Rakesh Bedi's "Biwi-o-Biwi" was a hilarious look at the issue of extra marital affairs
Rakesh Bedi's play "Biwi-o-Biwi" speaks in a light-hearted way to women who are "suffering from" husbands with a roving eye. It suggests a strategy that will bring these straying men back on rails - "give him a long rope before he hangs himself". This ploy works for Pooja Soorma, as Chennai's Hindi theatre buffs found out on Thursday night at the Narada Gana Sabha.
The curtains go up with Pooja's mother (played by Sulabha Arya) and younger sister Polly speaking in hushed tones about the roaring affair that her doctor husband Pawan Soorma is having with her best friend Nita. Though Pawan likes to believe that he has the blinds of discretion deftly drawn over this dark liaison, it is an open secret. But Pooja alone is not aware of it. Even her mother decides to maintain an almost conspiratorial silence "so that Pooja's family does not break up." However, her interior designer friend Meera, who is up to her eyes in concepts such as Feng Sui and Vaastu, toots a warning, though indirectly. But even that is lost on the ingenuous Pooja.
Just when we think that the Soormas' domestic life will cruise on endlessly without a hitch, matters suddenly reach a head. Nita's husband Ashok (Avtar Gill) comes up with incontrovertible evidence of his wife's adultery ("Pawan's gold cigarette case is found under her bed"). Ashok confronts Pawan with the "evidence". Pooja tells Ashok that his suspicion is misplaced. After a lot of clever arguments from Pooja, Ashok leaves a convinced man.
After Ashok and Nita leave, Pooja makes a startling revelation. She has been aware of her husband's infidelity all along, but has decided to look the other way. Pooja's mother and sister are surprised, even a little aghast at Pooja's indifference.
The rest of the story tells us why Pooja has been silent all along and shows us how she brings Pawan on to his bended knees. From here, the victim takes the upper hand. She is now the doctor and has diagnosed the illness. "I want to give the doctor a dose of his own medicine," she announces.
Though beginning on a brisk note, the play threatens to slip into a melodrama in the middle and taper off insipidly. Thanks to Pappu Aachchi's (Rakesh Bedi) entry, the play perks up. Pappu was rejected by Pooja 15 years ago, but he has been continuing his "one-sided affair with Pooja," as he calls it. He bobs and bows like the Japanese, because he has returned from the land of the Rising Sun, after making his pile there.
Rakesh Bedi is as round as ever and as funny as well. Whenever he rolls in, laughter ripples through the auditorium. Rashmi Sharma (Pooja) and Ashiq Mehta (Pawan) come across as rubber-faced, Avtar Gill is his majestic self and Rashmi Sharma is at her underplayed best.
The end of the play is off-beat and the audience is not prepared for it. Pooja asks the audience if Pawan can be forgiven. The air is riddled with resounding `no's. They come mostly from the women. Pooja smiles and sets out to answer her own question. She says the poor wretch has had enough and after the trauma he has been through, there is every reason to believe that his eyes will stop roving.
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