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  • Laya Kumar

I Killed My Mother/ It Wasn't My Fault

About the reviewer: An avid reader and an occasional writer, Laya Kumar, originally from Coimbatore, is currently a student at Drama School Mumbai.

Review: I Killed My Mother/ It Wasn't My Fault Written & Directed by: Mallika Shah Produced By: tafreehwale (supported by Bhasha Centre and Paytm Insider through their Manch initiative) Venue: Godrej Dance Theatre NCPA Date: 16 March 2024

“This play is exactly what I needed,” I told a friend as soon as we walked out of the Godrej Dance Theatre at the NCPA. She vehemently agreed. Now, with the luxury of distance, I find myself asking why. 

In her debut play as a writer and director, Mallika Shah brings the story of a city bred, twenty something year old woman to life. It’s not often that we see the lives of this particular demographic on stage - one that seldom has the space to distinguish between their digital lives and their lives, irl. This is a generation that wants to be seen, because somewhere, like every generation that came before us, and all that will come after, we feel like we have got this right. Shah reminds us with humour that we have our own brand of messing up through the protagonist - an unreasonable, spoilt, and at many points, unlikeable woman, but you know deep down, that in more ways than one, you are her. 

I Killed My Mother/It Wasn't My Fault is a day in the life of a woman who lives with her parents and barely manoeuvres the many things adulting throws at her. The play opens to the protagonist and the many voices in her head, arguing with each other about why she has to get out of bed. The scene then cuts to a series of text messages she’s received from a colleague for missing a meeting. Right from the get go, the phone, the world of social media and the internet, become an integral part of the story. As the protagonist scrolls through her Instagram feed, her thoughts flit between her own life and what is happening in the world at large. She thinks about how she isn’t making enough of a difference while acknowledging that there is only so much that one can do.

These internal voices are written in a style reminiscent of stream of consciousness which Shah brings to life using an ensemble. Each actor plays a very specific emotion. This works well for the piece as we see the protagonist wrestle with her own thoughts and what each voice does to the character feels more visceral. It also heightens the brief moments in the play when we zoom out of her mind and focus on the interactions she has with other people.

The craft displayed by the ensemble is quite incredible, the commitment every actor brings to their role is truly enjoyable to watch. I also remember thinking as I walked out that this play could also be staged very differently and it would work just as well. This is a testament to Shah’s calibre as both a writer and director.

The play’s greatest strength though, is that nothing is black and white. It operates in the murky grey, where there are no easy answers, no easy questions. It reminds us of the constant negotiating one has to do with the world, and how lonely this can be. How does constantly looking at content that is meant to trigger, to divide, affect our ability to go about the mundane? How do we stand out, when we try with everything we have to fit in? When is our rage at the world, when is it at ourselves - can we really differentiate between the two? 

When all this overwhelms you and you find yourself in a room of about a hundred people laughing together, you realise that you’re not alone. It reminds you that what is serious can also be frivolous. And for some time after the play, you are okay to seek refuge in the messiness that comes with this negotiation of where you end and where the world begins. 

After the play, I did wonder - what might the response of someone who cannot identify with the protagonist, in terms of age and socio economic background be? I remember making a mental note to bring my mother along the next time. 

To me, this play will always be special for how it captures the fractures of my demographic with verve, and despite the ferocity in the title, with sensitivity. I have never felt so comfortable being called out, and I would gladly watch this ensemble of actors do it again, and again. I hope you do too, the next time it plays. I have told you - now, if you miss it, it will not be my fault.

Cast Shreya Sharma, Astha Gulati, Anoushka Zaveri, Dusha, Shumaila Shaikh, Vaibhav Kapatia Crew Writer, Director, Sound Operator: Mallika Shah Producer, Projections Operator: Meghana AT Light Designer and Operator: Amogh Phadake Backstage Support: Gargi Ajay Upadhyay Music and Sound Design: Manish Khushalani Visual Design: Malvika Dwivedi

They have shows coming up soon! 11th May 2024 at the G5A Warehouse, 6.30 PM and 8.30 PM. To know more check out their website.

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