Thought Box

Murder, He Said

Murder, He Said

by Deepa Gahlot September 13 2019, 5:58 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 3 secs

The Gujarati play Shaatir, starring Tiku Talsania in a role quite different from the comic roles he is known for, has been running successfully. It has been directed by Mangesh Kadam, and written by Sneha Desai, who does quite an effective job of adaption—this one is a properly Indianised version of the Hollywood film Fracture (2007). (She had earlier done an excellent adaptation of A Few Good Men as Code Mantra).

Akhilesh Raichand (Talsania), a wealthy businessman discovers that his wife, Shefali, is having an affair, comes home suddenly one day and shoots her at point blank range. He then surrenders to the cops and signs a confession in the presence of Inspector Viren (Alpesh Dixit). The prosecutor’s office assigns this open-and-shut case to an inept female lawyer, Vedika (Sneha Desai), who is more concerned about her domestic problems than her work.

When the case goes to court, Raichand denies that he killed Shefali and states that he signed the confession under duress. He has very good reason for claiming this, as Vedika discovers to her shock. Any more details would constitute spoilers, but it is the classic worm-turns scenario, in which Vedika has to use her rusty mental resources against a ‘shaatir’ (cunning) opponent.

Vedika has been portrayed as a scatter-brain, who gets her assistant to shell peas in office, and is constantly on the phone to her maid at home, while Raichand investigates every bit of her life and uses the information to twist her arm.

Talsania has an unusual get-up, he wears a pony tail and suits with sleeves rolled up. The actor’s slightly nasal voice, used to comic effect in so many films, sounds sinister in the play. Sneha Desai is as good an actress as she is a writer and manages to portray convincingly, the various stages of Vedika’s confusion to empowerment journey. Interestingly, the judge and other court personnel remain off stage, and the case arguments are carried out facing the audience, putting then in the position of a jury.

It is a lavish production with quick set (by Prasad Walawalkar) changes from Raichand’s well-appointed bungalow to Vedika’s modest home, the courtroom (too white and clean for a Mumbai court), and a hospital room. Mangesh Kadam keeps the pace brisk (despite frequent blackouts).

Shaatir is meant to be an entertaining play, and it delivers an adequate amounts of gripping courtroom drama and suspense.

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