Enlightenment, battle within self

A middle-aged banker lives happily with his wife and two kids. His life takes a turn when he starts to experience completely different set of feelings.

As enlightenment dawns, he begins to hear a dumb-mute beggar sing and values chirruping of birds. However, on the other side of his journey are his family and friends who become increasingly concerned about his changing self. Therein begins a battle between the inner and the external worlds of Bhagwan, the central protagonist of Manav Kaul’s Ilhaam.

Shoelace Production’s play played to a packed house at the LTG recently. Written and directed by Kaul, the play was a part of Prayog 2012, a festival celebrating original theatre. Manav, founder of ‘Aranya’, is Hindi theatre’s most promising playwright and director.  His three full length plays have bagged the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) including a playwright award for ‘Peele Scooterwala Aadmi’.

References from works of Nietzsche, Maharishi Raman, UG Krishnamurthy, Vinod Kumar Shukl and Ram Krishna Paramhans, Ilhaam is built around the theme of complexity of knowledge.

It starts with Bhagwan, a banker, sitting in a park with a smile on his face, sometimes dancing and talking to himself and enjoying inner happiness. Though Bhagwan’s wife Padma and friend observe changes in his day-to-day
activities, it does not bother them, until the day they are apprised of Bhagwan’s suspension orders.

The problem deepens when his disappears for weeks at length. When finally found, Bhagwan fails to understand what Pinki - his daughter, wife and friend are talking about.  His dissociation with life continues to grow. His wife believes he is possessed and calls a ‘tantrik’ to handle the problem, while proceeding to lock him up in the interim.

Here, enters a new character ‘Chacha’ (uncle) whom only Bhagwan can only see. ‘Chacha’ explains to Bhagwan why he cannot experience the same content and peace in his material world as he does in his inner life and also the difference between truth and illusion.

Bhagwan realises that one does not need to be someone other than one’s own self to be truly ‘enlightened’.  It is uncomplicated as being enlightened as we are and where we are.
What really worked in the play was the dialogue that the actor engaged the audience in. Up until the climax the dialogues revolving around philosophical thoughts kept them captivated and forced them to think about enlightenment deeply.

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