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Justice on Trial – Aaina’s ‘Take 2’

Aaina’s two play main production, ‘Take 2’ opened to a rather sparsely populated auditorium as compared to its other productions. Whatever the cause for the low attendance (whether it was the week packed with lab exams, or the much too short two week window for publicity), those present did seem enthusiastic.

The first play of the evening, titled ‘Raktpushp’, based on a play written by Mahesh Elkunchwar, depicted a simple plot which dealt with the complex inner world of the two female characters. Showing the life of a family after the death of their only son, the actors (aided by the light and sound department) did manage to create an environment of general pathos necessary for the play.

Whether it was the distraught mother looking for a substitute for her son in a young paying guest, or the rising jealousy of the daughter on seeing her mother’s affections for the stranger, the play dealt with the quite convoluted human psyche. The performance of the actors was commendable even though there was noticeable faltering in the dialogue more than once, indicating a lack of practice. Surbhi as the grieving mother was convincing and delivered a fine performance except the monologue, which was at times powerless. The character ‘Bapa’ largely acted as mediator between the play’s two female characters.

The chemistry between the youngsters was evident and delightful as the audience saw the relationship evolve from passive hatred to mild liking. Khushi as the young daughter was convincing as an adolescent struggling emotionally and on the way to sexual maturity. The discomfort of ‘Raja’, the paying guest, was felt by the audience as his privacy was again and again violated by a well-meaning ‘Padma’, the mother. The audience witnessed Padma’s struggle not only as a mother but also as a woman, as the character dealt with her sexual needs and self-image. It would have made for a commendable delivery if not for the obvious fumbling.

The apparition of the deceased son in army uniform was clearly meant to induce pathos and, though it worked initially, it failed rather miserably in the final scene as the audience erupted into laughter. This was not a failure on the part of the audience, but the depiction – even though the concept of the spirit was noble, the execution was rather comical.

The second performance of the evening was one that made the audience question its innate sense of justice. In a country trying to overcome its brutal past, a woman was shown struggling with her own equally powerful demons while the audience struggled with her sense of justice.

Devansh Malik as ‘Dr. Rehman’ gave nothing away as his character evolved from that of a helpful stranger to a potential ex-torturer. The audience was as bewildered as the husband when the woman, ‘Maya;, accused him of being one of those who tortured her because she recognized his voice and the feel of his skin. The crowd was left dumbstruck as ‘Maya’, played skillfully by Avani, teetered on the edge of madness as she kept the Doctor hostage, refusing to let him go unless he confessed. The character was played brilliantly by Avani as she embodied the brash course of action borne by a longstanding helplessness.

The audience reflected the husband’s inability to decide whether his wife’s strong conviction was enough to declare a man guilty. On one hand, there was the hatred he felt for someone who had tortured his wife; while on the other, there was the nagging doubt that maybe the doctor was innocent. The audience oscillated between decisions, failing to reach the final verdict as the play progressed.

The end of the play was far too stretched and that lightened its impact as the audience was distracted by the breaks and exchanges where nothing significant happened. Nevertheless, the play stayed with the audience as the question of what defines justice gnawed at people’s minds.

Though the performances had their moments, considering it was a main production the evening left much for want. The scripts were brilliantly chosen but the execution, except for certain parts, was rather mediocre. The plays did leave the audience questioning personal notions but alas, there was something lacking that would tie the evening together as a whole.