The Amazing Socrates by Rangamandala Amdavad

‘ Kashuk Bhaali Gayelo Maanas – Socrates’: A Must Watch!

Truth is the metaphysical dimension of reality. Its realization is possible not through the means of the material world but through the means of unraveling the conscience that lies clandestine beneath our own self. The performance that unfolds the fact that transcending the evident evanescent reality through the means of self-introspection one can arrive at the eternal truth is Ahmedabad Rangamandala Theatre’s finest classic presentation: Kashuk Bhali Gayelo Maanas: Socrates by The renowned theatre director Rajoo Barot and his team of Ahmedabad Theatre Group.

For me, and I’m sure for many others, the name Socrates stands for the great philosopher of Athens who is as much well-known for his indomitable wisdom as is for his cantankerous wife xanthiappe. There was a story that was often told to us during college years about Socrates. The philosopher had an extraordinary tolerance power and happened to remain unperturbed by worldly concerns so much that once, his wife xanthiappe literally threw a bucket full of water on him when her constant nagging and cavil failed to arouse his attention towards her. The erudite man did nothing but simply commented at his wife’s impetuous and annoying act, “ After thunder come the rains”. I’m afraid, what I saw yesterday(Ahmedabad Tagore Hall 26/10/2014) was a distinct perspective of this philosopher which enlightens us regarding his importance in the world history. The play happens to illumine that Socrates was not simply another thinker but he was revered for his foresightedness that according to the Greek god Apollo, surpassed even those of the actual clairvoyants of the gods. The divine prophesy teller appeared to take Socrates’ advice and what was so special about his philosophy is the cynosure of Rangamandala’s performance which opens up a novel aspect about this ancient scholar. The play not only portrays Socrates’ exceptional sagacity to comprehend facts beyond ordinary perception, but also highlights his extremely non-committal mode of signifying the truth latent in the apparent reality around him. This I think is essentially unique about Rangamandala’s presentation of this play. We see how Socrates’ powerful instinct enables him to sense the impending incidents and we also know the reason that he is able to identify what others cannot. Truth is within us, only we try to deliberately avoid it because we are bedaubed in material reality. For me, Socrates in the play is the paradigm of the inner conscience which perpetually hovers around every human being trying to intermittently guide him about the way life should be lived- free of all prejudice, emancipated of all selfishness that provokes us towards embracing evil.

Pride, jealousy, hatred, anger, egoism etc are the vices that limit our pace and lead us to commit sins – those that cannot be amended, those that cannot be cured, those that cannot be destroyed only because we are adamant that we don’t wish to destroy them. Socrates’ constant attempt of engendering this realization among his people is indeed commendably portrayed in the play which makes this character indelible. He is a redeemer, a medium of bringing about change- progressive change in the world which is necessary. This ancient tale becomes pertinent to the present-day as the play focuses on not simply glorifying Socrates’ wisdom but it successfully attempts to bring out the contemporary relevance in this philosopher’s constant references to his people about sacrificing their personal concerns and aiming towards the higher realization of truth which is beyond all material preferences. He questions “Democracy” not to object it but to bring to light the fact that every individual’s right to vote cannot guarantee a successful nation until personal prejudice/selfishness is countered. This is proved as reality becomes more and more conjectural and devoid of truth as self-centered attitude governs human decisions. The play shows it most convincingly at every step. It becomes easy to manipulate reality and that’s what happens when a cook who complaints against the woman (prostitute) is driven by avarice and therefore can be easily provoked to change his statements. Similarly, apparent reality can be illusive is evident from the manner in which the prostitute most successfully defies
stereotyping or categorizing woman into good or bad as per the social codes. A battle is waged against another nation not because it is the reality but only because ego becomes insurmountable. Socrates urges to see beyond what is visible to the eyes; to traverse the empirical world and arrive at the transcendental facet of reality i.e. truth but it is visible only when the human being resorts to a self-imposed abnegation of hubris; of pride that impairs the caliber to identify the right and the wrong. Thus, humans are perennially engulfed in the labyrinth of worldly existence that confuses with its umpteen choices. Life gives us many options is true but it has no answer as to which path is conducive for us. This existential dilemma is expressed in the play through the political situation which demands choosing between Democracy and Autocracy and the extreme difficulty to ‘choose’ is evident. Only Socrates knows the answer but he is also in no position to explain to others what is right and what is wrong. He can philosophize but not ‘impose’. The play has most rationally proved that the greatness of a great man lies in his self-effacing attitude and not in the flamboyant display of his greatness. This primeval story of the Great philosopher of Athens does not appear alien to anyone who sees it because the message is timeless- Therefore, even when we have Gujarati enactment of the play with Gujarati actors speaking dialogues in Gujarati, we willingly suspend our disbelief and welcome this acting troupe Rangamandala in front of us to present the life of Socrates – the Athenian philosopher in the contemporary times.

I would not comment at all on set-design and costumes, because for me when a play is presented by actors who know their craft well, all these things hardly assume importance. However, the play does have the grandeur of an epic theatre I must say with the Chorus that embodies the Chorus of Greek tragedies. I feel the play is a must watch and proves that theatre is not just meant for amassing money and spreading glamour, it is a means of human enlightenment.

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