The theatre is not just a form of entertainment but also a means to educate and make audiences think about the society they live in. People go to theatre shows to forget reality and believe in the unbelievable through a “willing suspension of disbelief” — a phrase coined by poet-philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The Indian theatre scene has seen a growing number of people willing to watch and indulge in plays over the years. Here is a list of 10 such plays you must watch whenever you get the chance.
3. Dear Liar (1958)
Written by Jerome Kilty and directed by Sayadev Dubey in 2013 in India, the Broadway play Dear Liar is a theatrical representation of the Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw’s relationship with Mrs Patrick Campbell, a popular stage actress in England in the 1900s. The Indian version of the play has been performed with Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah in the lead roles where they recreate the personal and professional relationship Shaw and Campbell shared through the letters written over a period of 40 years. It transports the audience back into the 19th and 20th century British-American traditions, complete with the rich, flowing gowns and hair neatly piled up. The play is delightful to watch with the chemistry shared by the cast enhancing the performance even further.
2. Tughlaq (1964)
Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq, written in 1964, is the playwright’s take on the eponymous Sultan of Delhi from 14th century India. He looks at the situation from the other end of the telescope – in his version, the sultan has a vision of uniting Hindus and Muslims that goes haywire and his rule turns into a failure. Karnad masterfully juxtaposed Mohammed-bin-Tughlaq’s idealism with the Nehruvian era where India looked for transformative direction, which ended in disillusionment in both cases. The play visualizes the abyss between what is and what can be by exploring political overtones and how a genius vision can lead to chaos and fragmentation, thus becoming a powerful part of history.
1. Nirbhaya (2013)
Produced after the December 2012 Nirbhaya incident that shocked the country and led to protests around India, the play, directed by Yael Farber, brings a stellar cast of actors, many of whom have themselves faced sexual abuse at some point in their lives. Only two of the seven cast members, Japjit Kaur (who plays Jyoti Singh) and Ankur Vikal (plays one of the male attackers) act in the real sense. The rest, including Sneha Jawale who was doused with kerosene and set on fire by her husband and had her son taken away, recall their real-life experiences on stage. The play is profoundly moving and leaves the audience thinking about what happens to women in a patriarchal society to this day.