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Sakha Ram Binder, an anti-hero

Sakha Ram Binder, an anti-hero

KARACHI: There seems to be a legitimate reason behind the banning of Vijay Tendulkar’s play Sakha Ram Binder in India back in 1974. The script is not for the easily offended, as it yanks the audience from its moral high ground and forces them to witness, as well as participate in, certain uncomfortable truths about human nature. And its adaptation at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) on Friday did just that.

Sakha Ram, the philanderer, picks up women discarded from their homes and gives them a roof to live under. In exchange, he expects them to keep his stove burning and his bed warm.




Sakha Ram is a character full of contradictions. He has many vices yet believes that honestly admitting to them help atone his sins, and he lives life on his own terms. Women come and go according to his needs, and usually moods, and the production portrays his live-in arrangement with two women polar opposite to each other — Lakshmi and Champa.

The Young Director’s Theatre Festival is providing Napa graduates a chance to direct plays and Sakha Ram Binder is Shahzad Jalbani’s production.

After graduating from Napa in 2014, Jalbani is currently an associate director and actor for television. At a press conference on Nov 13, he shared the reason behind his choice of play. “Tendulkar is my favourite writer as he brings to the fore controversial issues. This play will revolve around the life of a man who refused to conform to the rules of society and lived life on his own terms.”

The drama keeps a steady pace, and the narrative depicting neither extreme highs nor lows. This can be considered a foil to the upheavals the tragic Lakshmi must encounter. Very pertinent to the contemporary fabric of many societies, back in the day it was staged as well as today, the script picks up the woes of the marginalised in society that in this instance are women.

In Sakha Ram Binder they are forced to live at the peripheries of society, and must cloak all facets of their personalities, from their needs and wants, to their eccentricities. And Lakshmi epitomises this mould.

However, when Champa enters Sakha Ram’s life, she takes this very mould and turns it around.

The roles of Sakha Ram and Lakshmi are played by Saad Zamir and Asiya Alam, respectively, and each time they are on stage, they are constantly outshining the other.

One particular scene in which Lakshmi is discovered conversing with an ant highlights her utter desolation with regards to human company. Her laughter, as she shares a joke with the ant, is amusing yet a jarring glimpse to her otherwise meek persona.

Zamir’s interpretation of Sakha Ram is worthy of mention too. Though loud and crass, Zamir does not allow Sakha Ram to be compartmentalised in to good or bad. As there is a lot of grey area in his personality, one is left confused about whether to hate Sakha Ram, or to empathise with him.

Jalbani does not lose sight of the characterisation in the narrative. His characters show depth and personality and are refreshing in their honesty.

Night and day are depicted in the life of Sakha Ram and Lakshmi through lighting work, and before you know it, an entire year passes in the cramped house. The set depicts the house as a run-down place where only basic amenities are provided. However, for one the house represents heaven, and for the other hell.

Could certain scenes in the play be handled with more nuance and tact? Certainly. Considering that the threats Sakha Ram levels against Lakshmi at times drew laughs from the crowd go on to underline the need to be more empathetic towards victims of domestic abuse. And this is something the director needs to be on the look-out for.

Sakha Ram Binder will be staged at Napa on Nov 21.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2015

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