Friday, February 09, 2007

writers' bloc 2

Rage’s Writers’ Bloc 2: Fostering an Endangered Species

Rage’s Writers’ Bloc provides new ground for what they themselves call an endangered species – the Indian playwright. It is certainly cause for celebration that such

a forum has opened up for new playwrights, and one may reasonably hope that the quality of playwrighting will improve.

The festival was a very enjoyable theatre experience. From the excellent platform performances, to the installation art inspired by the plays, the festival gave the impression of being efficiently, and tastefully, organised. Among platform performances, Kishore Kadam’s poetry reading effortlessly transcended language and was enjoyable purely for the sense of timing and showmanship he brought to the reading. Faezeh Jalali’s rope malkhamb was another memorable performance, and so was Mumbai-based band Minority Report’s unplugged session.

These are some of my thoughts on the festival during the first fortnight at Prithvi. +

Epilogue: Uncertain Journey Into Other Worlds

The festival opened with Epilogue, written by Maia Katrak and directed by Rajit Kapoor.

Epilogue revolves around the themes of the transformative power of human relationships, and the transcendent human soul. The play opens with the protagonist trying to cheer his family up at his own funeral.

The play details the travails of the dead protagonist as he attempts to change the lives of his family. He is aided in his efforts by two soldiers, also dead, and stranded in the middle of heavenly nowhere by some ingenious metaphysical occasion. (One small question: Why were they soldiers again? Was it a bad intertextual pun because they were stranded in no-man’s land?)

While the basic premise of the story was outlandish, the tepid direction and tame acting let the play down. The visualisation of the play, apart from the few moments with the soldiers, was completely at odds with the script. Perhaps the play would have benefited greatly from a little irreverence.

Also, one got the impression that the otherworldly device was simply one of convenience. What could have been a penetrating device, turned into a charming novelty, never rising beyond mere plot detail. The defamiliarizing device was used neither to shed light on the world as the playwright sees it (as Dostoevsky does with characteristic poignancy in Bobok), nor to satirize it (as Brecht does to hilarious effect in The Good Person of Setzuan when gods who descend to earth). The play seemed to reaffirm the motives, actions and conventions of the world of the play, which in turn were not too far removed from the world outside. The play remained completely familiar, and the otherworldly device remained an uncertain gimmick. In this respect, one could argue the director was faithful to the script by remaining realistic.

The soldiers, played by a superb Neil Bhoopalam and Mukul Chaddha, provided the only respite in the play. The writing in these parts too was extremely funny, and employed some delightful non sequiturs. The set for the soldiers’ scenes, a stylized representation of a diabolical-looking machine, with gears and clockwork, presented interesting possibilities that were largely left unexplored.

On the bright side, the play was genuinely funny in parts, and the actors had the audience eating out of their hands.

Aaltoon Paaltoon: Rites of Passage

If the outlandish Epilogue was acted out with the blandest realism, the realistic Aaltoon Paaltoon benefited greatly from actors who enlivened the stage with some reasonably high-pitched energy levels.

(These thoughts come with the rider that I don’t follow Marathi, but the actors being more than engaging, I could more or less follow the action.)

Aaltoon Paaltoon, written by Irawati Karnik and directed by Adwait Dadarkar, is about two characters who meet at an old-fashioned dresswala’s shop. Niranjan, played by Subodh Khanolkar, lives at the shop, and Rama, played by Leena Bhagwat, takes shelter in the shop on a rainy night.

The tension between the two characters was maintained superbly by the actors, and Subodh Khanolkar delivered one of the better performances of the festival.

A coming of age story, the play revolves around the chance encounter between Niranjan, a rather naïve young man, and Rama, a troubled and forlorn mature woman.

The play, marred by unimaginative direction, succumbed to many unpardonable clichés. The lovemaking scene between the characters was suggested with almost comical reticence. (In spite of my Marathi, I believe this wasn’t so much a textual feature, as it was a director’s interpretation.) Moreover, the play fell apart in the scenes when the action shifted out of the room, and showed a flashback of Rama with her husband. The encounter between Rama and Niranjan may have assumed greater proportions, and remained open to multiple interpretations, had the room been the only setting, and the husband only a figure in Rama’s story.

