Rafta Rafta (slowly slowly) a new production from Akvarious Productions, true to its title takes hold of you slowly and stays on with you even when the play ends.
Rafta Rafta is based on a play (by the same title) written by Ayub Khan Din. It opened at Theatre Fest of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Quite an unusual place to open a new show. Of course, the next day it opened for us at NCPA when I watched it.
The story, set in Manchester, revolves around two families brought together by a marriage. The play begins with Adi (Aadhar Khurana), the eldest Son of Vishwajeet (Akarsh Khurana) and Suman Malhotra (Kshitee Jog) getting married to Tasneem (Abir Abrar) the only daughter of Khalid (Faisal Rashid) and Fatima Rashid (Ahlam Khan). The wedding is over and the new daughter in law is in the house and friends and families are having a little “after wedding” party at home. Fatima is anxious about how her only daughter is going to adjust in a Punjabi family where she would have to share the house with her in-laws. Khalid is sad that the apple of his eye is going away from him forever. One thing leads to another and there is a fight between the Father and Son when the father humiliates the Son (though unknowingly) in front of the new bride and the family friends and you realise not all is well here.
Time passes by and through the narrations of Tasneem and Adi we realise that even after six weeks their marriage has still not been consummated. Adi is little edgy about it but Tasneem is quite understanding and is confident that the things will happen at their own time. But, things start getting rather ugly as further time passes by without any “action”. The in-laws also start noticing the change in the behaviour of Adi and Tasneem.
In one of her low moods Tasneem confides in her mother, Fatima. Fatima shares her worries with Khalid and they decide to talk to Vishwajeet and Suman about this. While discussing the problems of the children a lot buried secrets from the past of both the families come out in open. Ultimately, both the families decide that Vishwajeet would speak to Adi and try to understand what the problem is. Unwilling Vishwajeet accepts the responsibility, however fails to strike a proper conversation with Adi.
In the meantime, the news has spread among their social circle and Adi gets a rude shock when his lecherous Boss (Adhir Bhat) passes some lewd comments about him and Tasneem which causes in a brawl at the club where he works and results in Adi resigning from his job.
Adi decides to leave his home. While he is packing his bags Tasneem enters their room. He accuses her and doubts her integrity and both get into a fight. In the meantime Khalid and Fatima who are going to India drop by to tell the Malhotra’s about some house on sale for a very cheap price and suggest that Adi and Tasneem should go for it. In the meantime Raj (Hussain Dalal), the youngest son of Vishwajeet and Suman come home and updates the families about the fight at the club between Adi and his boss and also breaks the news that Adi does not have a job anymore. This adds to the worries of both the families. While the families are deciding on how to solve the problem at hand, Adi and Tasneem come with their bags and declare that they are going on their honeymoon. Fatima and Suman on hearing this realise that “it” has “happened”. Vishwajeet offers to help Adi with the house offer which Khalid has got and Adi decides to accept his help. The play ends on a happy note for both the families.
As the play began the first scene was a total chaos. My friends and I were getting uneasy in our chairs not having a clue on what was happening on the stage. A lot of action was happening simultaneously across stage, distracting the attention of the audience. Result, end of the first scene was received with dead silence. Can you imagine that. Opening show and first scene receives no response at all, absolute dead silence. But as the newly married couple got settled and the problem started shaping up it caught up with us and the result... Thunderous applause! It was really crazy to see the transformation.
This play was originally written in 1963 but the subject so very fits to our times also. It was really interesting to see that the audience could connect to the concept. It is sad that even after more than forty years when the play was written impotency of a man, infertility of a woman assumes more significance than their achievements in life and there is still social stigma attached to these things. It was really interesting to watch the problem from the perspective of two families. While Fatima was genuinely worried about the non-consummation of her daughter’s marriage, at the same time she was happy that the problem lies with Adi and not with her daughter.
As I said the first scene was total chaos, but as the problem of Adi intensifies the play picked up really well. Be it frustration of Adi, irritation and helplessness of Tasneem, Suman and Vishwajeet attempts to know what is happening in the other bedroom or Fatima & Khalid’s concern for their daughter and even Adi’s confrontation with his Boss. The transformation was fluid and built up the drama really well.
Apart from these main characters there were a few more social network characters, a few of which could have been edited out since they did not really add to the story as such. The Uncle (?) (Karan Pandit) who must have been someone who was of same age as Vishwajeet but he looked even younger than Adi. Then there was some strange character who kept surfacing on and off. I still do not know who he was!
All the main characters played their parts with great conviction. But the two actors I really want to mention are Faisal Rashid and Ahlam Khan. Both of them were fantastic as Tasneem’s parents. Faisal as a father of a daughter played his part with so much maturity and Ahlam was a class act as a mother who loves her daughter but to a certain extent also looks at her own daughter as a competitor when it concerns her husband’s affection. She was just adorable. Akarsh, a migrant from a small town in Punjab who is still trying to hold on to his Indian roots was really good and was well supported by Ksheeti. There was a scene when Tasneem confides in Fatima, Fatima gets very anxious and was talking really fast but kept on telling Tasneem to go slow to which the look given by Tasneem was just priceless.
The set was really simple two level set. It looked and gave a feel of a home. However, a few times Fatima walked in without anyone letting her in while Khalid always had to knock on the door to be let in. Does Fatima have a spare house key? Barring such few minor hiccups it was a really nice and feel good performance. May be a “Hum Saath Saath Hai" of theatre!! I hope I have not endangered my life with my last comment.