The serendipity of life never fails to amaze. Mahesh Dattani, India’s most original and searing playwright was attending His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings over the weekend in Delhi. I cornered him for an interview.
Mahesh’s plays are gut-wrenching, tortured, tough to handle. He is not. Mahesh is gentle but feels like an open wound. Why? Because he seems so exposed to our world’s ugliest side, yet his plays do have a tender note. You are left feeling raw. But we get only 90 minutes of the play. Imagine feeling like that all the time.
The subjects he chooses are often the subterranean cruelties in our ethos that we inflict on each other. Communities killing each other with the nonchalance of the ‘banality of evil’; parents loving a son so much more than the daughter which ends in her death; conflicting feelings of rage and confusion of a girl about her uncle’s incestuous relationship with her; the beauty and the pain of a hijra; conflicts between generations; the multi-dimensional facets of being gay in India – are all part of his landscape.
Mahesh’s plays do not make you feel good. They take you to a place where you question your own attitudes and perceptions, which may be embedded in your subconscious, but none the less, influence how you function in your daily life. Would you believe that is also the alerted consciousness of three days of teachings from the Dalai Lama? Every word you utter, every act that may seem so casual and unthinking to you, must be thought through, weighed and then expressed or acted on (or not). Mahesh’s plays give the same message using a different tool. The difference is – the Dalai Lama uses altruism and compassion to change the world. Mahesh’s plays expose the raw, hideous side. But both make you think and work on yourself to change.