In spite of the nondescript direction, the play manages to do well, because of the actors, and what looked every bit like a tightly woven script. If the play failed it was only in creating the sense of hazard that every chance encounter implies, the kind of unpredictability and impending disintegration that rites of passage are meant to symbolise.

The play had a memorable opening pre-set, which showed Niranjan gazing at a hairdresser’s model, with a wig for practice. Throughout the play, the model is a safety zone for Niranjan, and he pretends to be busy practising on it. The closing set is similar opening pre-set, except the model doesn’t have a wig anymore, and Niranjan places a topi (which is a symbol for the games Rama and Niranjan play) on it. The closing set becomes a powerful symbol of how the encounter has unalterably changed the lives of Niranjan and Rama.

Dreamcatcher: Dreams of a Dangerous Kind

Vijay Nair’s Dreamcatcher, directed by Faezeh Jalali and Trishla Patel, was typical of the festival, but not only was it deeply ‘personal’, it was entirely devoid of political content, and utterly self-indulgent. One could even go so far as to say that it was even offensive in parts.

Stereotypes abound in the play – from the prudishness of the protagonist, to the sheer vulgarity of the younger sister. While the accents were mercifully not as clichéd as Lolakutty, they were nonetheless all over the place. For a family from Palakkad, they had surprisingly thick Tamil accents, with stilted Malayalam thrown in for good measure. (And it’s perfectly acceptable to expect accuracy from a play that sets out to be realistic.)

The binarized depiction of the sisters’ sexuality was perhaps the most offensive aspect of the play. The younger sister Vanaja Chari was shown to be a free-spirited rebellious angsty type figure, using the most obvious means – vodka in the morning, “I dance for myself, and I don’t care for the purity of your classical art” and all the rest of that. In a scene that managed to be both theatrically embarrassing and politically offensive, the younger sister was shown throwing herself on a waiter she had hardly known a few minutes ago. It isn’t the act of making sexual advances to a waiter one finds distasteful, it is the entirely artless treatment accorded to it. (One couldn’t help but think of Arundhati Roy’s humane handling of an analogous relationship, that of Ammu and Velutha in The God of Small Things. Even making allowances for the vast differences between fiction and drama, the sheer crudeness pervading Dreamcatcher was galling.) The play’s questionable politics came to the fore in showing the sexually empowered as wanton, crass and indiscriminate.

In stark contrast to the younger sister’s wantonness, the protagonist, Padmaja Chari, was depicted as being extremely prudish. In a scene as enraging as the one with the younger sister and the waiter, Padmaja was shown talking to herself in the mirror. Apart from the externalised monologue being one of the oldest (and tiredest) stage devices, the sheer cultural implications were appalling. Padmaja addresses her imaginary lover, looking at herself in the mirror, and sheer lack of humanity that made it possible for the play to laugh at her (for it was comic, and none too ingenious at that) made one wonder if it was the character’s cultural identity that was comical. At least for the audience, the accent was certainly, what made it funny.

The play, for all its attempts to signify to the audience its intellectual gravity and aesthetic formalism, failed to rise above the immediate, the banal and often, the prejudiced. The opulent red drapes, the gilded dressing mirror, the dancing childhood alters of the sisters, the spectacular gobo (as far as lighting goes, that certainly was interesting), all seemed to suggest a self-indulgence that was part of the many attempts to bludgeon the audience into accepting the play’s obvious ‘tastefulness’, and apparent transcendence over the immediate.

At the end of the play, one only had questions:

Was the play a comedy of manners? If so, what was the object of the satire?

Was it a coming of age play? If so, what was the locus of development, the actual event or its retelling? How did the characters evolve, or change?

