Sumeet Raghavan (right) with Gururaj Avadhani in a still from the play that is based on Steig Larsson’s bestseller
The makers of Marathi play Ek Shoonya Teen had a task at hand when they set out to adapt the Swedish bestseller The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. The hard-hitting and in some parts, explicit content of the Steig Larsson thriller, throws up several challenges in the sheer number of issues it addresses – at the forefront of which is sexual violence against women. Directed by Neeraj Shirvaikar and Sudip Modak, the play, too, is crafted in the same grain. Debutant Swanandi Tikekar plays the central protagonist, while Sumeet Raghavan essays another pivotal character, that of an investigative journalist.
Raghavan, who has not read the novel and has only seen the David Fincher film (adapted from the novel), says, “I’m told the book is far richer. I play the character Daniel Craig essayed in the film but in the play, the role is better fleshed out. I team up with Swanandi’s character to solve a murder mystery and as we set out to do that, a larger mystery unravels.” There are several aspects of the original story that the play interprets its own way. “Instead of the Holy Bible in the original story, we have the Manusmriti here,” Raghavan says.
Modak, who has also written the play, says, “We hear so many instances of women being sexually exploited. I’ve always wondered how do men invade someone’s privacy to an extent that it damages them for life. During my research, I came across this matter in one of the ancient Indian scriptures, which went on to form the nucleus of the play.”
At the heart of the book is a brutal rape scene. The play, we are told, has retained the same. “We have gone ahead with the scene on stage, supported by some stellar performances along with the mastery of sound and lights. It’s the post-rape scene that is more hard-hitting, and the sound guys have done a great job on it. The skin crawls,”
The plot follows a parallel narrative where two stories are told at the same time. Interestingly, the two-and-a-half-hour long play has just completed 50 shows, however, there has been no buzz around it. But, every show has been a success. “We’ve got a standing ovation each time,” Raghavan smiles. So then, why stay low-key? “We wanted to test the waters. You cannot gauge reactions to a play like this. This play is not just entertainment. It is tied to a very crucial issue. So it’s important that it is received in the right spirit.” Women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde has seen the play, and now, the makers are preparing a show for the culture minister. “I want this to become a movement,” Raghavan signs off.
when: April 22 and 23, 4 pm
where: Dinanath Mangeshkar Natyagriha, Vile Parle
Contact: 2618 4027
Price: Rs 300