Marriage dramaKatha Ghera’s latest adapted play reflects modern marriages and family dynamics in Nepal
A couple enter the third decade of marriage even as their eldest daughter finds herself trapped in a failing one. The son doesn’t want to be hitched, while the youngest daughter is enthusiastic about her upcoming arranged marriage.
On the stage of Kausi Theatre this is a microcosm of marriages in contemporary Nepal, acted out in a two-hour play.
Bidushi (Ranjana Bhattarai), the youngest daughter of Rukmani (Loonibha Tuladhar) and Krishna Koirala (Aashant Sharma), is getting married to a man based in the US, a person she has never seen before.
The family has come together for the wedding, with Hema (Kenipa Singh Pahari) making the trip from Australia to be part of the celebration. Her husband, still in Australia, is not in touch with her.
Amid wedding preparations, their sibling Rohit (Sudam Ck) tries to reconcile his own relationship with his girlfriend to the other marriage proposals coming his way. Meanwhile, Rukmani and Krishna’s own 30-year marriage is tainted by Krishna’s past abuse of his wife.
There is added tension in the home because of the strained relationship between Rukmani and Kusum Didi, the Koiralas’ housekeeper.
Wedding Album is directed by Katha Ghera co-founder Akanchha Karki, who also adapted the play into Nepali from Indian actor and dramatist Girish Karnad’s 2011 play originally written in Kannada, which Karnad translated into English himself.
Against the backdrop of the various conjugal conflicts, director Karki gets the cast to tackle issues including mental health, misogyny, domestic abuse, sexual violence, self-worth, and the female psyche.
As individual stories and hidden truths of each of the family members unfold, Karki weaves these issues through their interaction with each other—showing how each personality constantly contradict itself.
For instance, Bidushi is headstrong, outspoken, progressive, sexually liberated. She confronts men who sexually assault her in a cafe. Yet she is ready to be married off to someone she has never met. She is unable to understand why her sister is in an unhappy marriage.
Hema lives with her family in Australia but is not more tolerant. She still disapproves of her brother’s Christian girlfriend. She is aware, but silent about her father’s abuse of her mother. Even as she tells her sister that it is okay to leave the relationship if she is not happy with her soon-to-be partner, she struggles to comprehend that she could leave her own crumbling marriage.
Middle child Rohit plays the ideal, responsible, long-suffering son fending off unwanted marriage proposals. But his personality is transformed once out of the home. He also agrees that his sister Bidushi should leave her husband if the relationship breaks down, but mistreats his own girlfriend.
The Koiralas are educated and ‘liberal’, but still willing to marry off their daughter to someone they have not met before. They are not impervious to the inherent wastefulness and spectacle of extravagant South Asian weddings meant to show off wealth, rather than a contained celebration of love.
The strength of the play lies in its cast. LoonibhaTuladhar and Ashanta Sharma are brilliant as Rukmani and Krishna, while Kenipa Singh, Sudam Ck, and RanjanaBhattarai hold their own as the three siblings. The supporting cast is solid, if a bit melodramtic at times.
The clever staging and set design enhance the production. Director Karki does not employ unnecessary movement just for the sake of covering the entire stage. A particularly poignant scene sees Rukmani and Krishna at opposite ends of the stage, their anger palpable. Meanwhile, props and music have been used sparingly.
As the end of the play approaches, there are a lot of loose ends in the stories of the siblings and parents. Perhaps as in life itself.
Wedding Album will play at Kausi Theatre in Teku until 14 October.