I discovered Elkunchwar about two years ago. Back then, I was wholly trying to be a good student, attending all classes and thoroughly missing Theatre. I even took library classes seriousl, browsing through the bookshelves and in fact those were the only times I felt closer to the world of dramatics than anywhere else in my media school. While most of my friends would pour over photography journals and books about interesting advertising campaigns, I would be secretly worried about how I didn't find all of that interesting enough. It was then that I found a tiny shelf dedicated to Theatre. And Volume II of Elkunchwar's creations. Up until that point, I had little idea of who Elkunchwar was. For those like me, Elkunchwar is one head of the Holy Trinity of Marathi Playwrights and receives a national and international pedestal with the likes of Tendulkar, Badal Sircar and Mohan Rakesh. Some of his plays have also been made into feature films. He writes with the sort of ease that my 18-year-old self found very easy to connect with, unlike Vijay Tendulkar or Satish Alekar whose works I still struggle with, a little.
Now on to Wada. Wada Chirebandi (Old Stone Mansion) is the story of the Deshpande family in _____. 'Wada' essentially means a Bungalow, those owned by upper-class and upper-caste Maharashtrian joint families. This Wada is crumbling under the pressure of it's legacy. The patriarch of the house has died, the oldest daughter in law has assumed responsibility. Her husband is cynical and frustrated, their children well on their way to 'wasting themselves'. The second son is struggling in the city but has become the cause of envy and contempt to the one left behind. The third son keeps away from the clashes and mutely does odd jobs in the house. There's also a daughter, the more intelligent of the siblings, who's been denied education and has rejected matrimony. It's a perfect mix. There's enough baggage floating around the house to ensure strong drama.
I've known enough Deshpandes in my life to have an opinion of them, the namesakes and otherwise. The family is Brahmin, an identity they hold on to, despite the lack of means. And that's exactly what makes the play brilliant. Growing up Brahmin, I have seen my family members reject socialist ideas, right and left (no pun intended). Wada Chirebandi tell me why. It's funny because I watched the play at Dinanath Mangeshkar Natyagriha, Vile Parle East and it goes without saying that most of the audience members were Brahmins. So through out the play, I would keep hearing chuckles and vigorous nods whenever there was a smart jab at the community. But did anybody understand the underlying mockery behind it. I cannot say.
Elkunchwar holds up a mirror to the population of the 1970s. In 2016, the mirror still seems to reflect the same image to newer viewers. Props to director Chandrakant Kulkarni for that. Wada Chirebandi makes you laugh, weep and freeze completely all at the same time.
In the very same day, I also watched the sequel to the play - Magna Talyakathi or The Pond. While Wada ends on a tragic note, Magna picks up 10 years later when everything's changed and yet, still the same. Magna deals with the second generation of the house - a generation that could very well be Gen X or Gen Y. The house has new paint, there's weddings scheduled and the first generation is pretty much sorted. The suffocation you feel in the house is way lesser than before, but the weight of the baggage is constant.
There's a scene in Magna Talyakathi, which takes place next to the titular pond. It happens in the dead of the night, with nothing but soft ripples to be heard. In a voiceover, the protagonist says, "Some times I look at the stars and wonder, could somebody in a far off galaxy be looking back at me, in this very moment?"
Later in the play, the protagonist comes home and says of another character, "I went to the Pond and saw him sitting there, by himself. I turned around and left, for it is isn't a good thing to interrupt somebody's solace."
These lines are of course, loosely translated. But that's how they stayed in my mind. For a week after that, I was stuck at the Pond. I'm going to refer to some old WhatsApp messages which will say what I want to much better for me.
[8/29, 9:04 PM] Kalpak Bhave: Somehow my soul just didn't leave from the pondside
[8/29, 9:05 PM] Kalpak Bhave: I'm constantly thinking of it, missing it, remembering the voice over like I am there at the pond, can't get out, don't want to and disturbed by the fact that I'm actually not.
It's fucked up, right?
[8/29, 9:06 PM] Kalpak Bhave: It's very weird. It's making me sad, I'm longing for a memory of something I've never experienced.
The week after that was my birthday. I left the city, as is fashion now and went to the nearest hillstation of Matheran, only one friend with me. They have a dam there, one I almost didn't go to. And on top of the damn is the reservoir. Almost deserted. So accessible. We sat there for hours, no words, our toes in the water, our bottoms on the little pebbles, inhaling burnt grass.
It wasn't exactly redemption. It wasn't salvation. But I found a pond. And it did me good. The Wada plays will stay with me and so will the pond on my birthday.
Now waiting for Apocalypse.
That's Part 3.