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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mohan Rakesh's Aadhe Adhure

Mohan Rakesh is credited for ushering the modern era in Hindi theatre. His plays Ashad Ka Ek Din (One Day in Monsoon, 1958) changed the course of Hindi theatre by pulling it up from the quagmire of literary didacticism, and for using contemporary, real life language that people spoke, understood, and could easily relate to.

Along with Dharamveer Bharti, Mohan Rakesh changed changing the face of Hindi theatre. Bharati’s Andha Yug (The Blind Age, 1954) used the Mahabharat to depict the malaise in society when everyone becomes unseeing and uncaring. What Bharati and Rakesh achieved in Hindi was part of a pan-India movement at transforming theatre that was initiated with the launch of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) in 1942, the formation of the National School of Drama (NSD), and involved many mid-twentieth century stalwarts such as Ebrahim Alkazi. Integral to this evolution, which continued for two decades, were other pioneers such as Badal Sircar (Bengali), GirishKarnad (Kannada), and Vijay Tendulkar (Marathi).   

Mohan Rakesh’s second play Aadhe Adhure (Halfway House, 1959) was also path-breaking because it dealt with contemporary realities of a modern, mid-twentieth century India trying hard to rid itself of the colonial vestiges, and seeking to find a new voice that though wasn’t confident, at least had clarity.

Aadhe Adhure depicts the destitution of a single-unit family in an urban setting. It is about a middle-aged father Mahendranath, who is a failed entrepreneur; and mother Savitri the single-breadwinner, who is desperately seeking a better life; and their three children son Ashok, who is unemployed and seemingly unemployable; two daughters – Binni, who elopes to marry, but has returned seemingly forever; and Kinni, the rebellious teenager who frequently raises hell just so that she gets the attention that she constantly craves for.  There are three other characters – all men, who are intricately linked to the family’s failing fortunes.

The play is primarily about Savitri who is convinced that she deserves better in life. She is convinced that her no-good husband Mahendranath is unlikely to ever become successful; she is frustrated that her life hasn’t shaped in the manner that she had envisaged two decades ago when she was young and just starting up with Mahendranath. As the play unravels, the audience learns of the many and desperate attempts Savitri makes to change her circumstances, seeking relationships with successful men.

Despite her desperation, and the abuse she suffers from her husband, she continues to labour hard to keep the family from drowning in penury. It is a sacrifice that she makes without having a choice, and she is clearly unhappy about it. Unfortunately, all her attempts to change her life don’t go anywhere. The play ends with both Savirti and Mahendranath returning to home, perhaps realizing that they don’t have anyone else but each other.

Anubha Jha Shankar & Poornima Mohan
The Hindi Writers’ Guild of Canada staged Aadhe Adhure in collaboration with the Savitri Theatre Group at the Sampradaya Dance Academy auditorium in Mississauga recently. It was a superlative show with all the actors performing brilliantly. The standout performances were by Poornima Mohan as Savitri, who did justice to a role that requires consummate skills but also the art of underplaying; and by Anubha Jha Shankar, as Binni, the elder daughter, who is conflicted because she wants to retain what is hers (and her family’s), even as she attempts to become a new, independent person.

Although written six decades ago, the play retains immediacy and relevance. However, the conclusion rankles because in early twenty-first century, we clearly would not like to adversely judge a middle-aged woman’s quest for a better life by wanting to abandon her circumstances of the past two decades which didn’t give her anything more than toil and abuse. 


Support: Sawitri Theatre Group
Director and set design: Prakash Date
Stage building:Suman Ghai
Stage Manager:Shaba Shringi
Music: Deepak Sant
Production Assistant:Naimesh Nanawati; Medha Dandekar
Lights and Sound: Sulakshan Mohan and Keyur Shah
Props: Dr. Shailja Saksena
Wardrobe: Namita Dandekar
Make up: Akhila Jog/Monisha Date
Tickets and other support: Vijay Vikrant

Savitri: Poornima Mohan
Mahendra Nath: Vidya Bhushan Dhar
Binni: Anubha Jha Shankar
Kinni: Anchal Sahgal
Ashok: Uday Chauhan
Singhania: Nirmal Siddu
Jagmohan: Milind Karindikar
Juneja: Vivek Gulvade

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