Little Thespian and Padatik keep local Hindi theatre alive with their new works, derived from American originals. Reminiscent of Euripides’ antiwar The Trojan Women, Jules Tasca’s The Balkan Women, translated as Balkan ki Auraten by Uma Jhunjhunwala, shows a chorus of Bosnian women imprisoned in a Serbian camp during the ethnic conflicts of the 1990s. As stated in the flyer, “Men are pitted against women, Christians against Muslims,” Serbs against Bosnians and, as guest director Mushtaq Kak adds, “Man created war but it is the women who have to pay a heavy price for it”. Although the context may seem distant from India, we cannot but think of our own crises in Kashmir or Manipur, especially knowing that Kak comes from Jammu.

Thus, the general relevance gains greater significance for us than the fact that Tasca’s play hinges on a very simple plot revelation linking a Bosnian mother and daughter to the Serbian commandant. We welcome Sagar Sengupta in the latter’s part for the realism with which he depicts a torn mind. In different ways, we see similar complex emotions in Jhunjhunwala (the mother) and Azhar Alam (the ruthless Serbian deputy who finally deserts), not surprising from such seasoned performers. Among errors, Little Thespian should replace “Croats” with Bosnians in the programme note and the world map with one of Yugoslavia in the commandant’s office, and the prelude from Pink Floyd’s “Time” with a less easily identifiable sound clip.

Janus and Padatik’s Safarnāmā braids six ten-minute playlets by diverse hands from the anthology Take Ten, translated by Sanchayita Bhattacharjee, into an apparently single travelogue of an actress encountering various people. This concept almost succeeds in ingenuity, except that the sheer stylistic disparity of the sources resists their enforced yoking, creating a disjointed feel. Director Mahmud Alam possibly recognizes it himself, acknowledging that he “put [them] together in no particular order.” However, he does unify the scenes by using just a bench as furniture, recalling the motif in Padatik’s Do Ādmi Do Kursiyān.

Christopher Durang’s Mrs Sorken, about a scatty lady introducing theatre to an audience, opens Safarnāmā with wacky vim, but the five other authors don’t have his finesse, the standard dropping markedly. Luckily, we have Bhattacharjee plaiting the six strands as the protagonist, preventing them from unravelling despite the incongruity in her character from episode to episode. Opposite her, Pratigya Ghosh does best as the lesbian propositioning her, and Sahir Siddiqui as the stranger she befriends on the ferris wheel.

(From The Telegraph, 22 October 2016)