A lockdown has been announced and Amar is among a faceless crowd who set out from Mumbai on foot to his village in Uttar Pradesh – a distance of more than 1,300 km – in the hope of meeting his children and his wife.
Two brothers from Rajasthan, who worked in a dhaba in Mumbai which is now closed due to the pandemic, also want to return home, but their mother is specially disabled and unable to walk.
These are two stories by Chirag Kandelawal and Arvind Charan and are part of a play called “Hunkaro” staged for the first time in Pune.
In Marwari, with dialects of Hindi and Punjabi, the play will take place at The Box on March 19 at 5 p.m. Amid the second anniversary of the pandemic, Hunkaro focuses on the critical factor that everyone clung to as the disease raged – hope.
The basic story of Hunkaro is that of the eminent writer Vijaydan Dehta. Aasha Amar Dhan, which revolves around two children, who have been abandoned in an empty house by their father and stepmother. All the siblings have to support themselves is a little food and a promise.
“Which is deeper, the ocean or hope? What is more powerful, the wind or hope? What shines brighter, the sun or hope? asks Hunkaro manager Mohit Takalkar, citing Dehta’s closing remarks in the story.
According to a press release from the theater troupe Ujaagar, “The piece was imagined just after the second wave of Covid. There was an urgent call within the theater company to come on stage and build a performance that reflected what the world had endured.
Takalkar spent the start of the pandemic – when his restaurant was closed and his theater work stopped – reading, listening to music and watching OTT productions confined to his home.
“Around me, I saw heartbreaking events unfold. During the second wave, I realized that if people had survived this far, it was only because of hope. Even dreams had died during the pandemic, but the hope was alive that we will be able to dream again, so it was a very strange phenomenon,” he says.
In September 2020, he made an online play, titled The color of losswhich was about grief and coping.
As actors appeared in display cases for a laptop viewing of the play, Takalkar’s challenge was to break down barriers and create intimacy by making it seem like they were looking at and talking to each other. With Hunkaro, he does the opposite.
Although the show is live and the six actors are seated together, they barely look at each other. It’s as if they were confined to different spaces and only told their parts of stories. Musician Manganiyar Hakeem Saab’s music also includes lyrics so the audience can absorb the bhav without the accompaniment of instruments.
The title of the piece is taken from the realization that the confinements had reduced our attention span and our ability to listen.
“Hunkaro literally means a verbal affirmation, a response from the listener to the storyteller that they are listening to, understanding and traveling with the story. Since confinement, there has been an insatiable hunger to consume visuals and noise that leaves very little room for listening. If there is no listening, Hunkaro cannot exist. Are we ready to listen? They say that listening is an art… Does this too lose its beauty and its necessity? request the declaration of Ujaagar.