Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Walk in the Woods

Play : Walk in the Woods
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Rajit Kapur
Directed by Ratna Pathak Shah

"What is history if not geography over time" - Jamaluddin Luftullah

Walk in the woods is a play that revolves around an Indian and Pakistani diplomat meeting in Switzerland discussing a peace proposal between the two nations. Rajit Kapur plays Ram Chinnappa, the Indian diplomat, as a newbie to this process, full of ideas, idealism and hope. Naseer sahab essays the role of Rajit's Pakistani counterpart,  as Jamaluddin Luftullah. Jamaluddin is the veteran, practical man who now understand that this whole exercise is a farce and the only thing he hopes to accomplish is atleast the friendship of this one Indian in the process.

Adapted from Lee Bessing's play, which originally chronicled a US and USSR diplomat meeting to resolve the cold war crisis, it takes little imagination to visualize it in the India-Pakistan context. It was meant to be. As GRRM would write - it is known! But to contextualize in the Indian context, to infuse Hindi-Urdu words at the right moment and then to top it all, to see Naseer and Rajit sahab sharing the stage and act it out makes it an affair not to be missed.

There is just something about plays where there is just dialogue between two people. There are no distractions, no props, no overhead of secondary characters etc etc. One witnesses the core of what a good play is all about - the drama (plot), the script (dialogue) and finally the delivery (acting).  I witnessed it first in Tumhari Amrita. Robinson and Crusoe, the acclaimed Indie play at Ranga Shankara, also has many elements (though it uses a few props), there are movies like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset that also explore it in its own way. Walk in the Woods joins their magical level.

One interesting aspect of the plot is the transformation in Ram Chinnappa as the play progresses. His idealism withers away and is taken over by frustration and anger. It is easy to see but how do you act it out, share it with audience without explicitly mentioning it. Walk in the woods brilliantly uses small incidents to highlight these emotions, there are layers of emotions within lines, one has to just look beyond them, through them to see what is the play trying to say.

In the end, through all the bitterness, this is eventually a tale of friendship. Friendship is the only thing that succeeds in the entire play. The fact that this would happen was known to everybody since the first five minutes, unfolding of events was also expected to a large extent but still it is a delight to watch because there are two brilliant actors who are too good in what they do that there is still an element of surprise in everything they do. Their performance is so sincere that one is immersed in their world and we forego our own anticipations.

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