Theatre Review: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Niranjan Pedanekar


Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, with Shubhankar Ekbote and others. Pune Nattyasattak 2018.

A cage made up of a rope, a soldiers parapet made of boxes, American soldiers running their accent on the walkie-talkies; the Gulf War is on.

The American accent of the soldiers pierces the stage with a reckless boldness; it strikes you point blank. The blue lights add to the mellowness of the after-math of one of the most brutal air strikes in the history of the world: the Gulf War. Is the accent more out of place than their weapons-and-military-gear?

The U.S Marines rub their “Policeman of the world” and technology-testing-campaign attitude in the play. An innocent life, a tiger (Shubhankar Ekbote) is trapped in a Baghdad Zoo. It comes from Bengal in India and talks in Bhojpuri and Hindi. The tiger talks and searches the reason for war, which is driving him crazy too; of it's own accord. It rips apart the hand of an American soldier Tom who has come to guard the zoo along with his buddy Kev. "I get so stupid when I get hungry," says the tiger in Hindi. Shubhankar plays one of the most foul mouthed creature, you will meet. Tom finds out that the gun they use is gold plated and wants to get it to sell and start a new life in the States. Kev kills the tiger when it rips Tom and the ghost of the tiger haunts Kev. The tiger is in an existential-questioning journey of it's own, saying "What if my very nature is in direct conflict with the moral code of the universe?" Musa, a military translator will charm you with his Iraqi accent and he helps the soldier find a golden toilet. All the while, remembering his last employer Uday (the tormentor and ghost in the play.) He comes to Musa with a head in his hand.

The placement of the set made sense whether you looked into it horizontally or vertically on top (imagining looking from the top.) Especially the boxes to the right. The play could be executed from the top too , action taking place at height; but that's the choice of the award winning director of the play Niranjan Padenkar. He has taken time to rub the starkness through the mellowness of the lights and the texture.

From left, (Esha Kharbari), Musa , Lev. Pune Nattyasattak 2018.

Other characters in the play are : Iraqi Man, Iraqi Woman, Iraqi Teenager, Leper , Hadia and an Arabic Vocalist.

A brilliant execution, well layered-accomplishment by all actors, scenographic set, a strong script, new texture of lights for the venue, the sound of war let's welcome the wind of Broadway to the city.

Direction, Adaptation and Music: Niranjan Pedanekar

Script: Rajiv Joseph

Cast: Shubhankar Ekbote (Tiger), Ruturaj Shinde (Tiger), Anand Potdukhe (Tom), Nath Purandare (Kev), Indrajit Mopari (Musa), Vikrant Mahalle (Uday), Shivani Sonar (Hadiya), Chaitali Bakshi (small girl), Pratiksha Kote (leper Woman), Esha Karbhari (Woman), Parth Waikar (Man), Akshay Kumar Mande (choreographer), Ritesh Tiwari, Yugandhari Joshi, Apurva Gore, Srishti Deshmukh.

Lights:Sachin Lele,

Set: Nischay Atal

Sound: Abhijeet Iljate

Costumes: Rutuja Gadre

Production:Hitesh Porje and Atmesh Borkar

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