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“Afsana” at Ranga Shankara

Funny-bone thinking

SRAVASTI DATTA


QUESTIONS OF IDENTITY Raised through intelligent humour

The high-point of Afsana, staged recently at Ranga Shankara, was the humorous script and a performance to match

The experience of watching “Afsana” could have qualified as reading a novel or as being an invisible participant in two friends’ hilarious interactions. The Anuvab Pal-written and Abhijit Sengupta-directed play was presented by Theatre Club. “Afsana”, which was staged recently at Ranga Shankara, went beyond just being a theatre performance. It was entertaining and thought-provoking and raised unique questions on identity.

Twenty years ago, Mohsin Ali visits James Bond in prison after the latter runs over Mohsin’s wife, Afsana. The duo, since, become good friends and their connection goes beyond an unfortunate circumstance. They are both failed authors. They write innumerable drafts on a story that involves Afsana. Eventually, though, James’ book gets accepted and Mohsin’s is rejected despite both books having the same characters and plots. The discrimination of the publishers is obvious — they ignore Mohsin’s book on the basis of his ethnicity and colour of skin.

Disappointed, Mohsin gets into extremely witty and volatile debates with James. Their friendship is side-splittingly competitive, lending an endearing streak to it. But ever-the-good-friend Mohsin sticks by James, who finds little success even after his book is published. Eventually, the-far-from-fearless James Bond goes beyond his pale by helping Mohsin through a complicated plan.

It was evident that careful attention was paid to every element in the play. One could get a glimpse into the creative mind of the playwright.

The plot and characters were ingeniously crafted and the manner in which he interweaves a different way of looking at identity through intelligent humour is remarkable, to say the least. The play not only questions notions on identity but also reveals the sensationalism publishing houses resort to.

Abhijit Sengupta “showed” and didn’t “tell” the nuances of Mohsin’s and James’ lives through his direction. The simple, yet effective sets by Suresh Anagalli complemented the direction. The bar scene was particularly evocative; one really felt like the third friend cracking jokes over kebabs with two crazy friends.

Anish Victor and Ashish D’abreo who played Mohsin and James, respectively, were outstanding. They carried the play on their mighty talented shoulders, their acting enhancing the humour in the script. There were many laugh-out-loud moments, leaving a pleasant feeling within. My only complaint is the disappointing ending. There could have been a better conclusion.

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