Theatre group Sutradhar’s Passwala takes audiences on a gripping exploration of life and death

Vinay’s fascination with the interview, conducted by the late journalist Jayanth Pawar, with a crematorium keeper (known as Passwala) in Worli, Mumbai, ignited the spark to bring this narrative to life.
A scene from the play
A scene from the play

Embarking on an emotional jour ney, theatre group, Sutradhar’s Passwala unfolds on stage, shedding light on the intricacies of life and death. Directed by Vinay Varma, the play delves into the profound realities of existence, drawing inspiration from an interview recorded over three decades ago. Vinay’s fascination with the interview, conducted by the late journalist Jayanth Pawar, with a crematorium keeper (known as Passwala) in Worli, Mumbai, ignited the spark to bring this narrative to life.

“We did not make any changes or modifications to the interview,” Varma asserts,emphasising the authenticity of the source material. “The crux is the same, and for a play like this, the ideal duration is 65 minutes which we have maintained.” More than a play, it is a showcase of the interview which answers questions such as: Does the crematorium keeper become insensitive watching all these deaths? What’s the process of burial? What is their perspective on life?

Far from mere entertainment, the play serves as a vessel for education and awareness, offering insights into the transient nature of life. It navigates through the corridors of a crematorium, unraveling the diverse emotions that accompany the departure of loved ones. From the grief-stricken relatives to the unclaimed bodies, every aspect of the human experience finds a voice on stage.

A scene from the play
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“In our daily life routines, we never focus or think about all these things,” reflects Vinay, highlighting the play’s role in prompting introspection. The ensemble cast, led by Vishal Saxena and Suhas Barve, breathes life into their respective roles, infusing the narrative with raw emotion and authenticity. Vishal, portraying the grieving father Kamal Patra, delves deep into the character’s anguish, transcending the boundaries between fiction and reality.

“It takes a lot of courage to be that vulnerable,” he shares. “Personally, this experience has transformed me and given me a broad perspective about life.” Suhas, portraying a constable tasked with handling unidentified bodies, echoes similar sentiments, acknowledging the emotional toll of his role.

“The thought of how the relatives of the unidentified body react once they get to know the death of their loved one has made me very emotional,” he confesses.

Against the backdrop of the crematorium’s somber setting, the play explores profound questions about life’s purpose and the human condition. Through moments of silence and poignant dialogue, it challenges the audience to confront their mortality and contemplate the legacy they leave behind.

In a poignant scene, the journalist questions the crematorium keeper about the differing charges for burial and cremation. The Passwala’s blunt revelation exposes a harsh reality: lower rates are offered only to lower caste individuals. This brief exchange encapsulates the deep-seated inequalities embedded within societal norms, sparking contemplation on the enduring impact of caste-based discrimination. “

It’s a reflection on life and death,” Vinay affirms, adding, “It’s not at all music-heavy; it is the human voice that is the greatest musical instrument, and it is the silence that provides the best of music.” As the curtains draw to a close, the audience is left with more than just a theatrical experience — they carry with them a newfound appreciation for the fragility of life and the enduring power of compassion. In the intimate space of the stage, the boundaries between the living and the departed blur, leaving behind a lingering resonance that transcends time itself.

Tickets at Rs 200. June 15 & 16, 8 pm.

At Lamakaan, Banjara Hills.

Written by Sanjana Pulugurtha

Mail: indulge@newindianexpress.com

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A scene from the play
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