by Mehru N Nisa
SRINAGAR: Kashmir’s Annual Drama Festival concluded on March 27, 2021, to coincide with world theatre day. The concluding performance was Manzoor Ahmad Mir’s Hatthe Handole, a Kashmiri adaptation of the Italian play The Accidental Death of an Anarchist written by Dario Fo.
The story takes place in a police station and revolves around the mysterious death of a prisoner in custody. While the police see it as a suicide, the public and media express their suspicions indicating the death could be a custodial killing. Towards the end, the audience gets to know about the actual nature of the prisoner’s death in a quirky and interesting manner.
The play opens with inspector Sagar, played by Farid Ahmad Sheikh, and a sergeant (Mehraj ud Din Bhat) in the police station. Sagar briefs the audience about the premise of the play with his monologue. While he speaks, Soune Chichur (Ashraf Nagu), a man, who has been imprisoned earlier for disguising himself as people from different professions, comes in. After arguing about his real identity for some time, Sagar gets fed up and almost throws Soune Chichur out of the room.
In the next scene, Soune Chichur impersonates a judge who is enquiring about the case of the prisoner’s death. He comes to the police station to meet the Superintendent of Police (Bashir Ahmad Lone) when Sagar is not around. On reaching there, he tells inspector Farooq (Gulzar Ahmad Dar) and the constable (Mehraj ud Din Bhat) to call the SP.
While speaking to the fake judge, the policemen lie about their behaviour with the prisoner but end up revealing the actual cause of his death. At the same time, a journalist – Muskan Abbasi (Shaheen Masarat) who has an appointment with the SP enters the room full of men but now Soune Chichur disguises again after discussing it with the policemen.
After a while, Sagar walks in with a defused bomb that was planted somewhere in the city. He recognises Soune Chichur at once and reveals his reality to the others. But only Muskaan identifies him for who he is and both of them end up solving the case. But their means of dealing with the men are totally different as a result of which, they get into a clash.
Hathe Handole kept two versions of the ending in front of the audience. One – how Soune Chichur wanted to deal with the men and second – the way Muskaan wanted to deal with them. The play doesn’t actually end and viewers are left to perceive the ending as per their will. “You have to make the decision”, Soune Chichur said to the audience.
A person’s reality is exposed when given authority or given the right to exercise his powers – a lesson learnt from today’s play. The play had themes such as honesty, truthfulness and tyranny.
At the closing stages, the director Manzoor Ahmad Mir in his speech said that he was not satisfied by today’s performance of the play but the audience seemed to love it, especially the protagonist – Soune Chichur. He even put a lively musical performance in between the play that the audience enjoyed.