Unmasking our worlds; Mahesh Dattani's is a voice unafraid to joust with a bleak today. ADITI DE The Hindu Literary Review: Sunday, Aug 07, 2005
What sets Mahesh Dattani apart from other contemporary Indian playwrights in English today? Ever since he first penned "Where There's A Will" in 1986, Dattani has treated each subject with a deep-seated identification rooted in everyday angst. Such charged emotions spare no one — neither the players and the director, nor the audience. Deep within platitude-ridden Indian society, his characters seethe and reveal, probe and discern, scathing their families and neighbours, leaving each reader or watcher with a storm within as the aftermath. An essential storm for our evolution as socially sensitive individuals.
Dattani's plays deal with real scenarios that are tough to turn away from. They are couched in Indian urbanspeak. They shy away from myth and make-believe to tackle reality head-on, no matter what the impact of the collision. They have worked on stage when directed sensitively, or read over BBC, or — somewhat less powerfully — when rendered as cinema. They prove indisputably that Dattani is in sync with millions of urbanites, to whom English is an Indian language. We are his audience, his characters, his source of sustained feedback.
Through the emphasis on adaptations in these 10 plays, we realise why director Pamela Rooks' 2004 screen variant of Dattani's acclaimed stage play, "Dance Like a Man" requires a different ending to work cinematically. This celebration of the Dattani dynamic is worth engaging with as a companion volume to the first collection. His is a voice unafraid to joust with a bleak today. May its integrity remain unimpaired.