In ‘Aadha Apuro’, familial dysfunction takes centre stageKavya Art, in collaboration with Aarohan Gurukul, has adapted Indian playwright Mohan Rakesh’s 1969 play titled ‘Aadhe Adhure.’
The setting is a simple middle-class household. As the lights shine, we are transported to a shabby-looking living room—newspapers and books are in disarray at the table, clothes are carelessly thrown about on the floor, and used teacups sit drying out on the dining table. The mother, Saviriti, is home after a long day at work. And if you’ve ever seen a parent enter a messy home after work, you probably know what’s coming. Her frustrations reach a boiling point and start pouring onto anything in front of her—the mundane objects lying around the room and her husband.
The audience is greeted with familial chaos in Kavya Arts and Aarohan Gurukul’s recent show ‘Aadha Apuro.’ The play, originally written in Hindi by playwright Mohan Rakesh, centres around a family of five—a mother, father and three children—and the difficulties of their middle-class life.
The father, Mahendra (played by Mausam Khadka), is a failed businessman living off his wife’s meagre salary. Even though he stays home all day, Savitri (played by Samjhana Bhattarai) comes home to a messy flat. Their youngest child, Viki, remains unfed. Their elder son Ashok is a struggling artist unable to find his footing. On top of that, their daughter, Binni, who eloped with a rich man, frequents her maternal home all too often, upsetting the family even further.
It is quite easy to see where the parents went wrong. Their constant bickering and sheer hatred for each other spreads like poison, and the kids are the ones who reel from the aftereffects.
The play is a harsh but all too real depiction of what poor family relationships look like. It’s a reflection of what stagnant communication can lead to—a husband who believes himself emasculated because his wife earns more than him, a wife who looks for warmth and comfort in infidelity and children who show clear signs of emotional incompetence.
Bhattarai shines as Savitri, a bitter maternal presence that has accumulated so much rage that she seems incapable of any love or kindness. She constantly berates her husband, restricting his travels (and life) as she believes he has caused enough damage. There is no love in the marriage. Savitri’s circumstance feels particularly heartbreaking because urban women bear the brunt of not only having to work but also spend their labour doing household chores. With no support system of any kind, she pours out her frustrations onto her husband and children without realising that this only exasperates her relationships.
It is only in one particular scene that Savitri shows some vulnerability; she sings (rather beautifully), ‘Ramdi pul tarne bittikai, baache bhet maare ta ettikai’— ‘As I cross Ramdi bridge, we shall meet if I live, otherwise…’ This, too, is while she waits for her lover, a form of deluded escapism where she wishes to start life a-new.
Khadka, as the disheartened husband Mahendra, is an apt portrayal of masculinity in crisis, particularly in the present context, as conventional gender roles are getting dismantled. The notion of men as ‘bread-winners’ hangs heavy on his shoulders, and thus, he is ungrateful (and later revealed to be physically abusive) to his wife. However, he refuses to take up the role of homemaker, which he feels is beneath him, and it’s his wife who struggles to fulfil both roles.
Another character in the play, Mahendra’s close pal Kumar is the personification of the support, or perhaps the ‘safety’ system patriarchy has set in place, which allows men to get away unscathed no matter the severity of their actions. Savitri’s infidelity is alluded as the sole reason for the relationship falling apart. Kumar easily dismisses the violence on Mahendra’s part and claims that Mahendra still loves his wife despite all her flaws.
The problem with each family member is that everyone wants to be hurt, and no one wants to heal. The characters find comfort in the ‘discomfort zone,’ afraid that a glimmer of vulnerability will be weaponised and used against them. And thus, none of the characters is black or white; all carry parts can injure and, in turn, become wounded.
The play is a directorial debut for Shankar Pokharel, who revealed that he found the play to be particularly relevant in today’s time where economic, societal and perhaps even climatic frustrations loom over each one of us. And unfortunately, it’s the ones closest to us—our family members, dear friends—that face our harshness.
As the title suggests, the familial feud never concludes, with each member tied to one other with love and hatred. It’s a difficult play to watch, especially if you come from a dysfunctional household. But it also provides a sense of objectivity and escape (as the audience) to peer into the world of the emotionally wounded.
The play will continue till June 4 at Aarohan Gurukul, Thapagaun, Kathmandu.