THE ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION OF A WRITER
WRITTEN BY: TIMERI N MURARI
DIRECTED BY : DEESH MARIWALA
Chiselled words. Political incorrectness. Insensitivity
to gender issues! These aspects may be considered benchmarks of
absurd theatre writing. But the complex issues that underlie both
“The Attempted Assassination” and “Killing Time” require a lot
more play on spatial dynamics to unravel rather than having actors
strike intense postures, seated on benches. There was a tendency
to make the performances seem realistic, trying to bring the locations
alive and treating the spoken words as logical. Why? The form
and content of such a theatre demands a way of probing the text,
in fact questioning the logic of Timeri Murari’s writing itself.
This introspection needs to be done by deconstructing the theatre
space, hyperbolic actions, provocative music and even destroying
linear time. There were some moments of this between the cellmates
but the rest of the two odd hours was just straightforward reading!
Yes, it demands a lot of hard work by Deesh and his cast to read
beyond the very witty text. Lots of rehearsals rind a lot more
training! One understands the demands of time on modern day ‘theatrewalas’
and the tragic fact that such a play may never get a second performance
to live out its fragile dreams. And yet the viewing audience demand
that ‘theatre’ should not be compromised! “Et tu. my viewers?”
The Grossly Commercial Theatre Company international premiere
of our own Timeri Murari’s double bill on the anatomy of murder
and killing and assassins minds was something Chennai ought to
be proud of.
The first play on the attempt to assassinate Salman Rushdie by
two naive villagers was a poignant and telling statement on the
lure of lucre. It is many things in many layers. These two bumpkins
are no different, at one level, from those who make up the agrarian
exodus to cities for a better living. At another level, the play
is a study of a contaminated human mind that is very Faustian
in the hands of the lady who is their Mephisto luring them to
sell their soul, to a cause they don’t even comprehend or believe
in But in the end it is a very BoBo-Gogo Becketian predicament,
having waited for their own Godot, as the realise the futility
of it all. This idea was beautiful. Mr Murari had chosen his concept
well. But the number of platitudes and clichéd expressions that
crept in when the playwright starts getting into psychological
and philosophical territory detracted from the theatrical illusion
we were getting mesmerised into. The moments of theorising were
agonising to say the least. But knowing it is a first performance
script and not yet published, there still is time to rework it
into a fine piece of theatre.
The second play was nothing to write home about in terms of scripting.
But the narrative flow was neater and the dialogues very Fugardian.
It reminded me of the two convicts in “The Island” by Athol Fugard.
Except these are an old assassin and a young and proud killer.
Ishwar was simply fantastic, to put it mildly. ‘The Killing Time”
was and will remain an example of what the power of theatre is!
If you put two right actors who have a good chemistry and pit
their pride and acting talents against each other, you have a
coup. It is to the credit of director Deesh Mariwala that this
play worked from page to stage. His minimalist style of theatre
making complemented an evening that would have been spoilt with
sets and sound for distraction. As for the script, though it was
taut in its narrative structure and inventive in its cyclical
style, I must say I left the hall wondering whether it was the
acting or the playwright that won the day. Whatever the truth,
Chennai Theatre was the winner and richer for the experience.
As I bought my
ticket for “The Attempted Assassination of Salman Rushdie” and
“Killing Time”, I wondered what to expect. The synopsis sounded
unusual. “The Attempted Assassination of Salman Rushdie” is packed
with deeply intellectual exchange, though, given the setting,
one may not think so at the first instance. However, it is not
the mere musings of the two friends, but their insights and thoughts
on violence and the motives that perpetrate acts of violence that
reflect the debates on these issues. I was left exploring the
various conflicts and inconsistencies in my own opinions and beliefs.
However, the setting of the entire conversation seemed a tad unrealistic.
If the motive to commit such acts of violence had been bolstered
by a deep seated resentment or a need for vengeance, the plot
would I have been a lot more convincing.
“Killing Time” had a brilliant dynamism to it. The exchange between
the old man and the young “killer” sustained a lucid quality.
Ishwar as the young “killer” who had just been brought into the
prison cell had all the qualities of a “gang leader”, who despite
the physical absence of his “gang”, assumed that as his identity.
Due to repeated questioning of a very metaphysical nature by the
old man, a fellow cellmate, the young prisoner is left feeling
very unsettled. Balakrishnan, who plays the old man, portrays
the mingled cynicism and the deep seated inquiry into his character
with sophistication and élan. Anusha Hariharan.