By Reema Gowalla
Celebrated playwright Abhishek Majumdar’s much talked-about play Des is finally taking the stage at Ranga Shankara, in Bengaluru this weekend. Directed by Rasika Aagashe, Des is a Sanhita Rangmanch Award-winning satirical piece, set on the night of August 15, 1947. With the eve of Independence as its backdrop, the play uses a witty tone to investigate ‘post truth’ India.
In a satirical fashion, Des poses questions that are quite relevant in contemporary India — What is freedom? What is a nation? Who does it belong to? How do you protect it? And what do you do when you have to choose between the imagined community that is the nation and the real love you feel toward people in your immediate vicinity? A Being Association presentation, the 80-minute play features actors Puneet Mishra, Sonalee Bharadwaj, Trinetra Tiwari and Priyanshu Gupta.
Although the play was written before the Covid-19 pandemic, it couldn’t be developed into a show because of the prolonged lockdown period and the various restrictions that followed. Describing Des as a special play, Rasika said, “I really love this play. I admire how Abhishek has written the piece in a satirical style. I mean, we have cried so much over the current situation and sometimes the situation gets so aggravated that we can only laugh about it. I really like that take on this play.”
Des, according to the director, is a pretty straightforward play. “Although it’s written as a satire, he is not saying anything and yet saying everything in the play. So, it was good fun to direct the play. The narrative talks about how propaganda changes people. And I myself have been a victim of that in the past. So, personally, it was a very interesting thing for me to do,” Rasika said. She has used the characters of Des “as a microcosm for the nation and the role of information in changing the tenets of nationalism from 1947 to date”.
The play has so far been staged in Pune and Mumbai, with the most recent shows being held at the prestigious Prithvi Theatre. Speaking of audience reactions, Rasika said, “Oh, the response’s been amazing! It’s a laugh riot at every show, meaning people are ready to see things like that. There’s nothing offensive in the play in that sense. So, if they take offence to anything, they know they are wrong in some way. People have enjoyed the play and they have laughed like anything. That somehow makes you feel a little relaxed. It just makes you realise that somebody is still there with you, so there is hope.”
Before Des, Rasika had come to Bengaluru with her plays Chaheta, and she is hoping to receive the same love and attention from the city’s theatre lovers this time around too. “I really love the audience in Bengaluru. And because Abhishek is from the city, he would always keep talking about taking the play to Bengaluru; performing at Ranga Shankara. So, it’s finally happening,” the director sums up.
Catch shows of Des at Ranga Shankara on September 30 (3.30pm and 7.30pm). You can book your tickets here.