Chakra: A Review

Iris C F Gomes

There have been claims that Konkani (Devnagri) and Marathi theatre seems to lose out to the tiatr every time. Whether it is negligent advertising or a bias in favour of the Romi script tiatrs is not absolutely clear. Calculating the worth of a play on the basis of language, script or dialect seems rather unfair to the art form as a whole and the participants: actors, directors, producers, set designers, etcetera. Each has its own virtues to excite artistic sensibilities.

Prayog Saanj is an initiative of the Directorate of Art and Culture, Goa, to provide a suitable platform for experimental theatre without any discrimination on the grounds of language. The last Saturday of every month sees the unveiling of original plays by talented playwrights which are presented at the Multipurpose Hall of Sanskruti Bhavan, Panaji.

The last Saturday of June saw the Konkani drama Chakra, a one act play written and directed by Gopal Bhimber. The cast included Ugam Zambaulikar, Saurabh Karkhanis, Preetika Gawas, Mamta Pednekar, Ankita Sawant, Gautam Gaude, Krishna Gawas and Keshav Rane.

The play opens with Abhimanyu having a conversation with Om (his conscience/ God?), an argument rather, attempting to justify his own position. His existential angst is revealed through a tirade against Om. Soon the audience is given the basis for this inner turmoil. Abhimanyu’s father abandoned the family and has never been heard of since. His mother shoulders the responsibility of educating her only son aided by one Premanand mama, their apparent benefactor. A typical product of narrow minded Indian middle class mentality, his mother is bent on moulding Abhimanyu into a lawyer. She cajoles the artistically inclined Abhimanyu by plying him with law books, a mobile phone and the promise of a job as a company legal advisor on the completion of his law studies by Premanand mama.

Tussling with his conscience, which urges him to follow his passion rather than the dream of a secure life with a high paying job, Abhimanyu or Abhi trudges along on his first day at law college. He encounters Madhuri, who forgets her diary at the library and rushes off before he can return it to her. Smitten by her instantly, he picks up the diary, undecided as to what he should do with it. Sunny, another student, strikes up a friendship with him, teasing him about his fixation with Madhuri and tells him he can return the diary to her the following day.

True to the practice of male bonding, Sunny convinces Abhi to come along with him to meet some of his other friends. Abhi arrives to find boys drinking and smoking and, while he declines the invitation to participate, he drinks in the picturesque location which excites the artist within.

Back home Abhi calls Madhuri after finding her number in the diary, tells her he will return it to her tomorrow, draws her a picture of Ganpati, leaves it in the diary and fantasises about a romantic relationship with Madhuri. The next day, when her friend berates him, labelling him a Don Juan of sorts, he retreats bewildered after handing her the diary. Madhuri becomes annoyed with her friend for scaring the hapless Abhi. As she finds the picture of Ganapati, Abhi draws near and asks for his picture back. Madhuri feels uncomfortable about the whole issue and makes a phone call to him apologising and asking if the picture was meant for her. When he answers in the positive she feels attracted to him.

High on the rush of young love, the two engage in awkward and inane conversations, as Madhuri searches for a diversion from the adjustment to a new relationship. When Abhi meets his friends again, Sunny unwittingly suggests Abhi introduce him to Madhuri as he wants to be in a relationship with her. He says this under the false assumption that Abhi is involved with Madhuri’s friend. Abhi comments on her demure behaviour and Sunny informs him of the rumours going around that Madhuri had a social media profile with provocative pictures of herself.

At this time, one of the boys called Dhiraj, who is a heavy drinker, becomes violently ill but refuses to go to the hospital. He makes a confession to all that he drinks because he has no home, he is the bastard child of Prakash Ghatte. Abhi recognises his own father’s name and realises that Dhiraj is his half-brother. Shocked at the revelation he rushes home only to find his mother in the arms of Premanand mama.

In a state of emotional devastation he asks Madhuri to meet him. After initially refusing she comes to meet him. He confronts her about her past and, hurt by his accusations, she clarifies that she had rejected the advances of the boy who set up the fake profile to malign her. Madhuri decides that if he cannot trust her it is best they break up.

From here we are taken back to the initial scene which is replayed word for word symbolising a vicious cycle of inner conflict constantly in motion – a Chakra.

The play is well scripted and directed by Gopal Bhimber and leaves us with an open-ended finale. The acting was praiseworthy with every actor putting on a brilliant performance. Ugam Zambaulikar as Abhimanyu is convincing as the youth being pulled in different directions, facing a myriad of problems simultaneously. Saurabh Karkhanis plays Om and exudes a sense of peace and calm juxtaposed with Abhi’s obvious lack of the same. As the voice of reason, he constantly cautions Abhi to do the right thing. The idea of using the first scene also as the last scene was apt in rendering the abstract concept of Chakra. However, the stage props could have been sturdier.

According to the playwright Gopal Bhimber, the play was based on his own experiences and is a dramatic representation of the unanswered questions of life. Some things occur in the life of every human and it is left up to each one of us how we choose to address those questions.