Friday, March 28, 2008
HALFWAY HOUSE - Mohan Rakesh
Mohan Rakesh's Half way House is riven by conflicts,ambiguities and indeterminacy at all levels of experience.Most explicitly,the fragmentation and sense of incompleteness at the individual,familial and social levels are the thematic concerns of the play.The play does not stand comfortably on any univocal guiding perception of meaning and direction.It is built on shifting ground,electically appropriating and deploying elements and concerns of realistic,naturalistic and absurd or,more specifically,existentialist,traditions,creating in the process dissension, fragmentation and slipperiness at the very core of its meaning.It is a play at war with itself,a house divided and disunified.
Some critics are of the opinion that the play is anti-woman and that it is the woman who is ultimately responsible for the entire predicament of the family.Infact such critics judge the play keeping in mind the role of the traditional Indian women since the time immemorial.Those were the time when the women were given no education,and her duties included the management of the house and to look after her husband and children.The dawn of the twentieth century witnessed a change,a change in the man's attitude towards women.Ofcourse the tempo had been built up by many socio-religious movements in the 19th century.It was however,the 20th century which witnessed a large number of who belonged to the enlightened families and had received higher education.
There were many factors for this upsurge.An educated woman,professionally qualified,found home life dull,she became anxious to use her expertise both to keep herself busy and to become economically independent. Mohan Rakesh has attempted to describe and dramatise the socio-economic situation of an upper middle class family which is caught in the web of financial setbacks which render the head of the family almost incapacitated to do anything.Within two years of his marriage the rapport between the husband and wife disappears.Helplessness is writ large on his face.It is against this background and to meet the challenge,the wife-Savitri,who is educated enough,takes up a job and becomes the financial controller of the household.The job brings her into contact with men who are dynamic,smart and rich and she starts dreaming of this glorious world of rich and handsome men.
She starts finding faults with her husband Mahendra who in the state of extremedepression fails to gratify even the biological urge of his wife.Young and smart men gratify her emotional needs and also help her financially. Savitri's attitude towards her husband also had adverse effect on her children.They too startedignoring their father and treated him as a useless item of furniture which somehow cannot be thrown out.
Binni,their daughter remained with savitri is so strongly infected by the contagion she grows fast in her biological urge and runs away with Manoj.Binni's running away and consequent 'loss' of Manoj was a blow to savitri and she became ill-tempered and started nagging Mahendra.
The play continues to oscillate between Mahendra and Savitri.In the beginning we do sympathise with Savitri, the way she works hard to manage the family,but latter half of the play reveals the other side of savitri and our sympathies change,Savitri falls in our estimation.However,it must be said that the play is not a direct attack on career woman nor it is anti-woman,it brings out prevailing conditions in upper class society.At the same time we do find playwright's bitterness directly engendered by the situation which he must have personally experienced- against such career women who,in order to fulfill their ambitions,let their families go helter-skelter and remain indifferent to the growingup children