In the garb of wool

Ambika Shaligram
Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Aasakta Kalamanch’s Chaheta digs deep into insecurities of a boy who thinks that his father was going to kill him

Chaheta unsettles you, pulls you out of familial warmth, happiness, societal norms, in which you have cocooned yourself. Put it simply, Chaheta (The Beloved) a Hindostani play directed by Mohit Takalkar and produced by Asakata Kalamanch, is not for the faint-hearted. Not just because of more than a hint of violence that you see on the stage, but because by the end of it, you start questioning the religious dictums that have defined our lives.

The play has been written by Amir Nizar Zuabi and was translated into Hindostani by Shirin Bismillah. This is also the second time that Takalkar has collaborated with Zuabi. The first one was for another play, Main Hun Yusuf Aur Yeh Hai Mera Bhai. While Main Hun Yusuf... was set on the 1948 exodus and talked about the impact of Palestine-Israel war and the human cost involved in it, Chaheta also delves into the familial tragedy, a result of war and myths. 

The play, which was performed in the city last week, is loosely based on the story of Abraham, who takes his younger son to the mountains to sacrifice him, as per God’s wish. This story is common to the three religions — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — only it isn’t central to the plot of the play. In fact, the name ‘Abraham’ is revealed to the audience, towards the end of the play. It also happens to be the only name that was given to one of the characters on stage. Rest all are nameless, adding to the timelessness of the play.

What Chaheta does is that it tells us what could be the ‘story’ of the boy (Sagar Deshmukh), who discovers that his father’s knife was hovering closely to his throat, when he dozed off on the mountaintop. Any child would be scarred and traumatised for life, unable to lead a complete life, unable to trust anyone, least of all his father (Rajendra Panchal).

The father, on the other hand, cries hoarse that he didn’t intend to kill the boy; he only wanted to toughen up the boy, make him more masculine. The mother (Rasika Agashe) has lost one son, seven years earlier, to the war, and is insecure about losing another child. 

The subtext of the play, which is not set in a specific time period, is brought forth by wise sheep (Ashish Mehta) and kid (Suraj Jaiswal). They whisper and hustle, letting us peep into the fears and insecurities of the boy, now grown up, married and soon to become a father. Something holds him back and on his wife’s (Neha Joshi) prodding to make peace with the past, he goes to the mountains to meet his father. Only it’s not a matter of black and white. It has shades of red.

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