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Guilt and punishment

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

Those who commute by train in Mumbai know there are certain unwritten rules, like a Borivali passenger does not get into a Virar Fast, or risks  getting abused and maybe even beaten up by irate fellow passengers.

In Prayag Dave’s Gujarati play 'Virar Fast', a man in a hurry does that and the consequences are fatal – not for him, but for a young man traveling on the foot-board of the crowded train as he loses his balance in trying to prevent another passenger from falling. The rescuer dies and the older man he saved has to live with the trauma and the guilt. The play is based on a true story, that director Kamlesh Mota read as a snippet in the newspaper, and found that it had the elements of a thought-provoking drama.

Ashvin Dave (Dilip Darbar) is an ordinary man, with a family consisting of his wife, two sons and a daughter-in-law. When his set routine is disrupted by his strange behaviour, the family is mystified.

He suffers from nightmares and suddenly goes off without telling his family where he is. He had witnessed the horrific death of young Amol, who pulled him back into the over-crowded train when he was about to fall, but lost his own balance and died on the tracks.

He left behind a young wife Sangeeta (Titiksha Pandya) and a new-born daughter. Ashwin believes that he is responsible for Sangeeta’s plight and decides to help her. He does not tell his family about it, and they are understandably suspicious of his fondness for this woman and her child.

The reason for not telling his wife does not sound convincing, but playwright Dave and director Mota have, through scenes of the young couple just starting their life together, put across the point that all plans can be wrecked in a matter of seconds. Ashwin's concern for Sangeeta is quite in contrast to the attitude of people in a callous city, who look the other way when accidents take place on the tracks so often. The play is a bit too long and has some unnecessarily overdone scenes, but in the end it puts forward the message of compassion, and Darbar gives a sincere performance as a good man wracked with guilt for a tragedy he could not have prevented.

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