English theatre lovers of Guwahati city were in for a treat last week when Ruby Visions and the Bob Barua Benefaction staged an absorbing play, True & False, at the Pragjyoti ITA Centre for Performing Arts in Machkhowa on December 21 and 22 last.
‘True & False’ is a brand new adaptation of Rob Drummond’s work and the play portrays a world of reality game shows and explores notions of truth and falsehood. The cast of the play featured well known names from the Assamese film and theatre industry, namely Jit Chaliha, Ranjeev Lal Barua, Neetali Das, Lima Das and Pratyush Barua. The BOB Barua Benefaction is a trust that carries forward the philanthropic legacy of Souvik Barua, the late husband of Pallavi Chumki Barua, focusing on the uplift of the needy
With many people questioning the fast depleting audience base of English plays in the region, ‘True & False’ provided a break from this conventional notion. Although the tickets were priced a bit on the higher side, the first day of the play featured a packed audience with an equally encouraging response on the second day.
The play enthralled the audience with a live quiz show with a suspenseful, hyper real time-space alternation brought on by memory. It also led the audience to identify with the many contemporary social and topical issues of everyday life that it throws up. The spectator enters into a hair raising ‘live’ arena where a quizmaster hustles neurotic participants, camera-ready faces, paste-on smiles and concocted realities. The extremely talented Jit Chaliha plays the 60 year old Quiz Master, Brian O’Neill; Ranjeev Lal Barua enacts the role of Irfan Ahmed, a psychiatrist/participant in the show; Neetali Das in the character of Meera Singhania portrays a former quiz show champion and repeat participant; Lima Das plays the lead character of Sandra Braganza, a housewife/participant; and the show’s Production Manager Pratiek Duggal is played by Pratyush Barua.
In a nutshell, the play tries to address the issue of child abuse through the realm of a reality television show. The attempt of the director to address a burning issue deserves accolades and he is lucky to be supported by a bunch of extremely talented actors. Jit Chaliha, who plays the role of the 60 year-old Brian O’ Neill shines throughout the play. His performance is equally matched by Ranjeev Lal Barua (who plays the role of Irfan Ahmed) and Lima Das (who plays the lead character).
Known for his role in ‘A Plot for Murder’ and directorial ventures such as ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ and ‘The Murder Game’, Director Rohan Kr Das shared his experience with this play and the cast, saying, “It was overwhelming to direct this play with a cast where everyone has their own set of benchmarks. The audience’s reaction and appreciation today has encouraged us to come up with more such work in the future”.
Having watched the play, we can only commend the team for raising awareness on such an important issue in a highly creative manner. However, the play could have been much better if they had focused a bit more on the treatment of the subject as the inter-play of characters and incidents over different spans of time did tend to create a bit of confusion among a section of the audience.
The play ‘True and False’ was made possible with the support of Tata Motors, Apollo Hospitals and Young Indians. Despite the occasional and few glitches, the play has indeed opened new horizons for English theatre loving people of the region.