As we move towards a more liberal society and towards modernization, we question established opinions, ideologies and beliefs on various subjects like the role of men and women in the society, the boundaries that interpersonal relationships must adhere to (especially between relatives and lovers), sexuality and love, distinction between the professional and personal, and the likes. As constructive a process as this is, it can be disruptive to an equal or greater degree as we also disturb a natural order that has been in place for years...
As we move towards a more liberal society and towards modernization, we question established opinions, ideologies and beliefs on various subjects like the role of men and women in the society, the boundaries that interpersonal relationships must adhere to (especially those between relatives and lovers), sexuality and love, distinction between the professional and personal, and the likes. As constructive a process as this is, it can be disruptive to an equal or greater degree as we also disturb a natural order that has been in place for years, in the process losing ourselves in the quest of distinguishing the right from the wrong. And this evolution of ideologies can also lead to strange conflicts, especially between generations, that threaten to destroy relationships and widen emotional chasms.
For instance, years ago, a father’s playful flirtation with his child might have been a norm that could be ignored. Now it can be construed as molestation or pedophilia. We may be bound to say it’s latter (it probably is on most occasions) because that’s what we are bound to think considering what we’re exposed to, but then sometimes everything cannot be seen in black or white. Also, by making too much out of things, we sometimes scar relationships for life. A time could come when parents discussing about sex, or another taboo subject with their children would be punishable by law!
Let’s take another example. In cases of sexual harassment at workplace, who is really the victim, and who, the culprit? Is it always women that are victimized? What if such allegations are a result of vengeance, or greed for promotion or salary hike? Can’t things be more complicated than they seem on the surface? Like we mentioned earlier, sometimes things cannot be seen with a binary perspective.
Feisal Alkazi’s play People like us deals with such issues in a comic, yet no-nonsense manner and brings us face to face with many such realities in the modern society. The controversial play revolves around the lives of eleven characters in Delhi – described aptly by its creators as “a bittersweet comedy about living and loving in the contemporary metropolis [where] Interpersonal and family conflicts intrude into the workplace, just as workplace conflicts spill over into the private life.” Covering a range of issues that could plague any of us in the big metros, it truly embodies the metro mantra - There is no such thing as the sweet life.
Karishma, a modern day, “foren”-returned, ex-DPSite (an alumni of the famous/notorious Delhi Public School or DPS) is one loud, garrulous and independent self-proclaimed “sex goddess”, who has just moved in with her sisters Kusum, a sweet-natured, divorcee, and Kriti, a quiet young girl always buried in her books. Changing boyfriends more often than she would update her wardrobe, she comes across as one of those girls who have lost her direction in life, and is always looking for fun (and loaded boyfriends). So it comes as a surprise when she alleges sexual harassment on a rather lewd and promiscuous married colleague, Gaurav. Of course, none of us buy her act, and we know something fishy’s going on. However, as unbelievable as she sounds, our first impression of Gaurav (calling him a scum would be a compliment) forces us to think she just may be right.
During the out-of-court conciliation sessions, it becomes clear that Karishma has fabricated facts to extract money from her manager (who is to blame too), but there is something she seems to be hiding. Gaurav’s lame excuses (He harps about how “She had potential”, when asked about why he kept her on the payrolls for so long despite her provocative and inviting demeanor) and the constant screaming only make things worse, but Karishma manages to get a settlement. However, during the interrogation, family cats are let out of the bag, as Kusum and Karishma reveal that they were both abused as children by their father – an alcoholic who has developed a heart ailment, and needs money for the operation. Add to this confusion, Kriti’s and her eccentric aunt Vasu’s sudden disappearance, as they decide to go to Mumbai without informing anyone, and sudden appearance of their mother, who had left them years ago. We have a drama boiling with tension on our hands as all the bottled up frustrations are vented out in a denouement of reflections and realizations. Karishma finally helps her father out, despite her anger and malice for him, who pleads innocent to the charges of sexual molestation.
Alkazi has captured various facets of life in the metro, including evolving human relationships and values and exploitation of women in the upper middle-class population, where there is a constant change going on. If Gaurav could be any manipulative, corrupt boss lusting after his subordinates, Karishma could be any of the bragging-about-her-page-3-connections-wannabes we constantly see on the television who just want fame, money, sex or all. They are practical (and practically without principles), and they want to get ahead in life by hook or by crook. Then there are fathers like theirs’, who think they never did anything wrong by talking a little dirty to their children – It’s all harmless fun, they’d claim!
The second installment of a trilogy of plays based on the life in NCR, People like us, is a reminder to us, that moving up the social ladder does not necessarily mean being happier. The widening generation-gap could spell doom to stable and prosperous relationships, if not handled properly, impacting numerous lives in worse ways than we can imagine. Some things have to be addressed before it’s too late – they simply cannot be swept under the rug.
Even though, Alkazi employs humor appropriately, he never strays far from the issue at hand. The language is fairly colloquial and lends a certain realistic element to the script, especially with sparse use of Hindi in parts.
The play is well-scripted and well-directed, but it did stretch a little in parts. Smita Majumdar deserves a resounding applause for her convincing portrayal of Karishma, and same goes for Jaipreet Singh (who plays Gaurav). However, other actors fell a little short, with exception to Sanjiv Desai (the father), and Reuben Israel (although he looked a little too old to be their brother). Radhika Alkazi (Kusum) is a good actress, but she was far too restrained and gentle for the role of Kusum. Perhaps, she should take up roles that demand more tranquility and maturity.
Ruchika group is going to be back with some more thought-provoking plays in the near future. People like us must watch out for them!