Was it a play about a delicate inner world set against the turbulent backdrop of riots? If so, how did the riots relate to their ‘inner world’? Or was the turbulent backdrop simply a conveniently transferred epithet, a short hand?

Ultimately, what was the play trying to say, do, or create?

Centre of Gravity and The Edge: From Flippancy to Insignificance

Rajiv Rajendra’s Centre of Gravity was a clever, self-conscious take on the sitcom. A convoluted plot involving 3 pairs of lovers, the play could’ve fallen to the lowest levels of sheer boringness, but for Vikranth Pawar’s upbeat direction, and Zafar Karachiwala’s superbly ironic high-volgate performance.

The play fell flat in parts when it started taking itself seriously, for instance when lovers speak to each other – one to break up an engagement, and the other to stave off a marriage proposal. These scenes were played out with an absolute lack of irony that made one blanch at its banality.

Sohrab Ardeshir, as Newton, is hilarious, and the scenes between Karachiwala and Ardeshir had the audience in splits.

The play fell precisely because it took itself seriously. One suspects the play may have been far more effective had it restricted itself to being solely a satire on the psychobabble-friendship-love-intrigue-more-psychobabble brand of plays.

Manjima Chatterjee’s The Edge, directed by Akarsh Khurana, was perhaps the most disappointing play at Writers’ Bloc. The script was banal, the acting nondescript, the direction unimaginative. This was probably the only play at the festival that did not have the audience on its side, and the unrest in the audience towards the end of the play was barely concealed.

The Excavators: Nihilistic Metaphors

Ajay Krishnan’s The Excavators is an allegorical play built around the central theme of digging. While the play is no doubt clever, it ultimately had no central binding idea, theme, force, or emotional core.

The Excavators starts off with a bare stage with actors creating everything with minimal props. While the play may have failed, the risk it takes with a bare stage, with no real textual development, renders it an honourable failure.

Apart from the self-consciousness that such a minimalist play with a broadly allegorical style may be expected to have, the play was considerably handicapped by its more apparent self-reflexivity, the motif of the play-within-the play. While one didn’t quite know how the rehearsal scenes fitted in with the rest of the play, the constant references to “normal fare”, to “experimental” theatre were very tiresome.

The central idea of the play seems disturbing. The motif of digging seems not an activity to engage with life, but a means of running away from life and its uncertain complexities. Such a shallow nihilistic central idea, when juxtaposed with many of the devices Ajay Krishnan borrows from the repertoire of absurdist theatre, seems to reinforce a common misreading of existentialism in general, and absurdist theatre in particular – that of an unqualified rejection of life.

Turel: The Personal as Political

Swar Thounaojam’s Turel, directed by Sunil Shanbag, was undoubtedly the pick of Writers’ Bloc 2. The play, revolving around the theme of individual liberty, becomes a powerful metaphor for the turbulence in Manipur. Of all the self-absorbed plays revolving around personal issues that comprised Writers’ Bloc, Turel (“River” in Manipuri) was a glowing exception. It was personal, no doubt, and was certainly more concerned with the relationship between Eigya and Luwangcha, and Luwangcha’s identity, than with Manipuri politics, but Sunil Shanbag’s nuanced handling of the play leaves us in no doubt that the personal too was political.

Kumud Mishra as Luwangcha was the standout performance of the festival, and the construction of Luwangcha’s complex identity was perhaps the most telling instance of the play’s all-encompassing humanity.

The poignant relationship between Eigya and Luwangcha – their capacity for love and friendship, the upright Eigya’s companionable tolerance of the vagabond Luwangcha – succeeded in creating a delicate world that one wished would not ever be disturbed. Not that the play is idyllic – the opening scene is one where Eigya’s grandchild is being buried – but the tragedies of the play’s first half allow the characters at least the appearance of being in control of their destinies. There is a brooding sense of loss in the first half; Eigya’s grandchild is dead, Luwangcha’s partner has left him. Yet their lives go on, unhurried as the river on whose banks their world plays itself out.

