Recently I had the opportunity to watch the play “Broken Images” written by Girish Karnad, directed by Alyque Padamsee and performed by the famous film and stage actor Ms. Shabana Azmi. Girish Karnad is one of the foremost playwrights of modern India, hence any play from him raises expectations. “Broken Images” is certainly not one of his best plays although it did make its point quite strongly. It tells the story of the confessions of a mediocre Hindi writer who has become an internationally acclaimed English language celebrity author through deceit. It also tells that the image we often create to impress the outer world gets shattered inside when it is not projected in the light of truth. The play being directed by the veteran theater persona Alyque Padamsee, adds another dimension to it. But the strongest attraction for most theater goers was to see Shabana Azmi on stage. The North Brunswick High School auditorium (in New Jersey) was packed with her cheerful fans, although they had to wait well past the show time in long lines outside the theater. And it seemed they were not disappointed. They got to see their favorite actress not only in person, but also on screen. It was Shabana acting on stage with Shabana on a big screen television mounted on stage. It was a bit tricky act to perform, especially when she had to synchronize not only the timing of her dialogues, but also her position on stage to match the eye movement of the character on screen. It kind of restricted her freedom on stage in many ways. But the major problem came not from the timing or blocking, but from the difference in the two media. Acting on television differs greatly from the the acting styles on stage. The big close up of Shabana on a big screen TV on stage carried subtle nuances and facial expressions which Shabana on stage had to compensate with her physical movements. This caused a discord in acting styles which was a bit discomforting to me. The technique looked more gimmicky rather than an absolute necessity. In many one person shows, the actor often has to play multiple roles and the audience accepts the illusion quite happily. If the play demands another character on stage, I’d think it is better to use another actor rather than use some convoluted technique like that used in this production. Ms. Azmi is a powerful actor and I am quite convinced that she could have handled both the characters on stage with equal ease. Maybe Mr. Padamsee can think of this play in a more conventional way and deal with the challenge without taking recourse to modern technology.
Thanks for this lovely review on Broken Images. I am completely in agreement with you that -The technique looked more gimmicky rather than an absolute necessity…
Reflecting on theater productions today that incorporate modern communication technologies, I wonder if the trend is purposeful or just an attempt to break away from the 2 dimensional monotony of theater that we have lived through for years and now seek a variation.
Alyque Padamsee’s one of the early commercial shows I had seen, Evita, also had very strikingly different useage of lights and stage crafts to create an illusionary effect. It didn’t appear gimmicky, in fact, the effects blended well with the play and also retained the purity of theater experience.
In this production he could have had two levels of platforms (a higher level for the larger than life character) and Shabana could have acted both roles live on stage. But Alyque proffered a technological device though he is an absolutely dedicated theater person. I wonder why.
Any other comments?