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In the Indian context, family means security, love, inspiration, respect and normalcy. But what happens when a family doesn’t have a parent embodying awe-inspiring and somewhat unrealistic qualities? Who, in that context, holds the family together?
Playwright Anuran Ravi shankar’s The Cockroach Collector, explores just that. The plot revolves around a family of three: the mother, simply referred to as ‘Ma’, and her two children, Alka and Mano. Their lives are defined by their horrific experiences in a communal riot which takes place five years before the play actually begins. Each one copes with trauma differently. Mano’s coping mechanism involves collecting cockroaches. And to this bizarre realm, Alka’s beau, Amit is introduced. As he attempts to understand this complex family, he is faced with a cockroach collector.
Director Anju Alva Naik says, “Ma and Mano suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The mother, who has a history of mania and lives in isolation, wants to protect her kids from the outside world, neglecting what they want. She knows about Mano’s habit but wants to protect him, so she tolerates it.” Ravi, who is also the co-founder of the Childers’ publishing house Duckbill, says that the play is a reaction to the 2002 Gujarat Riots. “I’ve always been bothered by communal violence. I’ve never understood why people kill each other,” she adds.
In Naik’s vision the play is witty, dark, unrealistic and absurd. And her directorial approach testifies this. White sheets form the facade of the house, unpacked cartons are littered on the floor and Mano’s cap with a light fixture enables him to hunt for cockroaches in the basement. “I have used an absurd set to bring out the sheer turmoil in the house because everyone is stuck there,” says Naik.
In a family where the mother uses coercion and force, Alka and Mano bury their pain and ghettoise their trauma. Ravi says, “Basic thesis is this: you can kill people only if you think they’re lower than you. Basically, if you’re a cockroach.”
Tickets (Rs.100) on bookshow.com. At RangaShankara
Details: 26493982
— Rushali Pawar

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