The year is 2018; and one goes to watch a Hindi play in Kolkata. What would one expect? Most likely that despite everything, the content of the play will reflect the contemporary reality that everyone goes through.
Well, Tum Bin, the newest production by Proscenium group does not quite manage that. What it does do inevitably, is to make one think about the state of Hindi theatre in Kolkata. There is a certain dilemma here regarding that. Some parts of it seem extremely progressive, while others seem just the opposite.
Hindi theatre in Kolkata right now is in a situation where playwrights can’t let go of the past; productions struggle to reach into the future; leading to a product that is stuck in limbo, somewhere between the past and the future, losing the essence of current times.
Tum Bin is a Hindi adaptation of Jean Kerr’s well-known Mary, Mary (1961), directed by Sheo Kumar Jhunjhunwala and adapted in Hindi by Bindu Jaiswal. It is about Rahul (Sahir Siddiqui), who is extremely logical and infuriatingly sensible and Sakshi (Archana Malhotra), a sharp woman with a proclivity for timely sarcastic humour.
They have been divorced and haven’t seen each other for nine months. Aakash (Anjum Rizvi), best friend and lawyer devices a plot to bring the two together and then the narrative picks up. There is also Riya (Arzoo Sajjad) who is the considerably younger fiancée of Rahul.
However, the female characters in the play are underdeveloped and not given enough importance in the story. The play was riddled with song sequences that did not suit the tone of the narrative, making the entire performance look forced. In addition, Rocky Mondal, who played the attractive neighbour Amit, failed to impress the audience with his performance; Arzoo could not deliver some of her lines in time; and the crux of Sahir’s character — his calculating sensibility — was not apparent until the very end.
However, there was a salvaging factor — Sahir’s performance. His delivery was top notch and his dialogues were timed perfectly. Also, Anjum’s performance as Aakash plays very well with Sahir’s and they share a good chemistry on stage. Unfortunately, the script restricted Sahir to an extent. The stage design was extremely well done, with a good play of light and shadows in all the right places and the art direction was meticulously taken care of.
It is true that this play does not do much in terms of reflecting the reality that we currently live. Women in India have been raising children as single mothers since the 90s without alimony and it is only more commonplace now as women in the country are finding financial independence. But director SK Jhunjhunwala believes that “not all theatre needs to serve a purpose. Sometimes plays are required to simply entertain”.