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A funny take on modern love from Uttar Pradesh

Should love always culminate in a marriage? What if the woman you are in love with doesn’t want to be mewed by it? Is she allowed to make such a choice? Director, actor and playwright Manav Kaul’s romantic comedy ‘Chuhal’, which was staged in Ravindra Bharathi as part of the Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival on Sunday, deals with these perennial questions of modern love.

Set in a small town of Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh, the play explores the romance of pre-technology days through a sweet and charming love story between two contrasting personalities Arti and Sudhir.

The play progresses in a series of light-hearted conversations between the two, who at times, switch roles to give more clarity to different perceptions. The playful banter between the two characters, who fall in love despite contrasting ideas about life, form the crux of the play. While Sudhir is a simple man in search of a prospective bride, Arti is an independent free-thinking woman who doesn’t want to be “trapped” in wedding vows. The dialogues were witty — an eclectic mix of emotion and hilarity, that kept the audience absorbed throughout the 75-minute play. It ends with Sudheer’s transition from a man conditioned by the society into someone who understands and embraces Aarti’s perspective on life.

While the on-stage setup was a minimalist one adorned by judicial play of lights, the true strength of the play rested in the script and outstanding performances of the cast. Srishti Shrivastava’s portrayal of Aarti, an independent woman torn between her dreams and society’s expectations, was condemnable. And so was Manav’s as Sudheer, who, with his befitting body language and demeanour, did a wonderful job to bring the character to life on stage. Niharika Lyra Dutt’s as the happy-go-lucky Nimmi and Padma Damodaran’s as Arti’s mother too were impressive. In short, nothing was overdone or underdone in the play.


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