"How will Broken Images compare to Bikhre Bimb?" was the question uppermost in my mind when I stepped in to watch Alyque Padamsee’s version of the play at Chowdiah this Friday.
To give you a brief history, Broken Images is based on Odakalu Bimba, a hugely popular Kannada play written by Girish Karnad. The play opened in March 2005 as Ranga Shankara’s first production. It was directed by Girish Karnad and enacted in two languages at that time: Kannada, with Arundhati Nag as lead actor, and English (The Heap of Broken Images), with Arundhati Raja as lead actor. The play was later translated to Hindi (Bikhre Bimb), also enacted by Arundhati Nag.
Bikhre Bimb in its various avatars has seen scores of shows in Bangalore over the years, received awards and rave reviews.
Given the play’s renown in Bangalore’s theatre circuit, Broken Images had a lot to live up to.
Did it deliver? My answer is a resounding Yes!
Broken Images retains the play in more on less original form tweaking only the peripherals. Manjula Nayak, Kannada short-story writer, becomes Manjula Sharma, Hindi short-story writer. The geography is now Gurgaon and Kamla Nagar instead of localities in Bangalore (because of which the gag about Koramangala had to be sadly sacrificed). Manjula’s sari (forgive me for being trivial ;)) is orange rather than green.
The progression of the play – Manjula’s TV interview, her volatile emotional states, and the sequence of events and revelations that follow – is the same as in the original.
The set in this production gives Manjula more options for sitting – other than the TV studio table and chair, there’s a leather couch and a seat below the TV set, on which Manjula parks herself towards the end. The closing sequence in which the "broken" of the title takes literal shape, is very interestingly done.
A major draw of the play is the star playing its lead role – Shabana Azmi. I hold Arundhati Nag’s performance in Bikhre Bimb in the highest esteem and wondered if I could like anyone else playing Manjula. I need not have had any such qualms – Shabana Azmi is marvellous. Her Manjula seems like a different creature, more subdued than Arundhati Nag’s. Where Arundhati’s Manjula screams her surprise and cackles over her husband’s silliness and sighs like you can hear her heart break, Shabana’s Manjula raises her voice only a notch, laughs and cries with the restraint of a woman not given to extravagant displays of emotion. And yet, both are so real – it is fascinating that the same character can get fleshed out in unique ways by two talented actors.
For more about the play, read my notes on Bikhre Bimb. I think Broken Images is most effective if you have no prior knowledge of the plot – so won’t say more except to urge you to go watch it!