Wednesday, November 01, 2006

PLAY: चल बे कपङे उतार: Story Board

The storyboard of the play runs something like this. Vikram, a young boy of 18, is brought through the spectators’ gallery to the stage, escorted by a cop, who knocks at the jail gate (the curtain). It opens, like Ali Baba’s cave, and Vikram enters ‘the world of prison’: the first sentence he hears is Chal bé kapadé utar (go on, strip). From then onwards, till the very end, he remains naked, even when clothed, his action, even his thoughts, always visible to the surveillance devices of the modern Panopticon. In the first act, he and another inmate, Jai, become objects of an auction: two numberdars (that’s what they call Convict Overseers, chosen from among those sentenced to life imprisonment, to help with the day to day running of the jail administration etc.) buy them for Rs. 300 each, from the officer incharge of the Warrants Department (responsible for the allotment of barracks). However their bid is ultimately foiled by Dilip- the play’s central character- who reminds the concerned officer that since they are under 21, they should be sent to the ‘Kishor Ward’ in accordance with jail manual provisions. The second act takes place in the ‘Kishor Ward’: Vikram befriends Raju: ‘the only convict (he finds) in jail who doesn’t declare himself innocent’. The numberdar incharge of Kishor Ward, Udu, claims that Jai is his friend’s son, only to sleep with him later in the night. Vikram and Raju witness this: Raju tells Vikram that this is what Jai has to do if he wants a better lifestyle in jail; he also points out that Jai, from the sounds that emerge, doesn’t seem to mind. Next morning, over breakfast, Vikram confronts Jai, who confirms what Raju had already told him (‘a hole is a hole, whether in front or behind!’); he also propositions Vikram to a ménage à trois.

In the next scene, we meet Dilip being harassed for ‘diwali money’ by the head-warder; Raju tells him of Vikram’s predicament, and Dilip assures him that he will ask the Octagon incharge to get Vikram transferred to Ward Number One, in which mentally-challenged convicts are kept, so that he can be with Raju. In the next act, we witness the monthly auction of prison-factories, barracks and other other concerns of the prison economy, which the octagon incharge gives to the highest convict-bidder. Dilip’s group is pitted against Narad’s group. The act ends with an announcement on the public address system asking Dilip to report to the Visitors’ Room. In third act, Dilip shows Vikram, who is returning from meeting his only relative, an ailing grandmother, the cop who was responsible for falsely implicating him for a murder he did not commit, but ended up in jail himself on a charge of custodial-death: he tells Vikram that he will avenge himself, by watching his captor ‘die a million deaths everyday in jail’ and after his release, he will go to his house and rape his daughter, who incidentally has taken a liking for Dilip. As Dilip goes to the visitors’ window, Vikram witnesses another scene between a convict, his wife and two kids: the convict’s outburst; frustration at the legal system; repentance and sense of total loss; bribe paid to the warder for ‘smuggling’ in the basic necessities of life. On his way back, we notice an unopened letter in Dilip’s hand.

The next act takes place in Dilip’s ‘masala factory’: Dilip reads his letter; he screams; a new convict is produced before him; he has a young son, who Dilip takes an instant liking to; when everybody leaves, Vikram picks up Dilip’s discarded, crumpled letter. In the next scene, we are in the ‘mental ward’: a corpse lies unattended on a cemented platform; deranged convicts light their bidis with the incense-sticks, burning next to the corpse’s feet; a group of convicts decide to pass time by playing cards; a warder joins them, and when he is caught cheating, confiscates the cards and all the gambling money; another convict, Naresh, tries to sell Vikram marijuana; Vikram reads Dilip’s letter to Raju and we discover that his daughter died of pneumonia; during the power cut that follows, Raju is emboldened to ‘hint’ his true feelings to Vikram.

