We have this group of amateur actors and actresses in college called 'GASP'- Guild of Actors at SP Jain...a fairly talented group of young men and women, who despite the gruelling schedules of B schools manage to put up this annual production, after a month or so of painstaking efforts. Last year was a fabulous presentation of Girish Karnad's much acclaimed 'Tughlaq' on the ramblings of a directionless monarch. This evening, we were treated to Mahesh Dattani's 'Final Solutions'.
The acting was fantabulous by almost everyone out there and i really wondered how they got the time to memorize those long dialogues...or as musicians like us do, do they also improvise on stage? But then the script i must say, was pathetically weak. It belittled the superb acting and the immesne efforts these chaps had put in for over 30 days. Mahesh Dattani, with all due respect to him, isnt someone whom i consider can build a taut plot...be it Morning Raga or Dance like a man or today---Final Solutions.
Its all too easy to fall into cliches and stereotypes when one discusses an issue as complex as communalism...what is tough is to hit the nail straight on the head. The Hindu-Muslim divide has too much historicity attached to it, too much legacy for anyone's comfort. Its all too nice to take the politically correct 'secularist' route and have one conspiring pandit and maulvi trying to poison a bunch of hitherto peace loving Hindu and Muslim "brethren" who lived as though they were children born of the same mother...wish things were that simple in life! Somewhere down the Hindu psyche, more so in North India which has borne the direct brunt of the Islamic invaders for so many years, the concept of Islam remains one of a warring religion. The edicts of the Quran with direct references to slay non-believers (Kafirs, as they are called), the manner in which millions of temples have been raised in the past--its all to easy to brush it up with white secular paint! but deep within, the rot exists, even in the most liberal of minds. And therez so little effort on either side to bridge this gap as well...
Ok, i might have rightist leanings, but consider this---the recent cause of holocaust in India--the Ayodhya issue...the mosque that stood at the place was not even soemthing that Muslims had been using since about independence. And it wasnt something as sacred and holy as the Kaaba, that relocating it to a different place wouldve made much difference. In fact in Muslim countries like Saudi, mosques have been trampled for simple reasons as expanding roads!! Here, if the Hindu community for whatever reason, felt that thats where their hero was born and a temple that existed there was razed by a barbaric invader; whats wrong in re-locating the mosque a few yards away--that too a mosque that was in disuse!? the Hindus couldve helped in the relocation and the Muslims helped the Hindus in constructing their temple...wouldnt that be a better thing to do than squabble like cats and dogs? The oft-repeated "Islam is in danger" thingy comes in to rattle common Muslims and the Ulemas just use it to their advantage.
None of our secularist friends bother to inform us as to why after 58 years, the Muslim society stills remains so insular and unprogressive. Why is it that they've not reaped the benefits of economic boom? Why are still the laws of the Ulema, the Fatwas, the Shariat considered sacrosanct as over the Civilian law that the Constitution binds us all to? hindu society has transformed so much over the centuries...Sati, Untouchability and the like have been banned by law...reservations are opening the gates for a vast section of oppressed (or atleast the efforts are beign made)--but we still continue to have Triple Talaq and the kindz which even Muslim countires have abolished!! Strange! Our films, literature and playrights go hammer and tongs when they condemn Hindu society for inequity...Premchand could write a million Godan like novels on Dalit oppression...why havent any of these people bothered to even write a line about the condition of Muslim society, the lack of education, the threat of the fatwas that hangs on their hands all the time, the appalling condition of their women??? taslima nasrin tries to do soemthign to the effect and our secular Indian Govt bans the book! Applause!!
It was not some RSS pracharak but Gandhiji himself, in Young India, who had opined that the Sword is too prevalent among the Muslims and unless that is unsheathed, the unity of the country would be seriously dented. And how could this unsheathing be done?? By breaking the insular walls of that society..by helping them truly, to come to the mainstream...open the doors of modern education to young boys and girls who are herded in Madrasas under militant Maulvis who teach them lessons in Jehad. Education is the key to all problems that India faces and the Muslim society is screaming for help in this regard...but NO...secularism of the kinds that we have prevents us from doing anything concrete, than mere lip service.
I was thinking if Dattani might address these issues in his play...but sadly, they were not to be...its too naieve an attempt to pitch a criminal who has stirred a riot against a middleclass Gujrati housewife cuaght up in her rigmarole of customs and rituals...and actually compare the two...i mean how can anyone compare apples and oranges!!? Or for that matter an 80 year old woman with her understandable set of cultivated biases and prejudices.
As much as i hated the plot and the weak script that tottered down like a pack of cards, i was amazed by the brilliant acting that unfolded on stage. Hats off to the GASP team for their brilliant efforts in putting together this act, out of a loose script of a much hyped up playwright!!