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Atmakatha
Kulbhushan Kharbanda with Anubha Fatehpuria in Atmakatha. Pictures by Pabitra Das

The downpour on Sunday evening couldn’t dampen the spirits of theatre enthusiasts who trooped into Gyan Manch for the opening night of Atmakatha, presented by Padatik & Rikh Creation in association with t2.

Directed by Vinay Sharma, this Hindi translation of Mahesh Elkunchwar’s Marathi classic starred veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Rajadhyaksha, a lonely 78-year-old nationally acclaimed writer who’s all set to pen his autobiography with the help of Pragya, a young researcher played by Anubha Fatehpuria.

As Pragya starts questioning Rajadhyaksha about his life, what emerges is a warped version of the “truth” that he had immortalised in his celebrated semi-autobiographical novel through his relationships with estranged wife (Chetna Jalan) and sister-in-law (Sanchayita Bhattacharjee).

Each crucial situation was shown from two perspectives, driving home the fact that truth has many faces. So Chetna is hysterical and aggressive in one version, motherly and understanding in another. So is Sanchayita — demure and naive in one, strong and practical in another.

Kharbanda, who returns to the stage after almost two decades, gives a power-house performance as an ageing author whose beliefs are shattered as the play progresses. He oscillates between calm and shaky, philosophical and funny, strong and broken in the blink of an eye. His stage chemistry with Fatehpuria was a treat.

The stark set, designed by Vinay Sharma, effectively echoes the sense of barrenness in the play, with the sound effects adding to the claustrophobic feel. The use of shadow during the scene changes gives an eerie feel, like ghosts hovering over each of the characters.

Atmakatha will be staged at Gyan Manch today from 7pm. Passes will be available at the venue.

Madhurima Chatterjee