Sakharam Goes to Columbia

Columbia Stages, a theatre producing wing of Columbia University, to stage Vijay Tendulkar's iconic play, Sakharam Binder.

Sakharam has everything figured out, or so he thinks. The bookbinder gives shelter to women who have been rejected by other men, provides these cast-off wives and lovers with a home and then proceeds to use them as sexual partners. It's a "democratic" deal the women are free to leave when they want but, as long as they are under his roof, they are slaves to Sakharam's tyranny.

Vijay Tendulkar's play Sakharam Binder, with its complex layers of morals and sexuality, was created 40 years ago and remains one of the milestones of contemporary Indian theatre. Now, Columbia Stages, the theatre producing arm of Columbia University's School of Arts in New York, is set to stage an adaptation of the play. Director Nikhil Mehta says, "Sakharam Binder is a story about the razor thin line between compassion and cruelty, between love and violence; about a man who enacts at home the control he cannot have in the outside world; and about women, who, against all odds, never cease to demand what is theirs." The play will open on March 27.

"I believe this story has never been more imperative than it is right now, in the aftermath of attempts at radical uprisings around the world, from West Asia to the Occupy Movement. Tendulkar's characters reveal with stunning clarity both the expanse of what human beings are able to endure, and the ferocity with which we fight for a better life," adds Mehta, who is training in direction at Columbia University.

The Columbia Stages adaptation, almost two-hour-long, is "set here and now. It is most important that the audience in New York is able to hear the text that so loudly resonates today," says the director. Interestingly, none of the actors or designers are Indian or were familiar with Tendulkar's work before they began the play.

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