Transiting through lifeIf you’re baffled by the name, like I was until I entered the theatre, Saledo literally translates to a thread, a thread that emits light. In the past, inner core of the Saal tree was used as a wick for oil lamps, that’s how the word took shape—Saal, Saledo.
If you’re baffled by the name, like I was until I entered the theatre, Saledo literally translates to a thread, a thread that emits light. In the past, inner core of the Saal tree was used as a wick for oil lamps, that’s how the word took shape—Saal, Saledo.
But when you enter the Mandala Theatre, where the play Saledo is currently being staged, you quickly get a sense who the Saledo is here: An elderly man (played by Sulaskhyan Bharati), aged 62, who feels that “There are two kinds of relationships.
One is with the people that are bound to break down sooner or later; the other with objects, with a chair, a book, a whiskey bottle—a relationship which is bound to last a lifetime.
My relationship with objects is the more special.” Thus, Saledo, the play, is about relationships.
Like the proverbial candle gives light to others while it itself dies out, our main character is at the dusk of his life, yet he tries to keep everyone around him happy.
The protagonist is a man of few desires; once he forfeited a chance to go the US, where his children are currently residing. He lives in a simple house in Kathmandu, where he built a home with his wife (played by Sirjana Adhikari) and his children.
Now, he is alone. The play, told from the perspective of this elderly gentleman, is narrated in a flashback, wherein he reminisces about the bittersweet memories of his childhood and his youth, about how he once, as an adolescent, in a bid to let his love interest know of his love, received a slap instead, and how he wrote poetry as an adult.
Now at his lonely flat, he likes to sit and ruminate in a chair which his wife, Kabita, got him with her first salary. Kabita (played by Adhikari) is a civil servant, working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has to travel the country and abroad.
What does this lonely old man sitting in a chair in his flat do? He goes off into lengthy soliloquies, he receives guests, and he gives relationship advice to an adolescent helper (played by Milan Karki) who hauls water jars to his home.
There’s an interesting conversation between him and the adolescent.
The helper is having trouble in his love life. His love interest is getting married, with undue force from her parents, to some other guy, and he is heartbroken.
He is chatting with her on the phone and asks the old man for some advice to arrest the situation. “Ask her to marry whoever she likes!” the elderly suggests. “No. I want her in my life. And if I tell her to marry someone else, what would I do?” the adolescent grumbles. The elderly replies, “If you tell her to marry whoever she desires, she won’t marry someone else.”
This comes from a man who has explored the manifold natures of relationships and the human condition, and who now finds solace in his relationship with objects. “The one that lasts,” as he repetitively says.
The play is one more thing: it is a testament to how Sulakshyan Bharati is one of the more accomplished of actors plying their trade in Nepali theatre today.
He plays a character some thirty years his senior, and he doesn’t fail to capture all the nuances of old age—in his speech, in his attire, in the almost childlike demeanour he executes so flawlessly.
Of late, Bharati portrayed three distinctly different roles in quick succession: a midlife crisis-stricken gentleman in Milk Tea (in December last year), a lahure in Jayamaya Aphu Matrai Lekhapani Aaipugi (in April) and now an elderly, waiting for his death.
Surely, getting into these varied characters in such quick succession is emotionally demanding, but when you look at the new Saledo, he makes it look so easy; he plays it with equal nuance and fervour as his previous roles, with an ease that has come to embody the typical Bharati.
Saledo is one of such plays in which once you come out of the theatre, you will find yourself in a little jollier, perhaps in a little more ruminative mood—ruminative about the changing nature of relationships, and the saledo-like lightness and transience of existence.