Horror as an art form is in existence for ages. The thrill and the adrenalin rush that one gets from a horror story is unmatched. Now, horror is considered to be one of the most pure forms of cinema. They say there is no better medium than moving images to spook you. The power cinema has to draw you into the story has been utilized right since the very beginning of the history of movies to tell horror tales. But a horror play is a rarity. So, when I came to know of a horror play called ‘Tee’ being staged at the popular Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai, I decided to check it out for myself. Must say, the movie buff in me was a bit skeptical of how effective the elements of horror would be in theatre, but by the end of the play I was left quite impressed by the whole performance and realized that horror can work equally well on the stage too.
‘Tee’ is a play based on the novel ‘Woman in Black’ by Susan Hill which has before been adapted into a Gujarati play titled ‘Manchha’ by Sejal Ponda and directed by Pritesh Sodha. This Marathi adaptation of the play that has been inspired even from horror folk tales, is also staged by the same director and has been written by Rohan Tillu. The novel was first adapted into a play in England and it is the second longest running play in West End in London.
The word “tee” can be roughly translated as ‘that woman’ in English. The production is about a lawyer named Deshpande (Omkar Tirodkar) who wants a life changing episode he had experienced to be shared with the world in the form of a play. Deshpande had once visited a village in Konkan in Maharashtra for professional reasons, there he was witness to certain events. He had, then, seen a ghost of a woman with a baby and that had a life-changing tragic impact on him. Deshpande and Patwardhan (Rohan Tillu) then start rehearsing the script with Patwardhan playing the lawyer Deshpande, and Deshpande playing a number of eclectic characters that he had met during that visit. So what we have here is a play within a play, quite like a metafilm, though I am not aware if there is a term for such an experiment in theatre.
Now, what I was most curious about is how the medium of theatre was used to put across the horror element in the play. The use of light and sound was predictably quite crucial. It was the job of the light department to make the ghost (‘Tee’) appear suddenly and then also make her disappear in the next instant. The light here by Digambar Acharya was certainly quite well designed and effective. The sound, though, was a bit of a mixed bag with at times being innovatively eerie and at other times being clichéd liked the scream of a woman. But, the most effective of all tools of theatre here was the use of the entry and exit points for the ghost. The first entry of ‘tee’ catches us unaware and we are left quite shaken. But now that we expect her to reappear, her next entry is lot more vital. Despite the scene going on in the middle we cannot help keep an eye on the probable entry points, anticipating the ghost’s reappearance. But this is where the director – Pritesh Sodha – triumphs and ‘Tee’s second entry leaves us speechless and takes the performance to an altogether different level. I happened to see this thrilling play at Horniman Circle in Mumbai, which is one of the venues of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival this year. Horniman Circle being an open air venue, I am sure a bit of the effect of the horror scenes was diluted due to other sounds in the neighborhood. I cannot wait to watch this production again in an enclosed auditorium.
The performance by Omkar Tirodkar as Deshpande and characters like Namdev, Dharmadhikari, Pandhari Mama, Narayan Rao and few others is just brilliant! He slips into every character like a chameleon and it is a fascinating experience to witness it live. A number of his scenes got spontaneous applause from the audience and so did virtually all entries of ‘Tee’ played by Sheetal Kapole. I will keep an eye on this young actor Omkar, as I am sure he is going to go places.
Now, the plot of the play doesn’t have a lot that has not already been covered in horror folk tales, but it is the way the plot has been staged that is worthy of appreciation. Crafty direction and a superlative performance by Omkar Tirodkar makes the production an enthralling experience, quite deserving of the standing ovation it got. ‘Tee’ thrills and scares and keeps you glued to your seats right throughout. Do not miss it at any costs!