The sense of brooding loss slowly, imperceptibly, turns into menace. The characters’ fundamental liberties are threatened – like in the brilliant scene when Eigya's son bullies Luwangcha to live like a “normal woman” – and unseen forces start hounding them. A violent soundscape of explosions replaces the unhurried gurgle of the river.

The forces that intrude upon the inner world of the play, are sharply etched in the person of a soldier. The soldier, in the one scene when he appears, kidnaps Luwangcha, and rapes him. The young soldier works himself up to a blind rage when he finds Luwangcha defying a curfew, and believes Luwangcha to be armed. The soldier’s fear, and the inhuman brutalities it leads him to, are superbly depicted in the play.

The play culminates with Eigya’s death in a blast, leaving Luwangcha distraught. Nothing resolved, nothing concluded, yet everything said and done.

In Luwangcha’s unconventional identity, Eigya’s acceptance of him, and its brutal violation by external forces, Swar Thounaojam has created a powerful metaphor for the political dilemma of Manipur. Yet, at the end of Turel, what one remembered was not the metaphorical, but the immediate.

+ I missed Crab, The President is Coming, and Poornaviram, and although I watched the Marathi play Mazha Vatanicha Khara-Khura, I could not follow the action. Naturally, this review excludes those plays.


vijay said...

It is a popular fable- “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” About a demented deluded emperor who wants a new attire every day. The tailors run out of design ideas and finally a couple of charlatans appear. They hoodwink the foolish emperor to believe that they have designed the mother of all outfits for him and send him out on the streets naked. The people of the kingdom long trained begin to gush about the creativity of the designers until a small voice cries out- “Hey…the emperor is not wearing any clothes.”

In case the oblique beginning to this post has left you fuddled let me come to the point. I am Vijay Nair. The playwright whose play “Dreamcatcher” you have so incisively and perceptively ripped apart. Normally an honest review like yours would have left me depressed or at the very least angry. However as you have testified at the beginning of your blog the “Writers Bloc” is not a normal everyday phenomenon. A space and time for new writers to engage with their pet peeves and larger reflections and see them come alive on stage! Can you imagine a bigger bonanza for writers, especially writers who are foolish enough to want to engage with a thankless medium like theatre?

But what if I told you from my experience the “Writers Bloc” is not about writers at all. What if I told you that my experience of engaging with this process for a year has been bitter and full of double binds? “Hanged if I do… Hanged if I don’t!”

I could have opted out of course sometimes in the middle. But what if I told you I didn’t because my conviction told me that having chosen to be a part of a particular process at a certain stage in my journey as a writer I had to see it through. What if I told you I decided not to run away and endure the final test and what a test of endurance and resilience it was! What is it that the wise old men of the world say- something about at any stage in your life, you get what you deserve?

I went to Writer’s Bloc five years after I had started writing plays. Three years after my first set of plays were published. In the same year that my first novel got published. One year after I was awarded an international residency for writers, the criterion for selection being the plays I had written. In the same year that I had declined another international residency. I opted for the Royal Court Workshop because I felt I had to start anew. Collaborate with a new lot of Indian theatre people. Be with other Indian Playwrights.

Friends warned me. They couldn’t understand why I was doing this at this stage of my writing career. I thought I knew. I felt as a writer I should take as many opportunities to rejuvenate and learn. I paid the price for being greedy. The wise old men are right. You get what you deserve.

I was in the audience when the final production rolled out at Prithvi with a shoddy set (it was meant to be suite in a five star hotel!) shoddier acting (at one point I was moved enough to want to run to stage when the play was unfolding and physically restrain the actor playing Vanaja because she was trying so hard) and of course with the narrow political agenda that a personal play about relationships was never equipped to shoulder. I tried not to flinch even at the unkindest jibe- when towards the end one of the characters I had created adlibbed an advertising gig for one of the ever mushrooming Ekta Kapoor soaps. I can’t blame the actor who took the liberty of doing that. By the time they were through with my play, the script resembled a bumbling sitcom that even Ms. Kapoor would shudder to associate with.