It’s day, and we see the lunatic-convicts being given their weekly bath in preparation for the Parade. Vikram is impressed at the selflessness of those convicts who are bathing the lunatics; Raju tells him that their real motive is that they get to sell the lunatics’ rations- eggs, soaps, Colgate etc.- in the prison-market for ten times their actual cost; Dilip gives the young boy a bath. Everybody lines up for the Parade. A retinue comprising the jail superintendent, jailor, officers incharge, doctors and warders arrives. A prison-don complains to the superintendent about the unattended corpse they had to sleep with; this leads to an altercation, in which the don ends up slapping the superintendent. Immediately an ‘alarm’ is sounded, in which the officers and warders brutally beat up all the convicts, including the young boy. The next scene is the same as the previous one, except that all the convicts are in bandages. We learn from their conversation that the don has been transferred to some other jail, and that as a result of Dilip writing to the human rights commission, some officers are coming to do an inquiry. Most of the scene consists of a dialogue between the human rights officer and Dilip, who decides to tell all: the dark underbelly of prison life is brought to light. The real quality of prison food, the ‘death-factory’ medical system, in which each death presents a postmortem windfall gain for the authorities, and rampant corruption everywhere. In their defense, the jail-administration declares Dilip mad, citing that he is suffering from the shock of not being permitted parole to attend his daughter’s funeral. The human rights officer concurs, and he is shifted to the ‘mental ward’ for ‘treatment’, under his bete-noire, Narad’s supervision. As they leave, the superintendent compliments the human rights officer on his wife’s excellent taste at having selected the best pieces of furniture from the prison carpentry store.

The next scene is a ‘play within a play’: a rehearsal is underway for the prison’s annual drama, to be enacted in the local dialect Chhattisgarhi, with each convict taking on a role. It is a morality play called ‘jaisi karni waisi bharni’ (what one reaps, so one sows). Raju trumps Narad in getting the hero’s part. The story-line of this play is fairly simple: a boy leaves his mother to seek his fortune in the big city; on the way, the caravan is looted by robbers; while everybody else escapes, thanks to the boy’s help, he himself gets left behind, whereupon he decides to dress up as a woman; the leader of the robbers takes a fancy to the boy-woman, and takes him to his house; there the boy falls in love with the robber’s sister- played by Vikram- and the two run away with the robber’s loot. In the love scene between the boy and the robber’s sister, Raju and Vikram deviate from the script and begin to confess their feelings for each other, when suddenly, Dilip- who had always played the hero’s part- makes his entrance. Narad and his gang try to catch the ostensibly mad Dilip but it is Vikram- the robber’s sister- who ultimately convinces Dilip- who thinks of himself as the play’s hero- to stop his antics and return. The following scene is a soliloquy by Dilip, naked and wet in a solitary-cell. It is recited against the backdrop of diwali-crackers bursting in the distance: is he really mad, or just pretending to be? He is woken up by Raju and Vikram, who tell him that they have a novel plan of turning the table on the jail-administration, and exposing what really goes on behind the prison-walls. The president of the republic is to be the chief guest at the state foundation day function, and the cultural department has asked for the convicts to stage their play. Except that instead of ‘jaisi karni waisi bharni’, they- the prisoners- have decided to do something different.

In the final scene, the superintendent makes a short welcome speech for the chief guest, and ends by introducing the play. The play begins: Vikram, a young boy of 18, is brought through the spectators’ gallery to the stage, escorted by a cop, who knocks at the jail gate (the curtain). It opens, like Ali Baba’s cave, and Vikram enters ‘the world of prison’: the first sentence he hears is Chal bé kapadé utar (go on, strip).

Of course, through this play, it is not Vikram- and his motley group of convicts- who strip; instead the entire ‘technology’ of our carceral system is laid bare before the world, or so I hope.

Your comments and ideas on production, stage-direction, story etc. are, as always, welcome.


2 comments (टिप्पणी):

Anonymous said...

hey AJ

Excellent and hard hitting.Wow!where do you get all this inspiration from.I have heard about lot of people who have been behind bars.....and they dont do anything and simply waste their time.Truly, this is lovely reading....and creative mind.

And i am not Josef....whos josef by the way.Laugh.

Have been busy myself but was looking forward to read the story board.Anyway......any plans to put this through production.hope this will not remain another page in the your diary.:)

Gotta go.......cheers!! K.

Anonymous said...

Very bad titled play - 007

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