Starring: Nivedita Saraf, Chinmay Mandlekar, Vaibhav Mangle, Prasad Oak.
Dir by Chandrakant Kulkarni. Written by Mahesh Elkunchwar.
Staging Wada Chirebandi, set in the 1970s-80s in a village in Vidarbha, about the slow breakdown of the Deshpande family—Deshastha Brahmins living in a traditional wada (haveli)—on a commercial platform was a risk. It paid off well, giving the director-producer enough courage to stage the sequel. For the past month, the team is doing a double bill of both two-act plays, staged back-to-back.
Wada begins with Sudhir Deshpnade and his wife Anjali, a Konkanastha Brahmin, arriving at the ancestral house five days after demise of Sudhir’s father. The story revolves around four siblings, elder son Bhaskar, who looks after the 12-acre farm and the house in his own way; Sudhir, who moves to Mumbai and so distances himself; Chandu, the younger brother who is treated unfairly but continues to slog for the house, and Prabha, who remains a spinster as she cannot find an educated groom and is not given a chance to get educated. Their mother, wives and children oscillate between individual and family interests. The crumbling house stands as a symbol of changing times and relationships.
The sequel moves 10 years ahead, with the wedding of the children of the eldest brother on the cards. While a few things improve, others disintegrate irrevocably. References to caste (other than prejudices between the two Brahmin sub-castes), agrarian crisis and urbanisation are in passing and at best part of a dejected rant by the hapless protagonists. Women and men, both aware of their gender-specific roles, manage to reverse them a little every now and then. The woman characters pack in a few punches and get the audience’s hearty applause. The writing is faithful to the region and the time, including what is called the varhadi thaska of sharp-one liners and colourful language. The performances, by well-known actors of the Marathi TV, film and theatre, are impressive.
The play constantly reminds the audience of the randomness of life and the inevitable, and random, tragedies that await you. At the same time, it also eloquently shows that flawed people are also capable of genuine love.
Watching both the plays within a gap of two hours somehow works in favour of the story, because the audience remains in that space, making it easier for the gen-next to take over. It does not matter how relevant some of the issues may be, (such as doctors leaving India to do research in medicine), but the success of the plays lie in drawing the audience into the story set in another time and engaging them for nearly six hours.