Aadami Jaisa Nach: A Review
Dance Like a Man sets the stage for clashes between two generations, between the gender binaries, between objectivity and subjectivity, between what is considered as normal and abnormal.
A Hindi adaptation based on Mahesh Dattani’s play Dance like a man entitled Aadami Jaisa Nach was recently staged in the Gaiety Heritage Theatre by The Platform in collaboration with Gaiety Dramatic Society under the weekend theatre initiative. The play was designed and directed by Ajay Sharma. The play is originally written by one of the most distinguished dramatists of the contemporary times Mahesh Dattani and translated for this performance by Kavita Sharma. The play was enacted back-to-back on 31st dec 2021and 1st Jan 2022.
The play moves around the character of Jairaj. Like most of the plays written by Dattani, Dance Like a Man is a problem play. The protagonist is stuck in a problem which is socially unacceptable in this society. As the title suggests, the man in this play refers to Jairaj who suffers on the grounds of gender roles assigned to each one in this society. Jairaj is expected to behave like a man, not woman and leave his career and dream as a dancer and be the breadwinner of his family. The story moves around three generations. Jairaj is in the mid and has been the witness to the previous and later generations. His past experiences with his father set him to handle his daughter’s life in a better way. Jairaj might have failed as a son, as a husband, but he does not fail as a father.
The title of the play hints at the question of identity. The plot of the play moves with Jairaj and Ratna who want to pursue their careers as dancers. Dance is their life and blood. The stereotypes of gender binaries become the site of conflict. Amritlal, Jairaj’s father is a stout patriarch who controls the lives of these two. He is intolerant towards the sounds of dancing and eventually opposes his son’s decision to become a dancer and rather allows Ratna to perform on the stage. His act results in the doom of Jiaraj and the relationship between the couple suffers. A dialogue by Amritlal defines the theme in few words: “A woman in Man’s world is considered progressive, but a man in woman’s world is considered pathetic.”
Ratna is seen as playing a negative role as she constantly plays with her partner’s emotions and career. They lose their first born, when Ratna administers him with a drug. The overdose kills him. While Jairaj is in a drunk state, ratna emotionally broken, and their dead child is still in the room, the conflict is heightened and we are taken in the present again. Lata is seen doing better in her career supported by her father and partner. At the end of the play, we see Jairaj on the stage directly addressing the spectators. On the middle of the stage, we can see young Ratna and young Jairaj in beautiful and strong dance postures. All three conclude the play in their own ways.
In the present adaptation, the role of the lead protagonist is played by Kushal Chauhan while his older version is played by Rupesh Bhimta, young Ratna is played by Tanupriya Bhardwaj and old Ratna is played by Priyanka Saraswat, Amritlal is played by Deven Sharma, Vishwas is played by Ashok Mehta, Lata is played by Shruti Rohta, Guruji by Aryan. Lighting vision is handled by Ashok Kumar, directed by Ajay Sharma assisted by Neeraj Kumar, and adapted for the stage by Kavita Sharma. The stage was supported by Kapil Dev, Ankush Sharma, Lokesh Guleria along with the performers. Music was handled by Rohit kanwal.
The spectators were spellbound when the story moved ahead through present happenings and flashbacks. The frame doesn’t shake until the end of performance.
Kushal Chauhan has in every sense justified the character of Jairaj with his powerfull performance. We can see, not one but multiple protagonists in one character. The protagonist changes, because he is bound to change. He changes from a young enthusiastic dancer, an artist who is trying to please gods to a son who returns home after being thrown out of the house by his father. He changes from an affectionate husband, who supports his wife- also a dancer- to a man who has been forced to sit home and eventually take up drinking. From an affectionate husband, a dancer, a son, Jairaj becomes a drunkard. Kushal Chauhan’s ability to show Jairaj’s happiness, loss, pain, has helped the adaptation to show life in 100 minutes. No artist on this earth will fail to empathise and connect with the protagonist.
The character of Jairaj is further handled by one of the most versatile actors Rupesh Bhimta who justifies and even further beautifies Kushal’s performance. One can feel the character development and stillness in Rupesh’s performance.
The character of Ratna performed by Tanupriya creates magic on the stage. Her expressions, movements and voice hold the spectators well. A woman stout in her resolve, a performer and later a mother, Ratna is another round character on the stage. Her loud cry when she loses her first born Shankar due to an over dose of drug, forces the audience to empathise with a mother at this stage. The old version of Ratna is well handled by Priyanka in the present form.
Shruti Rohta and Ashok Mehta who play the characters of Lata and Vishwas help in bounding the spectators and gives a “present” to this story. Shruti Rohta as Lata remains an adorable character who is all set to make her career as a successful dancer. Ashok Mehta steels the show with his unique expressions.
Ajay Sharma, the director of the play, talks about the importance of theatre in the present society. He says that theatre is called the mirror of society and this is what he himself believes.
The stage on which we play the game i.e., the drama that goes on without stopping is physically and symbolically slightly above the general audience. Explaining the significance of the same he says that human beings reside on the earth, and above in Brahma Lok reside the deities. In the middle is placed this stage where the artist and his art reside.
In the Natyashastra, the sage Bharatmuni has given these artists a place above the common people because their point of view regarding this society is different. Without applying, they expose the evils present in the society.
Ajay says that one can forget what he reads or writes, but what is seen cannot be forgotten so easily. Therefore, when the play is put into scenes and presented to the audience in the form of a story, the play is not only aimed at fulfilment of joy but also leaves many questions with it.
Ajay concludes by quoting Shakespeare “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” The quote aptly highlights the significance of stage in few words.
Ajay Sharma has beautifully handled the stage where no spectator could deny his hold on the stage techniques. Music and sounds play an important role in Mahesh Dattani’s plays and Ajay has justified Mahesh’s writing with his direction. The techniques of flashbacks and flashforwards have been the unique thing about this play. The theme, the plot, the character roles do not go out of hand in this 100-minute play.
Photo credits: Deepika Rai, Raghav Sood