Kusoor – The Mistake – Play by Amol Palekar

We watched a play titled ‘Kusoor’-The Mistake, directed by Actor/Director Amol Palekar. His wife, Sandhya Gokhale, a script writer, adapted this play from the Danish story ‘Den Skyldige’ written by Gustav Moller and Emil.N. Andersen, ‘The Guilty’ in English.

It is a subtle story reflecting the tensions of our times. Amol Palekar, who is most well known for his portrayal of the innocent common man in his films, plays the central character. He is a retired Assistant Police Commissioner facing charges of murder in a skirmish. He is known for taking the law into his own hands following his own biases and assumptions. He is to appear in court the next day and his friend is the sole witness.

On this rainy night he volunteers his service at a police station to respond to emergency calls. As calls come into the police control room, Dandavate issues orders to the police stations in the vicinity of the call to take appropriate action. One call arrests his attention from a lady named Kaveri. She apparently is talking to her son Bunty who is at home, but Dandavate realizes that she is trying to send a message to the police control room. Dandavate notes that she is being driven around by her husband. He tells her to keep talking and answer in short Yes/No to his questions, while he tries to identify their location. He informs the nearest police station to find the red car, but by the time they reach, the car has left the location.

On the phone her husband is heard telling her to tell Bunty not to enter the bedroom. The child is crying and asking his mother to come back. Dandavate gets the number of the landline at home and calls the boy, who apparently is terrified as his father has dragged his mother away. He feels she will not come home again. Dandavate asks his friend to go to the house along with some police women and check out the situation. He coaxes Bunty to enter the bedroom, but the boy is terrified and reluctant as his father has strictly forbidden him. Bunty has a sister named Hasina who apparently is in the bedroom.

Bunty finally enters the bedroom and comes across a horrific sight. The police and his friend arrive and take charge of the boy. The friend describes the horrific scene where the little girl has been torn apart. Dandavate puts two and two together and assumes the husband has killed the child and is now on his way to kill the mother. The communal angle to the story is revealed when it is noted that the husband is called Sarfaroz.

Dandavate calls Kaveri to find she is locked in the car and the husband has left. She is terrified. Dandavate asks her to look around the car and find a weapon. She finds a stick and readies to defend herself. Kaveri is distraught and begins to tell Dandavate that her baby Haseena was suffering from huge worms inside her stomach and to ease her discomfort Kaveri tore her apart. Dandavate is shocked and understands that he has again misunderstood the situation in his haste to come to a conclusion as in the case of the murder he is charged with.

He asks his friend to speak to Kaveri’s neighbours and discovers that Sarfaroz is a gentleman. His wife was suffering from postpartum depression and Sarfaroz was seeking psychiatric help. She had twice been admitted to the asylum and escaped from there with dire consequences.

The play is a subtle portrayal of the prejudices that the society carries against a particular community. When Dandavate realizes his mistake he calls Sarfaroz and asks him why he did not tell him the truth in the first place. Sarfaroz responds ‘And would you or the police have believed me?’ My heart froze at this response.

As the play closes Dandavate comments, ‘I am indebted to this night. Good intentions alone don’t absolve us of our sins. Thank you Kaveri for helping me realize this’.

Amol Palekar and Sandhya Gokhale came off as socially concerned human beings in the discussion session after the play. He clearly stated that actors and artists are not just entertainers. Their work necessarily carries a message to society. In these times of turmoil it is heartening to see such committed artists.

Amol Palekar and Sandhya Gokhale in conversation with the audience

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