Am I right in preempting your reaction? “Here’s a writer abdicating his responsibility once again. He writes something and at the sign of the first criticism disowns his work.” Who would blame you for such a rational response? I wouldn’t if I was witnessing such an exchange between another playwright and a critic. Rest assured I would be squarely behind the critic, egging him on. This is all the more important to me since I too presume to don the hat of a critic once in a while.

I choose the same response here. I am not upset. I am not angry. I love your review. The only play I watched or was forced to watch was my own. But having understood the process that I was part of, I suspect this one review is worth its weight in gold, attempting to as it is, amidst all the PR pieces showcased in city supplements, and refusing to drown. The small voice that says- “Hey… the emperor wears no clothes.”

More power to critics like you. I understand why your blog is perhaps the only place you can publish your enlightened criticism. And there is no sarcasm here. I met a critic from a leading newspaper in Bombay. I learnt she was also doubling up as a PR person for Rage for the festival. A playwright friend tells me she has written a positive review of the play- “intellectualizing it.” I haven’t had the stomach to read it. I don’t think I ever will. Writers can sell out. Like I did. The compensation could be anything. Money. A trip to Bahamas. Or plain and simple emotional blackmail. But critics are meant to have more integrity.

To come back to the issue on hand. Or let’s say the review on hand. The play is guilty on all the counts you have raised. My defense as a playwright-

a) The scene you found particularly offensive, not to say trite and hackneyed- Padmaja speaking to the mirror- I didn’t write it. I have no idea who wrote it.

b) In the play I have written, Vanaja does not order Vodka at nine in the morning. She asks for it just before dinner and Padmaja joins her in the numerous drinking bouts they have together. In this day and age, do you think any literate person would want to beat down a woman as wanton because she is drinking? I may not be a good writer. But I did have an education.

c) Yes…both the sisters came out as caricatures and worse empty headed and silly. But I had attempted to flesh them out as real. They were real to me and I had smudged their concerns enough to ensure they did not fit into any stereotypes. I was just keen to ensure that what I had missed out as a playwright and a man would be filled in by the director’s insights. I had all along wanted a woman director. I was assigned two. Since these two were actors I had worked with during the workshop, I trusted them implicitly and thought they were clued on to the sensibility of the play. I learnt much too late that they weren’t.

d) In the first thirty minutes of the play that I saw unfold on stage, only one line the waiter mouths- “Gandhiji should have hung one outside our country. All this wouldn’t be happening then” can be attributed to the script I wrote. The rest was apparently “improvised.” I can mail you the final draft I had handed over to the directors and leave you to judge how much improvement came about because of these “improvisations.” Even the start was a false one. There was no bell boy. There was no “honeymoon” suite in the script I wrote. Someone I don’t know invented them.

e) The politician in the play I wrote was called Tripathy. He was not “Narendra” Tripathy. As you have very astutely picked up I am not very clued on to politics. With my over simplified framework, I detest most politicians including Sanjay Gandhi, Narendra Modi, Amar Singh and Raj Babbar. To me all Indian political parties and politicians are capable of fomenting communal trouble and genocides to suit their own purpose. It happened with the Sikhs in New Delhi. With Muslims in Gujarat. And continues to happen with Hindus in Kashmir. As a writer it was a deliberate choice to omit his first name. He could have been “Sanjay” or “Rajiv”
Tripathy, or “Amar” Tripathy or “Raj” Tripathy. And of course he could have been “Narendra” Tripathy. But I as the creator of the work, didn’t want him to have any first name .No one checked with me before having this particular first name.

f) I can mail you the script I wrote for the festival. I suspect you would trash it with
as much intensity. It is certainly culpable on the larger counts your review holds it to be. It is personal. It is self indulgent. And maybe it shouldn’t have been staged at all. But my friend, don’t accuse me of being anti women. My own brand of feminism purports men and women are equal in every respect. Both are capable of good and evil. Both are capable of sensitivity as well as violence. Even though they are characters I have created- both the mother and the politician frighten me in the play. And I am a little in love with both the sisters as well as the waiter-
performed or should I say adlibbed with such vulgar verve by the actor concerned. An Ekta Kapoor protégé, no less!

