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Wondrous Oblivion

Tuesday, August 08, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

It would be a harried city dweller’s dream to just give it all up, and start afresh somewhere else. Patchwork Ensemble’s new play, 'Fly By Night’ begins with this intriguing premise and the actors devise the rest.

There were instances in Japan of people vanishing, and those who actually helped them to, in effect, become new people; a sort of witness protection programme minus the crime-and-court rigmarole.

Puja Sarup, Sheena Khalid and Rachel D’Souza, who set up this group with the absolutely wonderful Ila, do productions that break away from the norm. A lot of groups do devised work, but very few get it right.

'Fly By Night' does not have a linear structure; there are short scenes of people whose stories are to be assimilated and connected like dots to form a complete picture. Those who seek to leave their lives behind (Neil Bhoopalam, Tushar Pandey, Sheena Khalid, Shivani Tanksale, playing multiple parts), the sinister-looking men who carry away their belongings, and the fascinating “Aunty”  (Pooja Sarup) who runs a café as a front, and a secret outfit with the help of a brisk Rosie (Radhika Chopra), to help people wipe the slate of their lives clean; all appear in dark, hallucinatory pieces accompanied by an unobtrusive retro music score.

It’s towards the end the pieces that they all fall together, to reveal how the operation works. Trust the Japanese, who have legitimized ritual suicide (hara-kiri) to ‘invent’ the idea of disappearing. Families left behind are shattered (a man bent with grief looking for his missing wife), but the one who leaves can hope to forget and start over. Aunty decides with prophetic accuracy what the bruised soul needs to heal.

Puja Sarup, dressed in an old-fashioned frock, thick glasses and a Bandra Catholic school teacher-ish manner of speaking, plays Aunty to perfection. If someone were to leave a major decision about their lives to someone else, Aunty looks like someone who would know best.

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