects rags observes like a stoic, Itnisaari baatein dharam pe toh insaan nahi karte. Achha magar yeh to kutte hain!
The play in Hindi Lafundars presented at Natrang Studio (April 3) is, ahem, Lost Testicles, jointly developed by its actors. Two remarkable ones of its aspects are their acting and the communication they make. The players, with no claims to being mainstream actors, pretty pleasingly emerge as their characters named as Ghamasan (Nihar), who takes pride in being the khauf of his basti and his neighbourhood, and Bella (Janaki), a domesticated ‘high-brow’ female dog who has been waiting for the lost apni aunty, and so on.
On all fours all the while, the players, their nose turned black and having a head band with drooping ears, with no inhibitions act and behave as dogs. Very little physical action, but while they speak, they agreeably enough modulate their voice so well one can discern emotions, a strong disapproval at times and an argumentative tendency. Most importantly, they have attitude and they love to flaunt it. This gives each of them individuality. Quite an achievement for the youngsters who probably attempt theatre for the first time.
What gives the play a semblance of substance is that even as it makes the viewers laugh it gets them to think. The dogs relish lampooning ways of humans. Ironically the street canines, despised and never looked at, hold them up to ridicule and the young viewers greet them with guffaws all the way. They have fun at how money makes the mare go in the human world, how awkwardly they dance at weddings and at their doing indoors what they (dogs) do in public! Insaanto paagal hote hain! one of them exclaims.
Their carefree conversation gets interrupted with a surprise song (Songs and raps :Trisha) Goto ke sodagar by AMC workers (Harsh, Krish, Hariom) with a mission to control their population dancing to it. They are oblivious to the feelings of members of the population. With a significant observation by Rustom (Sahil), the first victim,the mood dramatically changes. He says sombrely, … ye log na kutto-n ka alag Dharam bana rahe hai-n.
What is religion? The Conference takes off! Wolfe (Mohit): Ye log na Dharam ke liyekuchh bhi karte hai-n. Dhamasan : Insaan insaan ko kaat deta hai Dharam ke naam.The dog that speaks the filthiest language at the drop of a hat, turns wise : Every religion has its God, housed in Mandir, Masjid, Gurudwaara, Church, Derasar …Itnee saari baatein Dharam pe! Have you ever heard such baatein in public? Well, these ‘despicable’ dogs do!
Raids with songs continue. Alag Dharam ke all dogs, including Dhamasan, are castrated – and stink of a human touch! The season turns pleasant in course of time, but it makes no difference. Everyone is cold to Lisa’s polite Mau-Mau invite. Lisa(Trisha), worldly wise, puts the ‘privileged’ and protected Bella, attired white (Costumes : Hariom), wise: She is not capable of becoming a mother and without motherhood her happiness is incomplete. (Lights : Soham)
The uninhibited boisterous small young audience at the performance has a hilarious time. They fully enjoy the irreverence and black humour of the play. The script and Hariom’s direction are based on observation. What sticks out is an unabashed use of swear words. They do not in any way add to the sense conveyed anywhere. Dramatic art thrives on suggestion. Without it, theatre loses its charm. Those doing theatre have also an obligation to those young in the audience. Those following artistic pursuits would do well to not expose those at the threshold of life to profanities.
A performance of the play in the present form is a venture that is likely to be called a misadventure in mainstream theatre. Sans frivolity and offensive language, the play admirably evokes compassion for the animal world not speaking our language. The play could be a modest beginning of a journey on which pretty far ahead are the likes of Orwell, Aesop and Aristophanes. All depends on the choices the budding Lafundars team makes.
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