After nearly two decades, Aikyatan, a famous progressive socio-cultural organization that changed the course of the Assamese theatre tradition with it’s revolutionary plays in the 70s and 80s, makes a striking comeback with the play ‘Apekhyat’ based on Rupert Brooke’s dark, brooding play ‘Lithuania’. The play written many years ago is translated by filmmaker Prodyut Kumar Deka, also the designer of the production. Interestingly, this year marks the 100th death anniversary of playwright Rupert Brooke, who is more known for his famous collection of poetry ‘Soldiers’.
The play starts amidst a gloomy atmosphere in a room. A poor family on the brink of starvation is visited by a wealthy stranger who requests lodging when he loses his way out in the woods. The family, comprising of a poor farmer, his wife and an unmarried daughter strives to save in order to survive during the harsh winter. The stranger’s wealth obviously provokes uncontrollable greed in the poverty stricken family.
Dire consequences follow from the overwhelming lure on these people of the strange man’s wealth. The parents and the daughter conspire to rob him of his valuables and kill him in his bed. They justify their decision by taking him for a thief. The father goes with a knife but is not courageous enough to kill the young man. He then decides to go to the shop for a drink in order to hold his nerves.
However, the daughter was convinced that her father was a coward and would return only drunk. She decides to take the matter into her own hands with the help of her mother. Finally, she kills the stranger with an axe in his sleep. Only to realize later that the stranger was her own lost brother who had returned home and played the role of a stranger for the night. He had now come back to share the wealth he had accumulated.
However, he wished to keep his identity a secret until the following day. He wanted to give them the most pleasant and thrilling surprise of their lives. This shocking revelation leaves the mother in remorse and anguish.
The play staged in the intimate auditorium of Surjya on February 14 and 15 takes place in the backdrop of Lithuania, the erstwhile state of the former USSR before the advent of Lenin and communism. Although it created a lot of stir at the time with it’s somewhat controversial theme, Brooke’s play is widely believed to be an accurate portrayal of life in Lithuania. The settings were adequately done in harmony with the people and country.
Various roles in the play directed by Pankaj Kalita were wonderfully played out by the cast of artistes namely Nayan Saikia as the stranger, Pragati Devi as the mother, Neelam Sharma as the daughter and Mrinal Das as the father. They were suitably supported by Rahul Sharma as the unwelcome suitor and Mihir Bakshi as an equally unwelcome shopkeeper. However, Bakshi needs to improve on his vocabulary. Music by Debashish Goswami was quite effective. Special mention must be made of the makeup which was done in accordance with the foreign characters. Lighting too was apt in keeping with the play’s subject.
Aikyatan’s members deserve a big pat on their backs for their maiden effort. The play deserved a much bigger platform. One does hope that they would now regularly stage plays like before.