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VIRASAT – A SYNOPSIS

Virasat, the Hindi translation of Mahesh Elkunchwar’s Marathi play, “Wade ki


Chirewandi” set in the 70s India, is a depiction of falling feudal families in parts of rural
India. Explicitly narrated through the tale of a Brahmin Deshpande family of a village in
Vidarbha, the story encompasses the social truth of post-independence India, wherein
the zamindari culture or so called aristocracy, which evolved from the British culture
started fading fast, putting these families at the cross-road of confusion of values.

For a very long period, their society, comprising of the village or small town where these
families lived, accepted their supremacy, in social, economic, political or cultural life. No
one within the family, or outside, challenged it. Usually, their grand mansion, or palace,
so distinctly different from the other houses of the village, represented here by the
“wada”, was the symbol of their aristocracy.

The play is about four generations of Deshpande family, who still lives in the “wada”,
which is now decaying physically from outside and degenerating ethically from inside.
The first generation in the play is Dadi, whose wailing for her already dead son Venkatesh
is the opening dialogue of the play. Her son Venkatesh, Tatyaji for his four children, and
Aai, tatyaji’s wife are the representatives of second generation. The four children,
Bhaskar, Sudhir, Chandu and Prabha with their daughters-in-law form the third
generation. Parag, Ranju and Abhay are the fourth-generation members in the play. While
the first two generations have seen the glamour of the feudal days and enjoyed the glory
of the mansion, the next two generations are only hearing about it and are being told to
uphold the so called values and ethics of the crumbling Deshpande family.

The play begins with the knowledge that Tatyaji had died three days ago and the family
is in mourning, though each one in his/her own way. Sudhir, who lives in Mumbai with
his family, is yet to arrive. Bhaskar being the eldest son, has already taken charge of the
mansion. We come to know that Prabha and Tatyaji never talked. Prabha considered her
father an obstacle she had on her way and had nothing else remained in her hand but
repentance.

Arrival of Sudhir and his wife Anjali brings out the suspicion in the mind of Bhaskar about
his brother’s social & economic status in Mumbai, while the others in the family welcome
them warmly. The warmth between Sudhir and his spoilt nephew Parag is depicted in a
very warm manner. