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The Family Plot

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

Those who read Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which created the new heroine for the times—Lisbeth Salander—would be either amused or taken aback by the Marathi play, 'Ek Shoonya Teen', directed by Neeraj Shirvaikar and Sudip Modak.

The complex character, shaped by the horrific incidents in her past, is a fearless fighter and genius computer hacker. Such an iconic character is tough to play, and Swanandi Tikekar is given the near-impossible task of bringing her to life on stage.

To those who are not aware of the books, 'Ek Shoonya Teen' would perhaps work well as a suspense thriller. Industrialist Sadanand Kelkar (Gururaj Awdhani) calls tainted investigative journalist Ajit Chitnis (Sumeet Raghavan) to help him bring closure to a case that took place in his family two decades ago. He beloved niece Harshada disappeared, but every year on his birthday Kelkar received a gift, which indicated that she was alive somewhere. the gifts suddenly stopped and Kelkar wants to know what really happened to Harshada.

Chitnis reluctantly takes on the job, because he needs money to fight his own case. As he starts to unravel some knots, there are attacks on him and Kelkar. To help with the internet searches, Chitnis hires Neha Sabnis, a computer wiz. The play goes a bit into her back story, just skimming the surface so to say. Even with her all black outfit Neha does not give the requisite Goth warrior vibes, though her performance as the wary but efficient young woman is adequate.

The play is a bit too long, but with Raghavan excelling in the part of Chitnis, he holds the play through its slack bits. The sets are impressive and the changes quickly carried out. Obviously the book has been much simplified, many characters dropped, and just the bare bones of the plot retained. The makers are pitching the play as one that speaks out against violence against girls and women, hence the title 'Ek Shoonya Teen',which is the police helpline number for women. It may be a good idea to use a popular play to popularize the helpline number; although it not just about women but about the greed, cruelty and selfishness that exists in so many families.

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