g) I found out two weeks before the play was to go on stage the extent to which my script had been mutilated and ravaged because I had been foolish enough to grant my directors the liberty to change lines to facilitate the movement of the play. I have done it when I have been called to direct. How was I to know they would misuse this liberty to distort the play in the manner they did? I certainly did not expect two women directors and two women actors to work against the interests of two women protagonists who were written as opposites only to underline the similarities between them. I was in Bangalore when the play was being rehearsed. I had offered to spend time in Bombay during the rehearsal process. But I was told it was difficult to get the actors together whenever I wanted to go there.

h) I found out about the changes not because anyone from the cast or crew told me, not because the organizers found it necessary to inform me, but because a fellow playwright warned me that this was being done. I saw myself coming up with all the expected reactions. I yelled. I raved. I ranted. I wrote saying I wanted to pull out the festival. The “Writers Bloc” may not be about writers but the organizers certainly know how to deal with them. They came up with a master stroke. They deputed Rajit Kapoor, a national award winning actor, to unleash a brand of “Gandhigiri” with me. He started calling me to coax and cajole. To point out that what I was doing would jeopardize the entire festival. The angrier I got, the gentler were his responses. It was a stunning performance. He personally reassured me that he would sit through the rehearsals and make sure that my interests as a writer would be protected. I pleaded with him to ensure that my characters don’t turn out to be south Indian caricatures. Why on earth would I caricature my own community, man? And it is such a huge concern… isn’t it? Some Bengalis speak English with a particular accent. Some Punjabis speak English with a particular accent. Some residents from UP speak English with a particular accent. I don’t see anyone going out of their way to invest them with an accent whenever they are playing a character and not a cliché from these states to raise laughs. Even an intelligent director like Aparna Sen made a certain Mrs.Iyer speak English with a thick Tamil accent. She did not have the two Bengali sisters speak English with a Bengali accent in 15, Park Avenue. Obviously there are some favors that are bestowed only on “Madrasis.” For the record, I had requested my directors not to give either of the sisters any accent. They are Palaghat Tam Brahms and went to a convent in Chennai. Why on earth would they speak with the thick accent Juhi Babbar thought she was clever in putting on?

i) Rajit was brilliant in the final analysis. I agreed to let the play be staged because of all his assurances and because I nostalgically and foolishly went back to the two workshops at Vasind that were great fun. Like a picnic on a rickety singing bus. There was this whole thrill of going back to school those days. Of being chided by earnest facilitators for not having read my David Mamet. Well deserved I had thought at that time. I had stupidly preoccupied myself with a Karnard, a Dattani and a Tendulkar. For being allowed to relive a time when you looked forward to the next day, not for the useless class room sessions, but because you could bond with other like minded crazy people and play Uno. When you could gang up and giggle together at the thrill of finding out that one of your fellow writers was claiming she had sneaked a look at the diary of George Devine’s Daughter and whisper to each other -
“Did she actually write that about so and so?” Such juvenile irresponsibility at forty plus had to come with a price.

j) I discovered how steep the price was when I sat flinching through the matinee. Rajit hadn’t tired of his performance. He kept on deputing theatre people to come up to me after the show and tell me how much they had loved the play. One theatre actor even managed a lump in her throat as she shared how much the play had moved her. I had sold my integrity and a new Orwellian world unfolded right there in Prithvi. One formidable looking lady walked up to me and introduced herself as the mother of one of the two directors. “My daughter did an excellent job, okay,” she thundered. “Yes…Ma’am,” I muttered with whatever little dignity I could muster. “Good,” she nodded sizing me up and moved on contemptuously. She had cleverly deduced I was no match for her. Whatever rebellious stirrings I could still feel died down. I was told to stay back for the nine o clock show. I did. I was called on stage to be introduced as “the playwright who has flown down especially from Bangalore” to acknowledge a rousing standing ovation from an Orwellian theatre audience. I bowed humbly and wondered idly whether just like Holden Caulfield’s brother sold out to Hollywood, the entire theatre community in Bombay including the audience sells out during this festival. How could they appreciate such trash?

