Shabana Azmi was in full flow on Thursday at the HICC in Broken Images.
The story line reminds you of the Russian masters who delve into the conscious of the individual. At some point of time, one wonders who is the person and who is the conscious. This story by Girish Karnad was one like those - a simple one of an elder sister unethically publishing in her own name a hit novel written by her crippled younger sister after her death. The trauma of the crippled is always easily glorified, but the trauma of a sibling who is neglected in the process is always considered self-centred.
The play has just one act, for one full hour. And just one actor, both as the person and as the conscious, innovatively brought out on the TV screen.
Shabana Azmi walked in and ran through without a stammer or a prompt, and kept the whole audience on the edge of the seat the whole time. Her display of the poor neglected sibling in itself would have been great delivery, but the fact that she maintained sync with her conscious that was running in parallel on the TV monitor was just fantastic. The number of emotions on display from deception & arrogance, to defeat that were on display was just a treat to watch. It's a shame that she also acts on the cinema screen where everybody gets to do the same over a couple of months of shooting. The display immediately took me back to her wonderful role in Arth. I think it would have been great to see Smitha Patil, the other lady, also on the stage. That would have been explosive.
The direction was innovative. The convention would have been to use a background voice, and it would have not been so effective, as the voice would have been different and the image of Shabana Azmi would have been missing. The use of a pre-recorded act to play the role of the Conscious was stroke of genius, and the image on the screen definitely delivered the intended punch. The display on the TV monitor was fixed, and Shabana on the stage was all over, yet the sync between the two was never lost. The theatrics, the taunts, etc., were all well managed.
The sound system was great, and it was tracked beautifully and evenly, throughout the stage and in the hall. The lighting was good, too - maybe a shade lower than the sound.
The stage setting was ordinary. Actually, there was no challenge in the stage setting, given the line of the play. The hall was great. It was full despite the charges - it looked like they were charging for a Broadway play.