Fan-ning O’er It: Khidki

Posted on 11 August, 2016 by Team Wishberry

Adapted from Italian playwright Dario Fo’s Death of an Anarchist

Adaptation and Direction by - Vipul Mahagaonkar

I have been craving for a political play for a long time now. And bam! Khidki appears.

The experimental play is an adaptation of legendary Italian playwright, Dario Fo’s Death of an Anarchist. This multi-award winning Marathi play made me curious as soon as I read the synopsis; not to downplay the fact that the original play is a legend in itself.

The play is set in a multi-storeyed police station where earlier a railway employee, accused of terrorist activity, had committed suicide.

The unnamed maniac dupes inspector Bhagwat and a constable, who are interrogating him, into moving out of their office. The office gets a call informing that some judge is going to arrive to reopen an old investigation about a suicide which was committed by an accused. The maniac takes advantage of this knowledge and walks into another office on a higher floor. This is where the room from where railway employee had jumped out to his death. Currently, the officers - ACP Jadhav, inspector Phadke and a constable - who were present during the alleged suicide hold the room. The maniac pretends to be the judge and makes them recreate the complete scenario. In the process, things are divulged, and a journalist of a reputed newspaper working on the story, Fatima Abbasi, also gets involved into this mess.

Khidki is a commentary on how the establishment tries to suppress left-wing organisations or workers’ unions by arresting people belonging to those groups under random suspicion or accusations of extremely serious and violent terrorist activities. The adaptation into Indian context has been done really well, especially with references to the 2012 Mumbai riots when police-women were attacked.

While commenting on the right-wing agenda to keep the leftist movement suppressed, the play also indirectly shows the fallacy of the left wing. In one scene, when a bomb is about to explode, Fatima, the journalist, and the maniac indulge in a discussion about violence and right and wrong. The immense need for discourse of the left wing hasn’t always resulted in substantial action and that is what the play subtly and indirectly points at.

The whole play is strung with humour. And boy, it is well done. It is not forced; it just flows very smoothly. The jokes appear at the perfect intervals, right when you think that the tone of the play has become too serious or grim. I was laughing hard every now and then, the humour is so well done. There was applause at most of the jokes and sarcastic comments and that goes to show how good it was.

It is towards the end, though, that the play gets intense. Nevertheless, it’s justified since the play is a political commentary after all.

Director Vipul Mahagaonkar, who also directed another highly critically acclaimed play Pai Paishachi Goshta, is clearly one of the most promising directors currently in the Marathi theatre circuit. Khidki only further cements that notion.

He has presented two ends to Khidki - an idealistic one and a practical one. Since he was also the one who adapted and translated it, he really knew what he wanted to do with it and has executed it beautifully.

For me personally, the most interesting aspect of the play was the major fourth wall breaking. Although this is getting increasingly common in popular culture, in Khidki, the actors actually leave the character and become themselves for a couple of minutes and discuss things as if they were hanging out backstage. It is not connected to the play or its theme, but it does add another dimension and is enjoyable. It relaxed me when the play just about got out of something grim.

The performances are incredible to say the least. Chandrashekhar Gokhale, a veteran of theatre, plays the maniac and his effortless display of insanity shows you why he won the Best Actor award at Zee Natya Gaurav awards along with similar accolades at a few other theatre awards. For me, though, Rohit Mane who plays Inspector Phadke stole the show. He has earned a fan in me with his incredible comic timing, and his immense, infectious energy. He swayed from being the shy, hanging out on the sidelines guy into someone who got strongly convinced to jump out of the window at the suggestion of the investigating judge. And humorously fought for the jumping with his colleagues. Mane does all this transition smoothly while ensuring his character remains the funniest on stage.

Khidki does not suggest anything, it does not preach. All it does is show us a dramatised version of what is happening in India, but is not picked up by the media as much. It is a shame that what happened in Italy decades ago still resonates so much not only in India, but also across the world. But, it is the way it is, and Khidki shows you just that. It also differentiates between idealism and practicality with its two separate endings.

That is a major reason the play works really well while giving us something to take home. And that is the beauty of theatre - it will give you something to take home. Always.

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