Your mother develops an amorous feeling for a bloke, attending your father’s funeral. Your father’s restless spirit insists on a traditional cremation at a crematorium of his choice. He rejects the modern alternative, for reasons of it seeming impersonal. What if that rascally crow refuses to peck at the rice balls? These and many more absurdities are thrown onto the audience through Satish Alekar’s Mahanirvan. It asks questions that make us cringe. This power to generate an abysmal discomfort, making the watchers revisit their belief systems, is the glory of the show.
The play that has been recast with utmost deftness, unapologetically lays bare the age-old Brahminical traditions and customs. When the middle-aged Bhaurao passes away on a lazy, holiday morning, and his son Nana is away, the wife Rama is left all alone with the corpse and the prying neighbours from the chawl. Subsequently, Nana is battling the official rigmaroles and municipal obstacles to fulfil his father’s last wishes. Nevertheless, the revelation of Rama’s untimely fascination for a mysterious man in sunglasses and a suit keeps pricking Nana’s ideas of rectitude.
A play with a legacy of more than four decades, the burden of handling socio-culturally sensitive content in times characterised by unrest at the slightest of departures from what is “culturally prescribed”, and of course, the blasphemous questioning of the revered rites and beliefs: the play, in essence, is a storm. The interspersed compositions by Anand Modak, keertans, bhajans, and abhanga add momentum to the pace of the narrative.
Full marks to Nachiket Devasthali, in the shoes of Bhaurao, Siddharth Mahashabde’s perfect portrayal of Nana, and Sayalee Phatak as Rama. Alekar’s direction, without any doubt, gives the staging a different level of heft. Right from the body language of the chawldwellers, to the dystopian realities of surviving as a widow, and the banes of corruption that plague our society, Alekar leaves no loose ends in the expressions of definitions, dichotomies and rants.
— Ketaki Latkar