Theatre Review: Punashccha Honeymoon
Produced by: Samanvay
Script and Direction: Sandesh Kulkarni
Assistant direction: Shardul Saraf
Sets: Meera Welankar
Lighting: Harshavardhan Pathak
Music: Narendra Bhide
Costumes: Iravati Karnik
Cast: Sandesh Kulkarni, Amruta Subhash, Nachiket Purnapatre, Shardul Saraf, Nitin Bhajan, Makarand Sawant, Shreeram Kulkarni and Santosh Shikare
Sandesh Kulkarni is one of the few playwrights on the Marathi scene who see theatre as a potent medium for enriching individual expression of universal significance, not merely as a podium of theatrical possibilities. His highly perceptive play ‘Punashccha Honeymoon’ stages a highly incisive personal angst, one that questions sanctified notions of love, marriage, material success and offbeat life struggles. The protagonist is a writer but he could well represent any sensitive individual, irrespective of strata and stature, forced to grapple with the myriad incongruities of life.
For the writer Suhas and his wife, the TV scribe Sukanya Deshpande, the scenic hilltop of Matheran is more than just a weekend getaway. It’s their fervent hope for salvaging the elusive magic of their weathered relationship. The Hotel Dreamland, their sanctified honeymoon abode of the past, is now expected to give birth to Suhas’s long-stuck novel, both sincerely believe so.
But the place, like its name suggests, instead becomes host to a litany of delusions that bring out dark fears and vague anxieties from the deep recesses of Suhas’s troubled mind. Kulkarni employs a fine blend of dark humour and deft abstraction to lend credibility to the protagonist’s obscurely threatened state of mind.
Kulkarni himself is outstanding as the lead player, effortlessly conveying the innumerable mood swing of Suhas Deshpande with flair. His effort raises the bar for Experimental Marathi theatre that, knowingly and unknowingly, is yet stuck with experiments of the clichéd kind. Amruta Subash, as Sukanya Deshpande, shows flashes of brilliance but also a penchant for underling her performance that looks blatantly rehearsed at times. She would do well to appreciate the virtue of subtleties, thereby defying the temptation of an audience applause that invariably greets a theatrical performance. This is especially critical to plays like ‘Punashccha’ where the audience has to cope with a multitude of interpretations rather than bask in the light of a black-and-white message.
Among the support cast, Nitin Bhajan and Shardul Saraf are the most impressive. Their bearing is tailor-made for the dark humour of this play. Kulkarni shows exceptional authority in staging the dramatic moments that add to the play’s mysticism, so does Narendra Bhide’s soulful background score. One wonders whether the set could have been consistently minimal to match the play’s symbolism. At times, the white backdrop with the impressed handprints prove to be a distraction. If they represent the mental trauma of the protagonist, Kulkarni’s facial expressions seem to do a far better job. But that’s only a small glitch. More important, the director has got his all his directorial designs right.
To his biggest credit, he resists the temptation of turning Suhas’s torment into a ‘hero’s angst’ - a one-dimensional rant against the powers-that-be. Instead, he makes Suhas vulnerable and believable by projecting all of his insecurities exposing his weaker side as much as highlighting the credibility of his case. Precisely why the play’s interrogative statement becomes all the more credible.
About the writer-director
An engineer by qualification, Sandesh Kulkarni is an actor, writer, director and Founder member of theatre group Samanvay. As a theatre activist with over two decades of experience, he has won many accolades and awards including the Charles Wallace Scholarship that took him to Britain’s Royal Court of Theatre for an International Residency Program for Writers. Punashccha Honeymoon has been his work of long deliberation and determination. The first draft lay largely dormant for five long years until last year; when he managed to take it to fruition - thanks to the NCPA’s Centre Stage Festival. But as he says, the play has evolved with each performance and, in the process, he has too. Through this play, Kulkarni has tried to make sense of the world around him in the light of personal experience. At the same time, he clarifies that it’s not an autobiographical work. The play’s abstraction represents the manner in which the protagonist is experiencing time as memories and dreams from the past and present incessantly fight to occupy the protagonist’s mind space.