Where dreams go to dieGo Win Productions’ adaptation of Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ is emotionally charged and sincerely executed.
Today’s world is a world full of anxieties. A climate crisis that’s driving us closer to a cataclysmic future, a possible economic recession, and new variants of viruses threatening to disrupt our very way of life. And these are the big ones. The smaller ones are even more sinister—rising depression rates, emotional turmoils, and an increasing sense of disillusionment with the modern world.
But we set all of that aside. We persevere. We work, and we fill in our nine-to-five. We give away our time and labour for seemingly big affairs—accounts, economy, taxes, management, services and whatnot. It’s the same with Biren Pratap Karki, the protagonist of Go Win Productions’ ‘Euta Sapana Ko Awasan’—adapted to Nepali from Arthur Miller’s 1949 stage play ‘Death of a Salesman.’
Biren is a salesman. What exactly does he sell? Nobody knows. More exactly, it doesn’t matter. Because his life—a job, two sons and a wife—is the life of an everyday man. A successful salesman in his youth, he has now grown old, but his psyche is still stuck in a time in the past when all was well—he earned decently, and his sons adored him. But the present is far from that idealised abode. It is ridden with credits and loans, a job that is exhausting and sons that have lost their ways.
So Biren chooses to live somewhere in the middle. His character (played by Roy) is stuck between two realities—symbolised by the hat he wears and takes off—a sweet, rose-coloured past when the future looked so promising and the melancholic reality of a crowded, suffocating city that has no place for an ageing middle-class man like him.
The play, both the original and the adaptation, is a critique of the capitalist utopia. Back in 1949, Miller was clearly hinting towards the fallacies of the ‘American Dream’ that promised any hardworking man dignity, money and everything in between. Bandhu—Biren’s brother, who makes it big in Africa, is played by veteran theatre actor Shekhar Chapagain and personifies the illusive dream sold to the everyday man. “Didn’t your boss say he will make you the owner of this business?” asks Leela (Biren’s wife played by Deeya Maskey). But after 30 years of giving his all to the company, Biren is cast aside, like an overworked machine falling apart piece by piece.
But the play hints at something more. How much of a man’s life is determined by the system? His upbringing, his actions—do they matter in how his future turns out? Yes, Biren is an exploited individual, but he’s also shown to be uncaring and egotistical. He wants to live vicariously through his elder son Sanup Pratap’s life (played by Divya Dev), grooming him so much that Sanup starts feeling trapped by his father’s expectations of him. Sanup is only as much as he can achieve—good grades, a good university, or a good job. Biren is a dreamer—but an unrealistic one. He always boasts himself to be better than he is and teaches his sons to do the same. Even during hardships, he can’t swallow his pride to accept a job from a close friend.
This is why, as he grows old, he downright refuses to acknowledge his current situation. Instead, he chooses to find shelter in his past—to the point where his sons are convinced he has grown mad. Research has found that as men retire, the chances of them falling into depression increase. Why? Historically, men were expected to be the ones who work and bring money home. That’s where their value was attached. Biren, in one of his hallucinogenic episodes, claims, “As men, we have to add something to society.”
But clearly, this burden is too much to bear. Especially for men with lesser means. Are the lives of our fathers only to earn till they grow old? “Your father isn’t a great man. But he’s a human being,” says Leela to her sons. Patriarchy affects men too, moulding them into money-making machines that aren’t supposed to show an ounce of weakness. And watching Biren try exhaustingly hard to fit that narrative and force his sons to follow suit was an aching experience.
The play, in its two hours and forty-five minutes running time, brings up a lot of emotionally charged issues. But it doesn’t preach. It doesn’t tell us what to think. Instead, the play seamlessly flows from the past to the present, and the thinly veiled lies of the characters on stage slowly unfold to give the story its momentum.
Divya Dev’s character as Sanup stood out. His anger at his father for burdening him with unrealistic dreams wasn’t loud or flashy but silent—shown not by words but by his facial expressions and movements around the stage—which made the dilemmas his character was going through even more real. Deeya Maskey gelled well with Leela, the ever-understanding wife. Roy as Biren was also well-acted, though a little more subtlety might have given the character more substance. Special mention goes to Sandesh Shakya’s Chandrabir, the happy-go-lucky neighbour, whose dead-pan jokes brought life to the lengthy play.
There were also some things that didn’t work. The sounds used in certain scenes felt out of place, as they didn’t resonate with the essence of the scene. There was also a coordinated dance number, where Biren and his two sons burst into jumpy dance moves which could throw the audience off. The portrayal of the two sons when young was a tad bit too comical, a very American Pie-esque way of looking at teenagers. There was also the femme-fatale character of Paru—red lipstick, all-back lingerie, a rather cliche portrayal of ‘the other woman.’
A bar scene featured two women written solely for the male gaze, one of whom at one point looks at Biren and says, “Will you sit with us, DADDY?” One can understand the need to make the play more interesting because it is lengthy, but could it have been done more sensitively? The play adapted by the BBC in 1996 had smaller characters, especially those of women, much more toned down and realistic.
While not perfect (things rarely are), ‘Euta Sapana ko Awasan’ is a pertinent play that must be seen. It is an existential play that serves as a harsh reminder that life may find a way to bring us down—especially if we do not have the means to float. But unlike Biren, who was too busy whirling in the possibilities of what could have been, we can be more honest with ourselves—understand our biases and limitations and then plan our lives. Even after that, there is no telling where life will lead us. But perhaps bravery lies in the acceptance of this brutal truth—the play gives us no answers.
Euta Sapana Ko Awasan
Directed by: Anup Baral
Adapted by: Viplob Pratik
Produced by: Govind Parajuli
Cast: Deeya Maskey, Roy, Divya Dev, Bikash Joshi
Where: Mandala Theatre, Thapagaun, Kathmandu
When: Till April 23 at 5:15pm (closed on Mondays, additional 1pm shows Fridays and Saturdays)