Review: Bikhre Bimb [Performed by Arundhati Nag]

Posted on Nov 10th, 2009 by Shuchi in Ranga Shankara, Reviews, Hindi, Solo Acts

Bikhre Bimb Rangashankara keeps the stage dark when the audience walks in, but there’s no closed curtain. You can observe the set before the play begins and let yourself imagine what would unfold.

The hi-tech props for Bikhre Bimb made me stop in my tracks. Behind a table and chair near the edge of the stage, dozens of TV sets were arranged in the background. A large TV set was suspended above.

When Arundhati Nag walked onto the stage, apparently talking to a cameraman in the direction of the audience, we almost didn’t realize that the play had begun. [In fact, a person in the audience responded to her greeting, which was part of the act, with a loud ‘Good evening’, briefly unsettling the actress.]

What followed is a one-actor (two-actor? I won’t explain that – watch it!) show that took us you through a web of emotions, subjects and messy relationships.

Arundhati Nag plays the role of Manjula Nayak, an author who is invited to the TV studio for an interview. The interview spends a good amount of time on the subject of regional languages versus English, and you expect that this is what the play is about. But that turns out to be a red herring and the play takes a twist soon.

[A cautionary note for ‘big-chunkers’: if you want Action, you might get restless in this play. This one is all about the details.]

Manjula Nayak’s character is very layered. She is rather a villain, yet you cannot help sympathize with her. It is to the playwright (Girish Karnad)’s credit that he injects realness not just into this character but also the characters that never make a physical appearance on stage – the husband and the sister.

The sudden shifts in Manjula’s emotional state are, again, very well-written. She is chatty and sharing confidences one moment, then with the next thing said to her, back she goes to being angry and suspicious.

Arundhati Nag carries this extremely challenging role with finesse. When the play was over, the audience gave her a standing ovation of the kind I have not witnessed for any other play.

I’ve seen this play twice. There is a jaw-dropping moment towards the start of the play. The second time, I wanted to watch closely what goes on before that moment. The play felt as good the second time round.

Bikhre Bimb is a serious play in its broad theme yet funny in its minutiae. You’ll find yourself chuckling over and repeating to others, its quips about the state of education in English literature, Indian husbands, and Bollywood’s prepossession with the "guy in the mirror". Even the final nail in the coffin, Manjula’s kitchen table remark, has a touch of the comic about it.

Another aspect worth mentioning is the language. The Hindi is more polished than what we normally hear in movies/theatre or in conversation. Nowadays, chaste Hindi seems to be spoken only in mockery; I loved the fact that Bikhre Bimb uses it without feeling the need to explain why.

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Article by Shuchi

Shuchi lives in Bangalore (mostly), when she isn’t traveling out of town for work. She adores theatre and writes about plays she watches whenever she gets a chance.

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8 Comments to “Review: Bikhre Bimb [Performed by Arundhati Nag]”

  1. […] Girish Karnad’s Bikhre Bimb must clearly be the most talked about play on the net. Unlike other plays where I have to hunt for even one meaningful review, I can find pages and pages of online text about this one. […]

    November 13th, 2009 8:26 am

  2. Agree with you Shuchi. The high tech props, the standing ovation and the start of the play were all so different from any I have seen at Rangashankara. Very well written review..!

    March 28th, 2010 11:13 am

  3. Thanks Shiva. There is now a Shabana Azmi – Alyque Padamsee version of the play too, in English. Would be interesting to watch and relate.

    March 28th, 2010 9:44 pm

  4. This is a very famous play written and directed by Girish Karnad originally in Kannada version as ‘Odakalu Bimba’ and later translated in Hindi as ‘Bikhare Bimb” and in English as ‘Broken Images’. This is a solo actor play and the Hindi version was enacted by Arundhati Nag. This is my impression of the 50th show of ‘Bikhare bimb’ at Rangashankara on 18-04-2010;

    Theme: The play delves into deeper issues of identity crisis of an artist, the reality and fiction element in the creation, the genuineness of the art, the conflict between depicting the common life around the artist in all its colours and the pull to craft the art so as to serve the global audiences.

    Script: The script has been translated from the original Kannada version. The translation in Hindi is done aptly. The Hindi used in the translation comes closer to literary form and is in keeping with the style and seriousness of the play. The script has also been given contemporary feel by giving the characters the modern occupations and portraying its changing patterns and demands.

    Stage design: The stage was designed in a simple manner. Only the necessary items giving an impression of a TV recording room were there. The TV set displaying the inner self of the protagonist (Manjula Nayak) was placed in a side so that the centre of the stage could be occupied by the protagonist and her movements.

    Acting: This is a solo actor play though the script has many characters in it. Well, needless to say that Arundhati Nag, as the protagonist ‘Manjula Nayak’, does full justice to the character. She feels confident in the role and brings out emotions, conflict, fear and frustration nicely. In fact, she plays out the vacuum in Manjula’s married life in a very nuanced and natural manner. However, (though this is a very minor error but just pointing it out for the sake of perfection), she doesn’t pronounce the hindi word “Srijansheelta” correctly. She pronounces the letter “Ree” as “Ru”.

    During the dialogue with her inner self, the protagonist’s inner self forces her to get in touch with her psychological self -to see the boredom in her routine life, to honestly probe her prejudices and shortcomings. It also makes her look at her marriage through a different lens -to discover the issues of trust, understanding and physical chemistry in more subtle manner.

    It is challenging to touch such varied and complex issues, let alone dissect and discuss it. Nevertheless, the play accomplishes this feet by maintaining its rhythm through tight script, apt language, sensitive portrayal by the actor (Arundhati Nag) and through close coordination of lighting and televised recording.

    April 24th, 2010 5:13 pm

  5. Hi Chaitanya, Thanks for your comment. I was equally impressed with Arundhati Nag’s portrayal of Manjula Nayak.

    In Karnataka/Maharashtra, pronouncing ‘Ree’ as ‘Ru’ is usual. People’s names are spelt that way too – Krutika and Amrut, for example. I thought that Manjula’s (mis)pronunciation added authenticity to the character.

    April 26th, 2010 6:54 pm

  6. Hi Shuchi,

    Well, I didn’t know that ‘Ree’ is pronounced as ‘Ru’ in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

    On that front you are right that such pronunciation added to the authenticity of the character being Kannadiga.

    April 28th, 2010 1:10 pm

  7. Hi Shuchi,

    As i had anticipated, i loved the play. And here goes my heart felt admiration of it.

    “Bikhre Bimb”, as the name suggests, resembles a jig saw puzzle . It is a journey of capturing seemingly incongruent reflections of the protagonist to reveal her true identity. Her confrontation with the inner self throws relevant but random pieces of information at regular intervals for the story to feed on, thereby highlighting a hidden conflict between the actual and the obvious. While mocking the duality that exists within most of us, it establishes the fact that a conscience spurred by guilt when awakens to a cause can’t be quelled with denial and ignorance. Meticulously precise about the details, the script delves deep into several apparently sensitive issues which dissolve into oblivion as the story proceeds but not before nurturing misleading opinions about the plot. The usage of highly abstruse Hindi fits in perfectly well in the mould of the script in spite of not being so colloquial and might turn out to be a treat for the genuine admirers of the language.
    The literary genius in Girish Karnad dazzles while bringing out the emotions highlighted and in lending a tangible appeal to the characters which form a central part of the play but never appear on stage. And yes, so does the translator in his ability to conjure an entirely new entity while preserving the theatrical essence, considering that the play was originally written in Kannada. The flawless execution equipped with the technical innovation delivered through hi tech props, puts “Bikhre Bimb” in a league of its own.
    Arundhati Nag, owing to her superlative acting skills, literally conflates with the character of Manjula Nayak. Her movements on stage, a bit too fluent for her age will make you find your tongue clenched between your teeth quite often. But the breath taking moment of the play lies during her conversation with the self, which is delivered with unfailing accuracy while keeping a track of time to the degree of a millisecond. The illusion of interaction with a live image created by a hard to believe coordination of emotions and expressions at both ends is what will make you want to watch it again and again.

    P.S. And she did get a standing ovation yet again.

    Wish i had paid heed to your advice on turning newbies to theatre going people. Ended up taking a friend who is relatively new to theatre. He was silent in slumber for most of the while until he was brought back to consciousness as the multiple television sets believed to be dormant suddenly came to life towards the climax 😉

    January 9th, 2013 12:35 am

  8. As you walk in, the first thing that registers is that there is camera facing the stage. The play has been performed many times, including yesterday and I am sure they have recorded it earlier. Do they record every show? For Quality control? To spot mistakes, if any, which may escape the amateur viewer, but nevertheless help even an accomplished actor to improve or change?

    As the play begins, you realise that the camera is playing the not only the role of an off-stage prop, but also giving the feed to a closed circuit TV set up. It is one of the few props this play uses, a few monitors, which are used only at the finale, a remote control that has gone kaput, and some furniture. The handbag serves as the whipping boy.

    In the early part, you feel that the actor does not seem to be up to the expectation one has. The interview appears to be an orchestrated event, a fake, a preening and strutting of a hypocrite. And then it hits you- that is exactly what the actor wants to portray. It is a perfect representation of a fake! Somewhere before the actual disclosure that the story was pinched, one realises that may be the case and everything including the facade put up in the television interview falls into place.

    [spoilers ahead!]
    When she walks away, at the end of the interview and her on-screen image takes over the TV, there is a feeling of awe. The jaw dropping moment, as you put it. The sari is the same, but the face is slightly different. I am told the recording is a bit old. But then the slightly not-true to life image on the screen makes you think, is it her on the screen now? Or is it her partially paralysed sister – the prettier younger one? Is it a dialogue with herself or with her sister?

    Obviously, the play is two performances. One off-stage and recorded (probably in conversation with another (or even the same person) to give enough gap for the other person whose voice is not on record and the other on-stage conversing with the recording. However, the on-stage dialogue delivery in the gaps is perfectly done and the time lag between one and the other is seamless, almost as if in a normal conversation of that type, with no awkward silences due to mismatch in time. The ‘de-taaali’ to comes off picture perfect.

    Wonderfully done compelling one to get up and give a resounding standing ovation.

    May 3rd, 2014 12:21 pm

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