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Queerink

Tutak | 2016: Play ReviewAditya Joshi | 13th Apr, 2016

Gay/bisexual men being forced to marry a woman has been the plot of many queer-themed performances in Indian languages (plays Dushyantpriya (Marathi) and Tu Khwaab Saja (Hindi) are some examples). Tutak presents a nuanced portrayal of three stakeholders in such a marriage—the married man, the gay lover, and the wife.

Writers’ Bloc 4 Rage Productions and Akanksha Rangabhoomi Pune’s Marathi play Tutak premiered at Prithvi Theatre this Saturday. Directed by Zameer Kamble and written by Saggherr Loadhii, Tutak (loosely translated as ‘disjoint’) is a gripping tale of Malhar Deshmukh, a man trapped between his love for another man, Niko, and a woman he will soon marry, Kaveri.

In the beginning of the play, Malhar (Kedar Joshi) succumbs to his dominating father and agrees to marry Kaveri (Snehal Jagdale). Kaveri is a simple girl from a village who is excited at the idea of relocating to a big city with Malhar. Soon after, Malhar’s ‘alternate’ world opens to the audience in the house of a gay man, Deepu (Saurabh Godbole). There his love story with a young man, Niko (Santosh Mahadeo), blossoms. Tutak traces the lives of Niko, Kaveri, and Malhar.

Loadhii’s writing is the key strength of Tutak. With realistic dialogues, the play delivers an impactful message, often interspersed with dark humour. Kaveri and Malhar’s first meeting and the two pivotal scenes at the restaurant are the highlights. The writer is unabashedly honest about the biases that exist within the queer community—the gay men express biphobia by calling them untrustworthy, while the bisexual men think that effeminate gay men are loud.

The art design is simplistic but appealing. The stage is divided into several locations—the balcony, Deshmukhs’ house, Deepu’s house, the club, etc. Multiple blackouts make way for scene/set changes. It is interesting to see how Malhar’s house contrasts with Deepu’s. The party scene looks beautiful with its use of lights and the intermittently opening door.

Among the actors, Snehal Jagdale stands out as Kaveri, the wife trying to understand why her husband is distant to her. From her melodramatic outbursts in the initial scenes to the stand she takes at the end of the play, Jagdale’s Kaveri stays with the audience.  Although the English lines could be spoken better as they seemed forced, goosebumps are guaranteed when Niko and Kaveri sing Bahinabai’s poem ‘Mana Vadhaay Vadhaay’.

For the portrayal of the protagonist, Malhar, Omkar Joshi uses his emotive eyes and voice very well, which was especially impactful in the second half. You feel sympathetic as well as angry towards Joshi’s Malhar. Santosh Mahadeo oscillates between naive and bold with Niko, a gay man comfortable in his skin. That makes the character endearing.

Though there were silent, awkward pauses on stage during the first show, the overall performance more than made up for it.

What works: Tutak has its share of memorable moments. The arguments between closeted Malhar and flamboyant Niko are funny. Kaveri’s reaction when she meets Niko is a scene to watch out for. The glances between characters when another set of characters are speaking are used very well throughout the play. The opening montage looks confusing in the beginning but you appreciate it as the play continues.

What does not work: Why the gay guys are opposed to bisexual men marrying a girl does not come across well. When one of the bisexual men decides to get married, Niko and Deepu tell him that he should not get married because he has slept with 3 women but 30 men. This weakens the narrative of the rest of the play. Also, the dominant father’s reaction at the end does not look believable.

Despite the minor flaws, Tutak is better than most queer theatrical productions of recent past. During the premiere show, a handout containing scene-by-scene synopsis of the play was provided to the audience. This was helpful to those not conversant with Marathi. Tutak has a couple of shows scheduled in the forthcoming weeks, including a show at NCPA on 15th April 2016. Wishing Loadhii, Kamble, Joshi, and the entire team a successful run of their amazing play, Tutak!

Name of the play: Tutak

Language: Marathi

Director: Zameer Kamble

Writer: Saggherr Loadhii

Aditya Joshi is a research student in computer science. He identifies as a gay man. He was a project creator for ‘Saathi Connect’, a multimedia anthology of LGBTQ people in Marathi, Hindi, and English. He strongly believes in the power of Indian languages in furthering the LGBT cause in India. In his free time, he writes and acts.

 

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