k) The next morning I had another call from Rajit. Thankfully the last one. “People are raving about your play. Two renowned directors have talked about how powerful it was.” Good old Rajit. He had failed to honor the two commitments he made to me. But he had made up in the only way he could- Theatrically. He made sure I was the first playwright in the festival to be called on stage and acknowledged. He had got all these people after the show to come and congratulate me. And now he was calling me again with a fresh new invention. Two renowned, reputed nameless
directors who loved my play! I had taken an early morning flight to Bangalore and
was all bleary eyed and irritable when the phone rang. And there he was saying all
these things and all he wanted in return for all the kindness he was showering was
two more shows of this hit play in March at Prithvi. At the Orwellian venue I had
left behind. I told him it is his. A gift. And he can do whatever he wanted with it.
He pushed his luck. He wanted me to feel good with myself after all the praise I
had the previous night. I told him I would try. And I let go at that moment. I no
longer felt it was “my” self respect that was at stake any more. I never went back
for the NCPA shows even though I wanted to catch all the plays by the other
playwrights some of whom I have begun to love and respect a lot over the past one
year. But what to do? I never did like Orwell very much. Not even “Animal

The festival has ended now and I have begun to connect with some of the other playwrights from the festival. They carry their disillusionment with them sometimes. How they weren’t given complimentary tickets for their own plays. How they felt discarded by the organizers once the festival began. How despite the fact the organizers claimed actors in the festival productions would be paid, when some of the writers raised the issue of getting paid for their hard work they were asked “Is that an expectation?!” I can’t tell them what I tell myself. At any point of time in your life, you get what you deserve. I change the subject.

Of course I am wrong to have such a bleak view of things. After more than a month,
I have felt the sun on my face. Because you wrote that review. Because I randomly
chanced on it. Because hidden behind all those Orwellian faces standing up for a
numbing ovation in a dark auditorium that suddenly comes to light there’s a little
voice that says- “Hey…the emperor is not wearing any clothes at all. Look. Just look.
How naked he is.” And of course he is. The others need to hear that from a small
voice first to say it themselves. What can be more uplifting than this little “angry”

Thank You.

Vijay Nair

angry fix said...

Dear Vijay Nair,

(I may as write letter-fashion since both your comment, and mine, are too long to pass off as blog comments.)

Thank you for your spirited defense of your play. It has brought up many facts about the play I would normally not have heard of, like how your script was edited without your consent. On that count, you have my sympathies. While I sympathize with you, I am far more concerned with the play I watched.

My responses to the points you raised.

@ The scene you found particularly offensive, not to say trite and hackneyed - Padmaja speaking to the mirror - I didn’t write it. I have no idea who wrote it.
My sympathies again.

@ In the play I have written, Vanaja does not order Vodka at nine in the morning.
In the play I saw, she does.

@ In this day and age, do you think any literate person would want to beat down a woman as wanton because she is drinking?
I think I’ve made my point clear in my review. For further clarification, refer to your script.

@ But my friend, don’t accuse me of being anti women. My own brand of feminism purports men and women are equal in every respect.
It must be traumatizing to believe one thing, and write quite another. Or is this some kind of deep structural irony that I am missing?

@ I pleaded with him to ensure that my characters don’t turn out to be south Indian caricatures. Why on earth would I caricature my own community, man? They are Palaghat Tam Brahms and went to a convent in Chennai. Why on earth would they speak with the thick accent Juhi Babbar thought she was clever in putting on? How could they appreciate such trash?

