Theatre Script Review- Still and Still Moving by Neel Chaudhuri
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
The play begins with Partho quoting T.S. Eliot’s, ‘East Coker’.
My approach to this review
In this review, I want to do the following:
- Sound reasonable and honest
- Review my experience as an audience (what I felt rather than dissecting how it happened)
- Introspect about my personal experience with this play and how it affected me
I do not want to do the following:
- Write like a self-critical scholar who is supposed to share all their sources, this review is not supposed to be empirical
- Write like a newspaper critic who is so alienated by their audience and too ashamed to admit their admiration or love for the artist
- Write like a young, naive author (I will make this mistake inevitably)
With all intents and purposes, I will try to sound moderate.
Lately I find myself talking about trains …
The order of things as observed from a train window.
Clarity improving only with distance,
the violent speed of the tracks colliding and parting ...
Sleeping and waking, finding everything
around you exactly the same and everything outside changed.
A brief Overview
Still and Still Moving tells the story of Adil, Partho, and the city of Delhi. Partho is a middle-aged writer who lives in Delhi. Adil is a student at Delhi University. The play traces the different stages of their romantic relationship casually interrupting with the background noise of the people of the city.
The play is a collection of moments. It portrays the suspension of time more than progression or change. In that sense, reading SASM felt like there is a consistent lack of obsession with movement.
About the medium
After reading the play, I started thinking about a similar kind of experience in a different medium of art and I could not help but draw parallels to listening to a rendition of a raag. One might argue that in a Bandish, essentially, what is being said or repeated can be summed up in 4-5 lines but it is the experience of aalaap can be equated to the experience of the looks that the characters share and the attention of bhaav (emotion) which is the idiosyncrasy of a romantic relationship.
‘Vishwa Vidyalaya. This train will not go any further.’
I try to write as a newspaper reviewer
It is not in the contrast of human beings but in the comical dullness of the cityscape.
The only change in characters is influenced by the truth of a moment.
In fact, when the popular discourse of the city enters the play, it upsets the experience of the play. I felt the Pride Parade was silent in the play, it defeated the personal experience of the characters in the context of the story.
How do we get here?
It happens again and again, like a loop.
Most of the time there is nothing like this ...
that I could imagine.
Ending of the play is etched in my memory. Whoever has read the play, watched it, can never forget the ending, I think. It is fragile, human and absolutely palpable.
It beautifully sums up the experience of knowing two people in a relationship moving through time (as almost time moves through them). It is very dramatic. So many stories that show a change in a relationship project it with an attempt to document change but how do you not get into a relationship that will fail, nevertheless. It makes you think about your own personal experiences of love, lack of love, and the hopelessness intertwined with the idea of love.
The play is naturally set in Delhi. But the English carry a natural flow in rhythm and an honest connection with each person and their usage of words. It finds its place especially in the poetic vocabulary of Partho who is an English fictional writer. There is a flavor of Hindi which is native to the tongue of the characters.
MAN 1 hands him a bottle of water.
MAN 2 drinks,
not putting his lips to the mouth of the bottle.
MAN 1 watches.
MAN 2 returns the bottle to MAN 1.
They look at each other.
This play is not based on any conventionally prescribed structure of a tragedy. In that sense, the play is postmodern in approaching a new form for structuring the experience. The structure of the play seems to be like a slice of life movie where our relationship with the characters and of characters with each other is more important than the existence of a narrative.
Still and Still Moving is published on Hakara, a web journal, here.