Whatever you do, put your heart into it. Darpan theatre definitely followed this philosophy while putting up their play Khatarnak Khala on Friday, but while they put their heart in it, they forgot their head, sort of.
Written and directed by Ali Ahmed, the play is about an old woman who hides her loneliness and her longing for her estranged children with utter bitterness. While the play does try to address the important issue of a growing number of parents left alone by their children, it does not do this in a seamless manner.
The play had some genuinely funny moments. The Hyderabadi language was captured in its essence, bringing out the humour and the character’s emotions. Then there was the energy of the actors and their willingness to take genuine beatings from Khala.
What did not work
The writing was incoherent with long monologues which added nothing to the story. The play mostly pandered to the audience and were at times sexist. Talking about dowry as an acceptable practice or addressing only the male child as someone who can take care of parents, well, while said in jest, only reinforces these evils in society.
Also making a generic statement like “parents dream of getting their children married and they should not rob them of this opportunity by choosing their own partner,” is exactly the kind of mindset leading to the disgusting practice of honour killings in our society.
The biggest thing that did not work, was the lead character of a woman played by a crossdressing man. There was absolutely no need for a man to play that role. Moreover, the actor Arif Mohammed playing Khala looked very uncomfortable in a woman’s garb and was finding it tough to emote.
There are ample female actors in Hyderabad who could have played that role easily. Crossdressing solely for the sake of it is sadly something that our Indian TV has made popular, but there is no need for our theatre to stoop to those levels.
The story had a lot of holes in it, but what kept it going was the slapstick comedy.
That was something that redeemed the play. But the abrupt plugging of a message in the middle of a physically comical scene left the audience a bit confused and it took a few seconds for them to realise that the play had actually ended.