Kafka Ek Adhyaay: A Review

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 PMNov (Letter, Literature, Slice Of Life, Theater)

“Nothing alive can be calculated,” wrote Franz Kafka, in his lengthy letter to his father, almost trying to say things can be understood in complete only after the life cycle is completed. Things cannot be grasped in total while the full stop has not been put, believed Kafka.

Understanding Kafka, in total, could have been difficult while he was alive. But after him, through his letters, diaries, short stories and novels, one can try and understand Kafka better. One such attempt to understand the mind of one of the finest writers of the world- Franz Kafka- through theatre was attempted by the National School of Drama Repertory Company. FRANZ KAFKA- EK ADHYAAY, was staged in the Sammukh auditorium of NSD on the 18, 19 and 20 of September.

The play begins when Felica comes to meet Kafka in the sanatorium where he is admitted for his treatment for T.B. Felica is made to wait outside the room while Kafka is vomiting blood in the bathroom. Life flashes before the eyes of Kafka during this last moment of his life and thus unfolds the story of Kafka before the audience.

A bunch of couples are dancing on the stage as Kafka and Felisia enter the stage. They too join the group and dance but suddenly he moves to the side and sits melancholically. Noticing Kafka in the corner Felisia brings him back to the dance stage but after a while he again moves to the corner. Dimly lit stage casting long shadows during the dance sets the ball rolling for the play which speaks about the conflict inside Kafka of wanting to be with the world and yet not being able to.

“Yeh Andar Ka Barf Pighalta Hi Nahi,” (The ice within me doesn’t melt) screams Kafka once while speaking to Felisia between the dance. In a later stage of the play Kafka is told by his sister Otla that writing is the best way for ventilation, when she is told by Kafka that he is trying to escape from his own shadows. And the writings of Kafka can me seen as the melted drop of that ice which Kafka believed was not melting.

These writings, says Kafka in the play, are those voices which he wanted his father to listen to. “Main wahi kehta hun jo unke seene se chipak ke keh nahi paaya,” (I say those things which I could not tell my dad holding his hand), says Kafka to Otla. Kafka’s life was a kind of interaction with his father, with whom he did share a fractured relationship. The fractured relationship, the hesitation and fear of Kafka before his father and the not-so-smooth behavior of his father Herman Kafka unfolds in the conversations between the father and the son. They play also throws light on the helplessness and bleeding heart of Kafka’s mother Jile, who is caught between the father and the son.

But Kafka’s views and writings were not just ventilation for his personal traumas. The political side of Kafka unfolds before the audience in the scene where Gustav, a friend of Kafka, visits Kafka and discusses matters of art, literature, drama, poetry and politics. When Gustav informs about incidents where the larger politics has been affecting ordinary people, it pains Kafka and longs for aloofness, asking Gustav to leave him alone. This again is a mirror to the Kafka who was connected to the world but yet was trying to escape from the world and still trying to fight it.

Speaking of his sketches to Gustav, Kafka in the play says, “Yeh sketches mere andar ke bhaav hai. Yeh andhere se nikaltey hai aur andhere mein samaa jaatey hai.” (These sketches are expression of my inner feelings. They emerge from darkness and get dissolved in darkness) .The play comes to an end when Kafka’s life dissolves in the darkness of death. But it is the same sketches and writings of Kafka which he refers to as “emerged from the dark” which today throws light into the inner world of Kafka.

Once Kafka wrote to Otla, “I write differently from the way I speak, I speak differently from the way I think, I think differently from the way I should think- and so it goes on into the darkest depths of infinity.” These words reflect the complexity of the mind of Kafka and the play is an attempt to throw light at this complexity and also to understand it, by exploring different sides of his mind through different relationships.

“The more I read about him… my interest was growing more in his own life history than his literary works,” says the director of the play Suresh Sharma. Any reader of Kafka would have the same curiosity to know more about the history of Kafka and the play does give some insights into the life of Kafka which shaped his views and thoughts. But this play which is an exploration into the world of Kafka might not interest those who have not read Kafka’s creative writings. But it would certainly inspire them to read Kafka’s creative writings.

The play of light and shadow designed by Southi Chakraborty, music by Kajal Gosh add depth to the agony and ecstasies of Kafka in the play penned by Asif Ali.

21 September 2009

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