New Delhi, Oct 8 (IANS) If American playwright Arthur Miller fictionalised the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692 in his powerful play "The Crucible", a National School of Drama (NSD) director has adapted the theme in his play "Sasangdhiri" that is set in Jharkhand and reflects greed, land grabbing and conflict that affects the poor.
The three-hour performance by the final year students of the coveted NSD is a reflection of our society where emotions of greed and jealousy are overpowering human values.
"In his play Miller had shown how innocent people were killed and jailed during the witchcraft trails. This play focuses on the silent method adopted by many Indian states to push poor people out of the system," its director, Santanu Bose, told IANS.
A witch or 'daayan' is used as a metaphor in the play to showcase how witchcraft can be used as a tool to denounce people and make them outcasts.
"Even Miller used the garb of a witch through this play to showcase political insensitivities during the trials. He couldn't have been upfront about the injustice, so he used his play as a tool to tell the story," pointed out Bose who also teaches at NSD.
Miller's 1953 production had initially received hostile reviews because of its obvious reference to the Salem witch trials - mass hysteria that led to a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in Massachusettes.
Bose found similarities of in rustic Jharkhand and felt the setting was apt for his play.
"I could have chosen any place in south or anywhere in India. But Jharkhand relates well with the settings of Miller's play," he noted.
"I need a place where industrialisation, indigenous community, superstitious beliefs and ulta-left politics were prevalent," he added.
Hence the four-act play treads same path as Miller's.
Betty Parris, the one believed to be under the spell of a witch becomes Rupa, and Abigail, the niece of the temple's priest, becomes Savitri in Bose's play.
The characters of the play have adapted well to the local dialect of Jharkhand, their ways of living and dressing. There is an ease with which each character plays his role.
Unlike most of the plays where actors come, deliver their dialogues and vanish backstage after their act, Bose breaks away from this monotony by allowing his characters to be a part of the conversation, when required.
Like, in the first act, when rumours of Rupa being a witch spread in the village, well-wishers start visiting priest's house. While conversations take place, Savitri, who is a central character in this act, stays on the stage, making her presence felt by washing clothes, sweeping floor, filling water - performing everyday chores and not just disappearing behind curtains.
This liveliness and engagement with the audience and its subtle take on the socio-political changes hampering the progress of our society truly mirrors our society.
The play is on till Wednesday at NSD's Abhimanch.
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