6 August 2008

Kafka – Ek Adhyay

Hindi/Urdu, National School of Drama, June 10 & 11, 2007

If you’re a regular theatre-goer in Delhi, you probably have Molière and Ibsen coming out of your ears, and the mention of a Hindi play called Kafka sounds anything but exciting. But Suresh Sharma's tautly directed production, with its experimental use of multimedia, is quite different from the recycled classics that the theatre scene is awash with.

For one thing, the play isn’t based on something Franz Kafka wrote – it’s about the man himself. Right from the opening scene, when black-and-white images of the young Kafka are projected onto a screen at the back of the stage, to the haunting, dream-like, masquerade ball sequence that follows, the play makes for intriguing, often arresting, viewing – even when the multimedia effects don’t seem integral to the plot as they might be.

Asif Haider Ali’s script draws on Kafka’s diaries and the letters he wrote to his father, his sister and his lovers Felicia and Milena, to create an intense and harrowing portrait of the writer’s inner life. “I write differently from the way I speak, I speak differently from the way I think, I think differently from the way I should think – and so it goes on into the darkest depths of infinity,” as he put it in a letter to his sister Ottla in 1914.

Sajjad Hussain Khan brings to life a Kafka who moves from spiralling depression to dry wit and back again, playing the role with a degree of restraint that is all too rare. Kafka’s troubled relationship with his father Hermann, whom he once described as “a true Kafka in strength, health, appetite, loudness of voice, eloquence, self-satisfaction, worldly dominance, endurance, presence of mind, [and] knowledge of human nature,” is expertly handled, especially in the crucial (imagined) confrontation between Khan as Kafka and Naveen Thakur as his father. Neha Saraf as Ottla and Raj Sharma as Dora Diamant, a kindergarten teacher with whom he lived in Berlin towards the close of his short life, both do well.

The play doesn’t attempt the impossible task of trying to tell you why Kafka was the way he was, it doesn’t spout Freudian clichés (although the oedipal basis of Kafka’s lifelong depression is hinted at), and it doesn’t try to provide a potted history of pre- and post-war Germany. It only attempts a portrayal of a remarkably interesting man who happens to have lived in historically interesting times – and in this, it succeeds admirably. Trisha Gupta

Source : Time Out Delhi

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