Miller's classic keeps audience riveted

Miller's classic keeps audience riveted

For a city that loves Bollywood-style slapstick comedy in theatre and is known to walk out of tragedies if they are not Shakesparean, it can be a feat to sit them through a two-hour long play, written way back in 1949 in an American setting.

But theatre troupe Pratibimb Kala Darpan managed the impossible with aplomb when it recently staged Arthur Miller’s classic play Death of a Salesman. Not a soul moved out of the Muktadhara Auditorium at Banga Sanskriti Bhavan as the troupe played out the family drama full of insecurities, failure and pathos in general.

On the contrary, the auditorium-full of audience gave a standing ovation to the cast proving how good performances can also pull off a play that does not include a joke at every turn.

Death of a Salesman is considered to be one of the best plays that Miller delivered during his lifetime. It was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. It premiered on Broadway in 1949, running for several years, and has been revived on Broadway four times.

In fact, it was also made into two films each of which won a battery of Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.
Celebrated playwright Jitender Kaushal adapted it in Hindi and gave it an Indian context in the 1990s. Since then, only some troupes have dared to take it up for staging.

Rajesh Babbar, director, Pratibimb Kala Darpan, explains, “Death of a Salesman is the story of Ramdas, a middle-aged man, who has devoted his entire lifetime to one company which does not value him anymore. On the other hand, his sons have also gone wayward and disrespect him.”

“The difficulty with such plays is that sadness and suffering do not hold audience attention for very long, and if you mess it up, you can become the butt of all jokes. We constantly innovated with
music and lighting to cut out the boredom. The numerous flashbacks in the story were also given different directorial treatments.”

The basis of the story, in fact, is in the past of Ramdas who had an affair with his secretary. His eldest son, a promising young cricketer, caught his father red-handed and lost faith in life and work. This character was essayed by experienced theatre artiste Sharan Makkar aptly, switching from loud to mellow, depressed to over-enthusiastic and a disloyal to a loving husband from time to time.

Probably, the best performance of all was delivered by Laxmi Rawat who played Laxmi, the devoted wife of Ramdas. She is constantly trying to cheer up her husband who is slipping into gloom and her children who have taken to an immoral and lazy life.

The bright actor spoke, “In reality, this is the truth of every woman’s life. She is constantly moving like a pendulum between her husband and kids, making them comfortable and happy even at her own cost. Probably that’s the reason that nobody detected that it was originally written by an American playwright for an American audience.”

Pratibimb’s Death of a Salesman is definitely worth a watch for anyone wanting to visit the genre of tragedy in theatre.