New Delhi, March 27: What happens when a play is based on the sensitive subject of homosexuality in India and the narrative is seen through the lens of a gay teacher? And what happens when the protagonists fantastic performance can’t salvage a tale that ironically ends up as another stereotypical narrative?
It is very brave of Happy Ranajit to present the agony and issues of a gay man living in India who is under constant pressure to follow societal norms and lead a dual life of ignominy in his play A Straight Proposal that has been one of the shortlisted plays for the prestigious Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards(META) 2015.
However, where this young director has fallen short of is in the treatment and a very obvious script. The story, unfortunately, offers a superficial review of gay rights in India and reaffirms the stereotypes that have been associated with them.
The narrative goes back and forth as it digs out pages from the protagonist Dilip Shankar’s diary and throws light on his many relationships, personal betrayals and problems.
It is through these episodes that the life of Shankar unfurls and the complications that a gay man faces in seeking love and a constant partner surface. Thus, essayed are his multiple stints at gay chat rooms where he finds temporary love; a complicated relationship with a married man who refuses to come out from his dual life; a relationship in which he is constantly blackmailed with the threat of his identity being exposed and the fear face his father, an ex-army man who won’t accept his son’s sexual preferences.
But it is the length two hours – that derails the momentum of the play, while a few loopholes hint at director’s hurried attempt to complete the production.
The first question that arises is why is the protagonist so afraid to get an AIDS test done fearing it would tarnish his image if he tested positive. It was not as if he was going to announce it to the world. Secondly, he dies unexpectedly in the end. One of his friends raises the question of who killed him, but amid the din of a chaotic ending, the whole idea of why he died suddenly is lost.
Though the audience broke into an applause when the protagonist’s father refuses to accept the fact that his son was gay and dismisses the statement saying He was my son, one one felt there was more the Ranajit could have done.
The play rightly points out the dilemma and challenges of a gay living in India, especially after Supreme Court upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalising homosexual sex. But a crisp version would have been welcome.
Nevertheless, it was a delight to watch Shankar and Teekam Joshi, who plays an important role in the play, for their lively performance that upped the ante of this production.