“When I wrote the first scene of Maa In Transit, I cried,” Makrand Deshpande told tabloid! last week about the play he had written after his mother’s death. It was staged for the first time outside India at Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, on Saturday evening. What he had not told us was that his tears hadn’t dried up, even after almost a year of performing it.
Maa In Transit depicts the desperation of a man who wants to be with his mother just once as he couldn’t meet her before she died, and he’s sure he can find some loopholes — or at least the priest conducting her last rites can — in the religious scriptures, to delay her passage into the other world. Yes, the digs on rituals are quite obvious. While the traditionalist priest tries to convince him that once a body leaves the mortal world, it’s best to let to go of any attachment to the person, it’s his Google-quoting son (the new-age priest who will even conduct prayers over a mobile phone) who finds the actual solution, whereby he does let go.
Alternating between reality (where his mother’s last rites are being performed at the cremation ground) and fantasy (meeting, cooking and eating with his mother on the banks of a mythical river she needs to cross, and travelling to Himalaya to fulfil her deepest desire), Makrand finally understands that it’s not just the mother who is “in transit” between the living and the ethereal world, but that life itself is transitional. (Deshpande retains his name for the character.)
“There are lots of mothers and sons here in the audience today and I represent all of you,” Deshpande told the audience, walking on to the stage after being introduced and interacting with them. “This play belongs to all of us. So let’s start.”
Known for eccentric characters not just on stage but also on the big screen, Deshpande always seems to fit his roles perfectly, and this was no exception. But watching Ahlam Khan Karachiwala, Tarun Kumar and Anjum Sharma play the mother, the priest and the priest’s son, respectively, for the first time was a treat. Karachiwala, daughter of late Bollywood actor Amjad Khan (who played the iconic Gabbar Singh in Sholay) wowed the audience with the bird and animal sounds she did to depict the mother passing through her various births.
The poignant climax probably had a few teary eyes in the audience as both son and mother break into tears (definitely natural for Deshpande, as he had not left the stage) before finally saying goodbye.
It’s a shame that it was a single performance for Maa In Transit in Dubai. But Deshpande promised to return soon with another of his abstract theatrical presentations.