Vijay Tendulkar’s ‘Kanyadaan’ – An Unparalleled Performance

I saw a performance of Vijay Tendulkar’s Kanyadaan, directed by Lilette Dubey. One of the best professional plays I have been. The story was strong, a family drama with a strong social undercurrent, and backed with extremely powerful performances. It was performed at Chowdiah Hall, Bangalore, tonight and I am so glad I went!

The play is about a girl born into a political family with progressive views who marries a Dalit man because she sees angst in his poetry, and promise in delivering him from his devilish tendencies. Her fathers lofty ideals have inculcated in her a spirit which tries to find the good in people, and strive to change them. However, after getting married to him, she soon realizes that the devil and the poet-lover are one and the same person, they can not be separated, neither can he be cleansed of the vices (drinking, wife-beating) that are a part of him. In fact, there is a strange malice in him, a sadistic desire to punish her for the suffering his ancestors have gone through the ages. Finally, the father, who has taught her the lofty ideals of humanity and socialism is defeated — he finds himself powerless before the predicament of his daughter, and has to praise his son-in-law’s autobiography, applause spewing from his mouth and poison dripping from his eyes. His daughter tells him how his great ideals, his hope in human innocence is faulty, and how she is a victim of his faith in pursuing this promise.

If the story was already strong, and relevant even now — 25 years of its setting (Pune in 1981), the acting lived up to the script. It is difficult to pick out any of the actors, but if I could, I would pick Joy Sengupta for his portrayal of Arun in the first Act. The unpredictable savage beast-like portrayal of Arun sent shivers down many a spine. Rajendra Gupta as Nath was brilliant as well — cracking jokes with suavity, as well as handling emotional scenes brilliantly. Lillete Dubey as the Mother should have got more lines, and should have been more cathartic in some parts perhaps, but considering she directed the play as well, it is too much to expect. Radhika Apte as Jyoti was also good, but perhaps not in the same league. She was just a little monotonic. The set (a living room) was very good, and the lighting and the sounds were just perfect!

What stood out in the performance was Joy Sengupta’s portrayal of Arun in this first part and Rajendra Gupta’s humour — very well intentional and very witty. The monologues were very well done with excellent usage of lighting and music since not once did the audience feel that a dialog was not required. The great thing was the acting was very real — nobody seemed to actually be acting, rather they just fir into the scene (except for the son in a few places). They cueing was just perfect, not once could somebody feel that it was really not happening. The first half was just fabulous!

If I would have liked to change some things, they would have been in the second half. The brilliance of Joy Sengupta in the first half, some how became a very predictable malice in the second half. It would have been good to keep some shades of good in him till the end. In the scene where Arun comes to meet Nath, Joy’s acting seemed overdone. Another thing I would have liked to see would have been more shades of Arun in Jyoti when she comes to talk to her father in the last scene. While the strength in the girl came out very well, and her determination to stick with the destiny she had chosen for herself as well, the impact on the audience would have been so much higher if she had inculcated some of Arun’s unpredictable savageness instead of just a steely determination. Lastly, Rajendra Gupta’s final whimper should really have been a wail – a heart-rending purgatory wail which could make a person cry. (A woman crying doesn’t have so much impact because the audience expects it, but a man crying can just destroy mental peace)

An amazing play, amazing script, amazing performances! I am out of words… I just wish I can now see it in Hindi, or better still, the original Marathi.

[Some more details here]

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55 Responses to Vijay Tendulkar’s ‘Kanyadaan’ – An Unparalleled Performance

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