By Manju Sampat
This stunning one woman play recently had its hundredth show at St. Andrews Auditorium in Bandra. Hundred shows is quite an achievement for any artist, but just one actor performing this task, makes the achievement all the more formidable. This is effortlessly done by the versatile actress Shabana Azmi in Girish Karnad’s Broken Images. The play has been brilliantly directed by the renowned theatre director Alyque Padamsee and Produced by Raell Padamsee’s Ace productions.
The play starts off on a happy note, with Manjula Sharma (Shabana Azmi) talking on a TV Channel about her recently released book, The River has no Memories. This book has been written in English, though Manjula is better known for her Hindi short stories and novels. She is introduced by the TV host Samir Soni. The incredible part is, that while Shabana addresses the audience on stage, her interview is being broadcast simultaneously on a large TV on stage. The synchronising is perfect!
So why has Manjula written this book in English, and who was her muse? She admits that the protagonist Is based on her physically challenged sister Malini, whom she had nursed for the last six years of her sister’s life. And what about Pramod Tiwari, Manjula’s husband, where does he fit into this equation. It is in answer to this question that old and dark secrets spill out of the closet as Manjula argues and faces accusations by her alter ego, imprisoned in an electronic image on the same TV that had earlier telecast her interview. Is this her conscience speaking, or is it Malini, it is anybody’s guess. The play careens to a most unexpected end, as it simultaneously juxtaposes Manjula’s shattered image with that of Malini’s.
Needless to say, Shabana Azmi has acted Manjula’s role to perfection. At the end of this hundredth show, the director and Shabana enlightened the audience about this production. Mr. Padamsee told us, that Shabana is a perfectionist and she rehearses the entire play before a show! Another gem was from Shabana…it seems that just before the show in Rohtak, she was told that almost eighty percent of the audience did not speak English. So almost on the spur of the moment, she decided to do her entire dialogues in Hindi! She is truly a gifted artist.