The Nobel Prize winning Italian playwright Dario Fo’s 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist' (1970) is among his most accomplished works. When he wrote it, Italy was amidst a political turmoil. It was inspired by the actual death of an anarchist in police custody. The cops claimed the man committed suicide by jumping off the fourth floor window, while it was obvious that he had been beaten and flung out to make murder look like suicide or an accident.
This play has been adapted into several languages and has featured in several productions in India and all over the world. A new award-winning production called 'Khidki' in Marathi, adapted and directed by Vipul Mahagaonkar, retains the dark humour of the play as well as the slapstick element, enacted by a bunch of actors with excellent comic timing and co-ordination.
A madman (Chandrashekar Gokhale) is brought into the police station where the incident of a man ‘jumping’ from the window had taken place. He pretends to be a judge, and questions the three policemen who had been on duty. They nervously keep contradicting themselves and eventually admit that they had lied to the media, to their own higher-ups and to the first judge conducting an inquiry, who had concluded that the prisoner’s death was an accident. Fo has written this as a farce, which gets more darkly humorous when a journalist arrives to interview the inspector about the anarchist’s death and the madman impersonates a forensic expert.
Mahagaonkar has managed to retain the farcical element of the play, but also Fo’s intention of making the audience face up to unpleasant truths about the society they are a part of and feel uneasy even as they are laughing.