eleven new plays
By Arunodaya Chaudhuri
Oxford Bookstore
in assisiation with
Footloose Publishers

Chaudhuri isn’t offering any solutions or reprieve, he&’s just bringing forth whatever has got and is getting his goat in the form of plays. But pick it up. He prefaces that he takes full responsibility for it… A review by
supriya newar

ARUNODAYA Chaudhuri&’s got some interesting plots up his sleeve and a good read of all them tells me that he&’s probably felt the plots more than he has imagined them. The plays are, therefore, more a figment of experience or feeling than imagination. He&’s evidently disgusted with many things — from the Ambani skyscraper to the state of our political affairs and government to even the crass neglect that the so-called upwardly mobile dole out to their geriatric parents.
   So he starts off with Antila, who believes he is really the pride of the city and why the chawls all around are such an embarrassment. It&’s just not fair that he is surrounded by them. Filthy little creatures that spoil his style! Till a little child of one of the chawls confesses to his mother that he has, indeed, decided what he wants to be when he grows up. No, he doesn’t want to be Antila. He wants to be a humble, faithful servant of Antila as he, too, would like to enter its haloed corridors, just like the many biggies who he notices get to go inside.
   Chaudhuri moves on to a dialogue between the four metros: Bombay, Delhi, Madras and Calcutta, sticking to their British names and not the recently acquired ones. He plays out the constant fight for supremacy between Delhi and Bombay; one wielding political power, the other money power. He paints Madras as this eternal humble servant and Calcutta as the bania, the feudal type, where his angst against the business community in the city comes out strongly. In the order of evil, Delhi leads his pack and Calcutta comes a close second, with Madras almost going not guilty.
   Don’t steal my shade and The Blue Bauble give you a sense of the everyday ordeals that the aam aadmi in this country face. For some reason, they remind me of Peepli Live, a recent Hindi movie. In both these plays, the aggrieved&’s sufferings only increase and get represented in the labyrinth of unending layers of Indian bureaucracy. In the latter, he has been gutsy enough to draw out the finance minister&’s character as one who wears a blue turban and is, indeed, shown with a group of economists who boast of degrees from nothing less than Cambridge and Oxford. Therefore, the name Blue Bauble’ It&’s another matter that they cannot control the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, who have given the country massive loans and have now sent their officers to virtually crap wherever and however they like on us. He even dares to sketch an imperious lady character and a baba&’s perambulator. Any guesses who they might be?
   And finally, he&’s ashamed, one feels more than disgusted, at the way several non-resident Bengalis may be treating their parents, leaving them in the lurch, in areas like Salt Lake. They are often found to be lonely, ailing and with just each other for company and support. Baghban, the recent BR Chopra flick, comes to mind, albeit set in Bengal and not north India.
   There is nothing marvellous in any of these plays, but there is something real about them. And since the current reality in all its aspects is getting more disturbing, well… so are some of the plays. Some of the characters are nicely drawn out and then some like “Facebook” could be so much better.
Chaudhuri isn’t offering any solutions or reprieve, by the way. He&’s just bringing forth whatever has got and is getting his goat in the form of plays. Often spiked with some dark humour and sarcasm. Pick it up. He prefaces that he takes full responsibility for it.