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201 Not Out

Thursday, June 21, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

'Master Stroke' is Pravin Solanki's 201st play – which is an amazing milestone in the 78-year-old playwright's successful career. Of these, 85 were directed by Feroz Bhagat, which is an impressive record too. Clearly, the Solanki-Bhagat partnership presents the kind of plays the Gujarati audience wants to see.

Bhagat plays Siddhant Adhikari, a laywer who is estranged from his son Avinash (Mayur Bhavsar) and daughter-in-law Shefali (Kausambi Bhatt), but his grandson Yash (Shubh Joshi) lives with him, because his own parents have no time to raise a kid. However, when a lawyer, Mansi (Ragini) informs Shefali that she stands to inherit her stepmother's fortune if she shifts to London with her husband and son, she wants Yash back, but Siddhant is not willing to part with him.

It does not seem plausible that parents – busy as they might be – would abandon their son so completely that they would not even meet him on his birthday or take him on a single vacation. When the case goes to court, Siddhant is easily able to prove just how indifferent Yash's parents are towards him, while he looked after his grandson like a mother, cooking his favourite dishes and caring for the child when he was sick. He wants Yash to grow up 'sanskari' so that he sends him to a Gujarati-medium school (this pushes the right buttons to please the traditional minded among the audience); he does not want him just chasing wealth.

Solanki's big twist in the tale is that Mansi is Siddhant's separated wife, and determined to win against him in court. The courtroom drama is replete with verbal fireworks, as the baffled judge (Binda Rawal) tries to make sense of the goings-on. Siddhant is seen as an egotistical man, who is used to having his way, and the audience's sympathy tilts toward Mansi.

There is another big twist in the end (which most would see coming), which wraps things up rather nicely, with a win-win situation.

Bhagat is a fine performer, who, as a director, knows the pulse of his audience; Ragini plays her part in a low-key manner but stands her ground in the court scenes. 'Master Stroke' may have a conservative heart, but it is a crowd-pleaser, which also slips in some political references that get the loudest applause.

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