‘A Shared Body & Soul’

Mahesh Dattani is a prolific playwright and director. He typically delves into insightful themes with most of his plays dealing with stories of urban, modern Indian families, Tara is no different.

The play dabbles with themes of patriarchy and how the male child gets infinitely more privileges and preferences than a female child in a typical South Asian society.

The first scene opens with Dan, a writer in his Sydney home, dealing with a writer’s block. Dan, who has changed his name from Chandan, is trying to write an autobiographical account of his family, focusing on the adolescent years of him and his sister, Tara, who were born as conjoined twins.

The twins were surgically separated in an unequal manner. Chandan was given the preference and an advantage during the separation surgery which resulted in Tara being medically disadvantaged with lifelong medical problems, resulting in an early death.

The focus on stage then changes to a typical urban family with twin siblings, and their parents, they have recently moved from another city and are trying to deal with the external prejudices and the internal domestic turmoil where the parents have a tumultuous marriage as a result of their children’s predicament. This affects every aspect of the lives of everyone in the family. The first half of the play lingers on with their daily trials and tribulations and visits from neighbours and how they deal with their new lives.

The re-telling of their story is interspersed with glimpses of commentary from Dr. Thakkar, the omnipresent god like figure on stage, who explains the medical obstacles and ethical questions raised while making vital decisions during the separation of the twins. The narrative continues rather monotonously, culminating in the mother being sent to a facility due to her mental health issues and Tara ultimately dying due to her medical problems.

Bobby Mallick, in her directorial debut, had a good grip on the subject of the play. It was an overall good attempt by a first-time director. Bobby designed the stage effectively, dividing the space into various locations and time frames. The overall acting could’ve been lifted with better performances from some key characters. The stand-out performances came from Ananya Dixit, her effervescent ‘Roopa’ breathed a breath of fresh air in a few stagnant scenes, Rwik Chatterjee as ‘Chandan’ and Rima Sen as ‘Bharti’ were effective in the emotional scenes. NK Srinivasan as ‘Dr Thakkar’ was another impressive performance.

The length and pace of the play could’ve been sharper, especially the second half. The lighting design was interesting, dividing the various parts of the stage effectively, though lacked precision. The sound design was oddly western classical and didn’t quite match the pathos of the play, despite the mention of Brahms symphonies in the text, the sound could’ve been more in line with the narrative. It has to be mentioned that Pioneer Theatre perhaps isn’t quite a suitable space for intimate theatrical performances. The stage space is too wide and open and leaves the audience somewhat excluded from the intimacy of the narrative on stage.

We look forward to more poignant and culturally relevant works from Preksha Arts in the future. The Australian stage certainly needs more diverse stories and Preksha Arts have taken a step in the right direction.

TARA by Mahesh Dattani Directed by: Bobby Mallick

Costumes: Mani Dixit & Bobby Mallick
Lighting Designer: DJ & Ajay Banerjee | Stage Design: DJ |
Music: Mani Dixit & Neela Bhole

TARA at Pioneer Theatre | 27 MAR 2022

by Arwen

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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