A matter of conscience

Theatre

A matter of conscience

Talented: Shabana Azmi in Broken Images.

A select number of  theatre lovers were treated to Broken Images, the well-known play by Girish Karnad which has been staged in three languages.

This performance was directed by ad-guru Alyque Padamsee with Shabana Azmi playing the pivotal role in an one act – without a break. Broken Images tells the story of Manjula Sharma, a college teacher with a Masters degree in English Literature and a penchant for writing short stories in Hindi.

 She becomes an overnight sensation all over the world with her very first novel, which is written in English. The action begins in a television studio where Manjula Sharma is facing her critics with all her defence mechanisms primed and at the ready.

She glibly talks about her success, her big advance and about weathering the storm her first novel has generated.  She fields allegations of betrayal and money-grabbing with great composure, almost bordering on disdain.

 Just as she is about to flounce of the studio sets having satisfactorily dealt with her detractors she is stopped, by none other than her doppleganger, who eerily appears on the television monitor that was blank just a moment ago. As it flickers to life, an image of Shabana appears and begins to interact with the live character on stage.

That’s when the tension starts and gradually builds up, right upto the final denouement in which the different characters and images morph into one composite face of evil and betrayal, conscience and guilt.

Shabana plays two roles. That of the conscience appearing on the monitor who skillfully strips away the layers of artifice and deceit, and the guilty plagiarist who publishes her handicapped sister’s novel posthumously as her own.

The interaction between the two, reveals the relationships between the different characters in the story and touches on well-known facets of human relationships, from early sibling rivalries to simmering marital discord.

The piece-de-resistance of special effects in the production was Shabana’s live interview playing on the television monitor positioned behind her.
Her stagecraft and presence were exemplary, keeping the audience rivetted by the sheer force of her acting.

“There are no victims or culprits in the play – just oneself and one’s conscience. I guess one’s own conscience is probably the toughest judge to live with, when one commits moral turpitude,” said Alyque Padamsee, who changed the final scene of the play to suit his interpretation of it.

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