Hopefully, Ulka Mayur will be able to hone I,Cloud into a more provocative piece of work; it has the right spirit, writes Deepa Gahlot
In a world tipping into an Orwellian nightmare – in his masterpiece, 1984, the writer imagined a dystopian society controlled by a totalitarian Party– Ulka Puri has written and directed a play called I,Cloud that combines the bleakness of 1984 with the romance of Kalidas’s Meghdoot.
Aksh (Mayur Puri), a man in an orange US prison jumpsuit, is in an individual containment unit (ICU), a fancier term for a prison cell, where, from time to time a disembodied voice issues orders over a public address system. He used to be a ‘like generator’ for the party’s social media handles, and landed in prison over a small lapse in timing — the party is controlled by the all-powerful Qber.
He is blindly loyal to the party, to the extent of marrying a woman chosen for him. The regimented existence of the ICU is disrupted when Kavya (Shashaa Tirupati) enters the cell, mysteriously dodging prison security. She sings, reminds him of poetry and gives him a book of poems written by his father. Aksh does not remember his parents, since he was taken away as a child and indoctrinated into the Party’s ideology.
After Kavya has fired up his brain, a Cloud (Ulka Mayur), speaking in Mumbai tapori lingo (“aa rayela hai apun”) arrives, to give him a letter written by his mother, thirty years ago. Aksh realises that this virtual cloud might able to help him take the revolutionary power of poetry (written by Mayur Puri) to his daughter, who will otherwise grow up in a rigid, thought-controlled society.
The play is clever and humorous, trying to communicate the dangers of social media being hijacked to spread political propaganda, but in its staging, it remains somewhat amateurish. Also, it is clearly not meant for a large auditorium. It’s the kind of play, which, if performed in a small, intimate space, would enable discussion and debate about the toxicity of social media, and the disturbing trend of the powers-that-be trying to control the lives and thoughts of citizens in so many supposedly democratic nations in the world.
Mayur Puri is a well-known screenwriter and lyricist, it is interesting that he uses theatre as a medium to share ideas that may not have been possible in cinema. Hopefully, Ulka Mayur will be able to hone I,Cloud into a more provocative piece of work; it has the right spirit.
Written & Directed by Ulka Mayur
Cast: Mayur Puri, Shashaa Tirupati and Ulka Mayur
Rating: Two stars
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.