@ I went to Writer’s Bloc five years after I had started writing plays. Three years after my first set of plays were published. In the same year that my first novel got published. One year after I was awarded an international residency for writers, the criterion for selection being the plays I had written. In the same year that I had declined another international residency. I opted for the Royal Court Workshop because I felt I had to start anew.
Thank you for the biographical details. I’m positive it’ll help me understand your play better.

@ The small voice that says- “Hey… the emperor wears no clothes.” More power to critics like you. I understand why your blog is perhaps the only place you can publish your enlightened criticism.
I entirely appreciate your angle on this, and hate to tell you that this review will appear in the March issue of Prithvi Theatre Notes. It’s still a small voice, though, so I guess your unrestrained celebration of my ‘voice’ is more or less applicable. And most welcome.

@ Because you wrote that review. Because I randomly chanced on it.
True, Google is random. After a fashion.

@ I can mail you the script I wrote for the festival. I suspect you would trash it with as much intensity. It is certainly culpable on the larger counts your review holds it to be. It is personal. It is self indulgent. And maybe it shouldn’t have been staged at all.
A small clarification: No one said anything about the play not being worthy of the stage.

However if the offer of sending me the script isn’t all rhetoric, my email id is v(.)v(.)narayan(@)gmail(.)com.

Thank you.

Vivek V. Narayan

vijay said...

I have mailed the script I wrote to you. Hmmm...So you are part Bombay theatre establishment too. How lovely. Do you know Ramu Ramanathan? We have met and he told me that he is fairly prominent in Prithvi too.
By the way...what spirited defense? Since when did calling something trash turned out to be its defense???
Take Care. We need you.

angry fix said...

I haven't received your script.

I am not sure you got my email id right.

It's v.v.narayan(AT)

Maia said...

Dear angry thingy,

Please, what is a bad intertextual pun?


Maia Katrak

vijay said...

I am mailing the script again. apologies. That was a cheap shot- about you being a part of the Bombay theatre establishment.
I reckon we can do one of the two things. Have a dialogue that is really the underpinning of any kind of theatre or take turns to insult each other.
Yes...I find your voice little ( regardless of the Prithvi connection) compared to the huge circus this writers bloc becomes in Bombay. Ramu had told me about it, but sadly enough that encounter fell short of a dialogue, more due to my own obtuseness. A mistake I am not keen on repeating.
I reiterate I love your review and have no defense to offer for the things you have pointed out. If I was interested in defending it, the easiest thing would be to say how could it be anti-women when four intelligent women engaged with it with such verve. Two as directors and two as actors. But when I watched it I too felt it was deplorably sexist. And if "indeed" I am responsible as the writer I need to be hammered for it in as many reviews as possible. That is why I am keen that you go through the text and point out to me how unconsciously or sub consciously I end up giving out my own gender biases. It is a request. Made humbly.
And the rationale behind the cheap shot if there is anything like a rationale to such things is that I am not able to figure out is how come a critic like you is so proficient when it comes to assessing the outcome but does not question the process. Again I reiterate my experience of Writers Bloc is that it is really difficult for relevant work to emerge from that forum. There are enough processes out there including good old fashioned bullying and emotional blackmail to block thinking and questioning- both essential pre-requisites for relevant writing.
If you thought a few plays actually made the grade, a large credit of it goes to a perceptive director who understands that the festival is about writers and writing and the director's job is to present the work in as unobtrusive a manner as possible.

angry fix said...

@ Vijay,
Got the script. Thanks.

@ Maia Katrak,
Quite unsuspectingly, I was about to explain what I meant, when I noticed the charming post on your blog.

As someone who occasionally writes himself, I completely understand the annoyance sharp criticism can cause.

But then, such is life.

Angrybutfixed said...

Dear Vivek

I think you are a very angry young man who has a very very angry little voice. You watch yourself. Do you come around Prithvi often??

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angry fix said...

Good to see someone still retains a semblance of perspective.

Thanks, anonymous.

Anonymous said...

u need to watch more theatre...before commenting

angry fix said...


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