The body has its appetites,” says the brochure for the Vijay Tendulkar play. “And who made it? God. You think he doesn’t know?”
Well, God knows the transgressions of Sakharam Binder. God knows but Sakharam doesn’t care. He is, in his own words, hot-headed and uncouth, always with an oath on his lips. And when he brings destitute and discarded women into his household — married women who’ve been castoff by their husbands — he brings them in not to offer them safety but to use them for his own perverse pleasure. Sakharam Binder, performed by the Boardwalkers and helmed by Michael Muthu over the weekend, got all the elements of Tendulkar’s original play right: the depressing circumstances, the appalling treatment Sakharam metes out to his women, and the helplessness he faces when two of the women who have touched his life the most come together.
At the beginning of the play, Sakharam brings Laxmi into his home. Discarded by her husband because she couldn’t bear him a child, Laxmi takes over the workings of the Sakharam household, as she is instructed — even to the point of being a ‘wife’ to him. She is the seventh woman Sakharam has brought into his house but she is the one who has made the most change in his life — a fact that Sakharam himself frequently points out.
But when Sakharam tires of her, in comes Champa — a woman who left her husband and begins to affect Sakharam in ways Laxmi did not. He turns into a lust-filled man who drinks in the middle of the day and neglects work. But when Laxmi walks back into his house, all hell breaks lose.
There is no happy ending to this play, which was once banned in India in the early ’70s for ruining the sanctity of the institution of marriage. The perverse situation of the two women in context to Sakharam’s tin-pot tyrant type ruling and the addition of Daoud’s attraction towards Champa makes for a interesting study of characters and human nature, exactly what Tendulkar seemed to have intended and pulled off with perfect precision by the performers.
Sarvesh Sridhar as the titular Sakharam is perfect for the role of the amoral womaniser, while Darshana Rajendran as Laxmi is a complete surprise. Previously seen in mostly comedic roles, her performance Laxmi is pleasant change. Shakira Arun as the broomstick-wielding, loud-mouthed, coarse ‘peach’ of a woman, Champa is exactly right for the role. She especially excels in the scene where she has to beat up her husband, Shinde (a spotless Vinod Anand). Dinesh Devides as Dawood doesn’t have much to do.
The sets and lights by Michael Muthu deserve a special mention, as does the music by Nithin De’Mello and Kevin. It is every bit as an intense as the play itself.