The New Colors Of The Indian Theatre
As much as Indian cinema is changing in terms of producing more meaningful and relevant content, Indian theatre had been facing a lag for a long time, but not anymore. With actors and directors like Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak, there are some real experiments being executed on the stage, that is setting the bar high for the Indian theatre performances. ‘The Truth’ is one such experimental play that gained the trust and appreciation of the audience.
The original writer of the play, Florian Zeller has been given credit on a global level for the extraordinary script. The script is not just uncannily funny but has more to it than meets the eye. The play was presented in India by the infamous Motley Productions under the co-direction of two of the most esteemed persons associated with theatre in India today – Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak.
The play opened on 6th December at the Prithvi Theatre. What is to be noted is that even though the play is associated with some strong representatives likes Florian Zeller, Ratna Pathak and Naseeruddin Shah, its success mostly lies in the powerful script and the intricate direction that was woven right into it. In fact, the play was a huge success when it came to the adaptation and contextualization of the script with respect to the Indian audiences.
An Uncomfortably Hilarious Take On Marital Infidelity
‘The Truth’ has been acknowledged as the second play by Florian Zeller, as described by Kate Kellaway in her article for The Guardian, as “a millefeuille of truth and deceit”. The play provides an unsettling but hilarious gaze at the downsides of infidelity in a marriage. Owing to Zeller’s French roots, it can be said that his script dances as much along the lines of a traditional French farcical comedy, as it does along the celebrated play of Harold Pinter –‘Betrayal’.
The play reminds one of the Baroque forms of court dance where the dancing couples switch their partners, only here it involves two central players on the stage at a particular time. Motley has done a marvellous job in adapting the script and setting the play in Mumbai.
The characters have been taken right out of our daily lives, the ones with which the metropolitan people can well identify with –educated, successful professionals, capable of synchronizing their winded up personal lives and their artificially normal social existence in an articulate manner and with blasé spirit.
The basic premise of ‘The Truth’ involves two married couples with two husbands as best friends. Not long after the play starts, it appears clear that one of the husbands is having an extramarital affair with the other husband’s wife. However, what meets to the eye as an uncomplicated and one-way ruse, soon is discovered to be far more complex and intricate and eventually is realized to be layers and layers of deceits and lies. Much to the shock of the audience, it is the disloyal husband who finds himself gradually sinking deeper into the web of lies, and concludes with the appalling realization that he has sinned against more than he has sinned.
Naseeruddin Shah And Ratna Pathak- The Production’s Big Guns
The collaborative work of Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak on the direction of the play results into the presentation of a spectacle that is traditional and naturally conversationalist while putting the farcical intents aside to grant the characters an opportunity to produce a more believable dilemma. However, there are points within the play where the pace drops consequently resulting in the abatement of the anxiety and apprehension of the audience.
Nevertheless, the dynamics of the personal relationships of the characters is on point in every scene. Naseeruddin Shah plays the role of the cheating husband in a much understated and almost nonchalant manner, even though he does not completely let go of the mannerism. The underplaying of his character is agreeably necessary to his character for the sake of the production; even so, it fails to grab the audience by their attention to effect.
However, Shah surprises the audience with his brilliant comic timing and the humorous delivery of most of his dialogues. Previously, Shah had played the lead in one of Zeller’s other plays –‘The Father’.
When asked as to the reason he chose to go on with a rather less serious play than like ‘The Father’, he replied, “It promised to be fun, and quite a different pace from The Father, which was a great relief because I’m quite tired of playing intense, suffering parts. I felt like doing something light-hearted.”
Ratna Pathak, the co-director of the play and Shah’s co-actor in ‘The Father’ also added, “The Father is a very, very painful view and experience of watching the man lose himself entirely. It’s not nice for the audience to watch as well. It’s a great piece of writing, but it’s heartbreaking as well. This is, in fact, so effervescent; it’s almost like a joke. That made me wonder: if one is to do a farce, which is so lightweight and delightful on the surface, is there anything else under it?”
The Illuminating Brilliance Of The Production
Avantika Akerkar is cast in the role of Shah’s wife and provides an extremely focused performance with an even better precision of expressions of emotions and thoughts, both physically and vocally. She is capable of enchanting the audience with an absorbing performance, especially in the last scene where her own deception is hinted at fervently.
Shruti Vyas plays the wife of the friend and is straightforward and readable making her character and its dilemmas highly communicable. On the other hand, Gaurav Sharma playing as the husband of Vyas succeeds in maintaining a calm veneer of subterfuge. The design and management of the production is equally genius. Rahul Rai and Arghya Lahiri do a tremendous job with the lighting. The stage management is efficient with a single set precisely turned into six different and convincing locales.
The sound effects and design were handled with the right amount of realistic touch by a talented team of Dhruv Kalra and Saahil Vaid. Despite all this, the most surprising element of the entire production management was that the actors appeared on the stage without body microphones and took generous advantage of the superb acoustics.
How Truthful Is ‘The Truth’?
‘The Truth’, as a play, might be considered as a farcical comedy on marital infidelity that is not much different from what is most commonly labelled as the ‘bedroom farce’. However, under its surface of entertainment are layers and layers of truths, that forces one to investigate the real faces of modern probity, where anything is acceptable. But, the question is, how far can one be ready to go in search of the truth.
What amount of truth is good enough for anyone?
Naseeruddin Shah gives an account of one of the dialogues of the play and explains, “‘The truth: the advantages of concealing it, the perils of revealing it.’ Right till the end, you don’t know whose version to believe. I personally find it very funny, and I hope the audience does as well. He [Zeller] knows his onions as far as theatre is concerned. His observations of people are bang-on. I am certain the play will raise a lot of uncomfortable questions in a lot of people’s heads. There are always dark areas in any marriage, in any relationship. Those dark areas come to the surface in the play.”