Save The Book:
Many must have had to look up the meaning of Aaeen—the sound of the word has a certain romance to it, which Samvidhan does not, neither does Constitution, both of which also have a gravitas that is automatically attached to such an important tome. But how do you make a musical comedy about the Constitution? How do you make matters of the law fun to watch? Atul Kumar, with the enthusiastic participation of a young cast, pulls off this feat. He lampoons the people who pretend to uphold it, or twist it to suit their politics, but shows no disrespect to the book itself.
Aaeen, Commissioned by Centre for Law and Policy Research Trust (CLPR) and supported by The United States Consulate General Chennai, is made up of the work of five playwrights (Lawai Bembem, Purva Naresh, Sarah Mariam, Amitosh Nagpal and Varun Grover), who look at how the provisions of the Constitution are written and also how they can be broken, by a megalomanical leader or a loony fringe.
Which is why, a poor couple (Ipshita Chakraborty Singh-Suvrat Joshi) are guarding a field in Purva Naresh’s Pashu, from an animal they cannot even name; all they know is that the crops have to be protected, but the animal must not be harmed in any way, because its life is more precious than that of a human.
In Varun Grover’s Desh Drohi Akshar, a female stand up comic (Bhagyashree Tarke) is arrested for a supposedly offensive joke. The prosecuting lawyer flaps about the courtroom with excessive outrage, and over a period of time, judges try in vain to hear the joke to figure out if it was really provocative. The absurdity of the situation mirrors reality, when easily-offended mobs go on a rampage,without even reading, hearing or understanding what they are protesting against.
Lawai Bembem’s Move-Remove is about the men and a few women who drafted the Constitution in the US and India, taking a look at the prejudices and hypocrisy (slave owners talking of equality in the US, the caste undertow in India) of those who laid out the legal framework for their citizens to follow.
Amitosh Nagpal’s hilarious Kala Akshar Bhains Barabar looks at what happens to that all important ‘book’; when a street food vendor becomes the leader of a country.
The four short pieces are linked with Sarah Miriam’s Aaj Shahaani Raat Hai, in which a bride’s (Silpi Dutta)’s sakhis want to know about the groom, because nobody has seen him; and when they do, they are in for a surprise.
Aaeen is cheeky and witty, studded with songs that range from rap to a peppy wedding number to a sad, haunting solo (music composers Gagan Dev s and Anik Sharma), performed live. With minimal props, well-designed lights (Rahul Joglekar), and a lot of infectious energy put in by the youthful cast, the play nudges the viewer to think and laugh, but always be aware of the social comment or criticism that has been slipped in. That takes courage in these intolerant times.
(This piece first appeared in mumbaitheatreguide.com)