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Crimes of Love—AAINA’s Double Bill

Aaina held Double Bill, their first event of the semester, on the 23rd of August in the Library Auditorium. It consisted of two plays, Khamosh! Adaalat Jaari Hai and The Scavenger’s Daughter.  The first was a courtroom drama, and the second a murder mystery. Due to the interesting themes of the plays, the audience was filled to the brim with excited freshers, eager to see the first such event of the semester.

Khamosh! Adaalat Jaari Hai
Rasika Muralidharan

Khamosh! Adaalat Jaari Hai was the first of the two plays at AAINA’s debut event. This Hindi play is a courtroom drama penned by Vijay Tendulkar. The play revolves around a group of people who are part of a production house intending to stage a play. Due to unforeseen circumstances, one of the members doesn’t show up and a local is asked to replace him. Since the member of the court is absent, the courtroom turns towards a mock trial with random accusations being placed on a woman.

The play started with light, airy and comedic dialogues giving an insight into each character. The discussion in the courtroom was about a woman carrying a child from an illegitimate relationship. The members of the court questioned the value of motherhood, and the character of the woman, Benare, was demeaned. She was presented to the audience as a fun-loving and good-spirited woman. However, she had a grim past that was revealed through the events in the courtroom. “My experience playing a role like that of Benare was simply beautiful. Getting under the skin of a woman that takes pride in her decisions was amazing“, says Isha Apte, the actor who portrayed the character of Benare.

Mrs Kashikar, a witness called upon to testify, was of the opinion that since Benare was getting everything she wanted before marriage, she had passed on several opportunities that would have provided her with a good, settled life. Benare was accused of actively seeking male companionships and was held guilty for having a job.

Later in the play, when the details of the event were laid out, the accusations against her began to seem to hold weight, with the drama intensifying. After hearing the witnesses, Benare herself was asked to give her final statement. Through tears, she told the audience who she fell in love with. She fell in love with her uncle at the young age of fifteen, unaware of the consequences of her feelings. When word began to spread, her uncle fled, leaving his unborn child and her alone. Benare told herself that if she were to have a daughter, she would raise her daughter to have the courage to speak for herself and give her a life where she could make her own choices. If she were to have a son, he would be taught to be respectful of women and would learn that their thoughts and feelings are just as important as his.

As the lights dimmed and the play reached its conclusion, Benare was yet to receive a verdict from the court. The Prosecutor reiterated that Benare had an illegitimate relationship with her uncle and that her child could not grow up without a father. And if she were to have a daughter, she would only take forward the sins of the girl’s mother. And thus, the court declared that the child with Benare must be destroyed—for what can destroy us must be destroyed first.

 

Integrating satire and irony in a form that everyone understands on the subject of foeticide was quite challenging, but it was an amazing experience“, said Astha Garodia, one of the directors of the play. With carefully chosen actors, whose passion for the material translated on stage, AAINA did complete justice to Khamosh! Adalat Jaari Hai. The splendid performance of all the actors resulted in a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience.

 

The Scavenger’s Daughter
Trisha Anil

Keeping with the evening’s theme of crime and drama, AAINA Dramatics took a different turn through the depiction of a play by playwright Gary Earl Ross. Directors Abhinav Tewari and Angkrish Gujral successfully delivered their twist on the story through flashbacks and suspense. “It was amazing working on a play that proved to be entertaining for the audience given that it was a serious murder mystery with some comedic scenes”, said Shaunak Date who played, the father, John Pickett.

The play began with a scene of detective Maxine Travis Easley investigating a crime that she believed was the murder of Ruthie Olson Pickett. Travis, through unusual methods of interrogation, tried to get to the bottom of the case by interviewing the children of the Pickett family.

Travis began her interrogations with the oldest, Alan Pickett. Alan attempted to label his deceased stepmother as unstable by telling Travis about an incident that involved Ruthie and his father John. However, the constant questioning threw Alan off guard and his story crumbled. Travis then interviewed Connie Pickett, Alan’s sister who attempted to blame Ruthie’s behaviour for all the problems in the family. Connie soon left the room uneasy, shaken up by the detective’s questions. Travis, undeterred, moved on to questioning Brian Pickett, the last of the Pickett children. The detective’s sneering attitude ruffled a few of his feathers, causing Brian to nearly attack Travis at gunpoint. Travis, seemingly unshaken by what had happened, dismissed Brian. She attempted to play out scenarios of what may have gone down at the Pickett household before the death of Ruthie. The detective later surprised Connie at night, when she interrogated Connie with Milton, Ruthie’s nephew, and Connie’s lover. Travis cruelly forced Connie and Milton to play out what she thought went down during Ruthie’s murder, proving the couple guilty. Interestingly, the story took a final twist when Travis proved Connie guilty for a cold case—the murder of Travis’s father.

Shivalika Choudhary’s portrayal of the psychotic Maxine Easley made for a terrific performance. The aura surrounding her character and her excellent use of dialogue impressed several members of the audience. Despite the lack of dialogue, Shaunak Date did an impressive job portraying John Pickett and added humour to a few sombre scenes. Alan Pickett’s sharp and refined character was portrayed by Abhinav Borah and the short-tempered and hasty brother, Brian Pickett, was played by Avi Giri. The use of props brought the play to life and helped the audience get a better understanding of the story. The lighting and sound effects added were appropriately used throughout the scenes. Overall, the play was an excellent ending to the evening and was an impressive showcase of the efforts put in by AAINA. “The play was gripping and had an amazing storyline with some great acting”, remarked Vaishnavi Murali, a second-year student from MIT.

Aaina Dramatics received tremendous appreciation for their work through a standing ovation and was an eyeopener for the freshmen. “The event was a huge success and LA was jam-packed with students leaving us organizers standing just so we could accommodate more people. It was amazing to see sleepless nights and weeks of efforts appreciated by the audience.” said organisers Sajal Gupta and Chaksh Katyal. The plays were a great display of the talent and work put in by the club. Overall, the event set the stage for future productions and has students eagerly waiting for the next play.

Image Credits: Riju Ray for The Photography Club, Manipal