Hung was the Jury – Dramanon’s ‘Twelve Angry Jurors’
Prejudice always obscures the truth. I don’t really know what the truth is. I don’t suppose anybody will ever really know. We’re just gambling on probabilities – we may be wrong. We may be trying to let a guilty man go free, I don’t know. Nobody really can. But we have a reasonable doubt, and that’s something that’s very valuable in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it’s sure.
— Juror #8
The artifice in Twelve Angry Jurors, as in any courtroom drama, is the organic unravelling of the specifics of the case through the jury’s arguments.
The eighth Juror represents the ideal of empathy, existing to remind the others that the nature of reality, just like the law, is not absolute, but interpreted. As the play progresses, he wins them over.
The intrigue here, is created by subliminally examining the lives of the jurors to observe how their prejudices influence their assessment of the case. Over the course of the play, the gathering delves into the complexity of the jury room discussion – encountering questions based on morality and the value of human life.
Dramanon did a seemingly effortless job in bringing Reginald Rose’s courthouse drama, Twelve Angry Men, to life. The audience at Manipal’s Golden Jubilee hall was transported to an American jury room from the fifties, in which the entire the play is set. A crowd had gathered outside the venue well before the play was scheduled to start. Silence gradually gripped the auditorium as the curtains parted, and the play began with the tortured accounts of the witnesses to a murder.
The jurors appeared on stage to deliberate over the case of a boy who allegedly murdered his father. What appeared to be an open and shut murder case quickly left the jury divided. Juror 8, opposes his colleagues’ otherwise unanimous decision and the details of the case he builds to support his stance forms the plot of the play.
Among the variety of performances, the evening had to offer, Manahar Kumar as the eighth juror truly stood out with his measured and restrained demeanour.
The irate nature of the tenth juror was vividly embodied by Ishika Chakraborty, in an explosive performance.
The audience responded keenly to everything the play had to offer; gasping, applauding, and laughing in equal measures at the plot’s progress. Puranjai Garg’s was an intense and essentially melodramatic performance as the third juror, whose unwillingness to consider the possibility of the accused’s innocence stems from a dysfunctional family life. The role of the wise ninth juror was played by Sindhu Annamalai, who did a stellar job of bringing the character’s gentle persona to life. The play’s engaging plot and layered characters succeeded in keeping the audience sufficiently invested to quickly return to the hall post intermission.
The drama was punctuated by multiple miniature climaxes that kept the audience engaged until the ending which, despite being fairly predictable, garnered a standing ovation. The applause reverberated in the hall for quite a while as the cast took a bow and everyone involved in the play’s production received due credit. The emotional intensity of the play persisted as some of the actors announced the end of their stint at Dramanon, thanking their mentors and peers as they did so.
One left the theatre quite moved, to some degree by the play and to a greater degree by the authenticity of the farewell that followed. Everyone involved in the production of the 12 Angry Jurors was up on stage amidst applause that was, in equal parts, an appreciation of the play, its cast, and direction, and of the close-knit theatre group that pulled it off within the short span of a month.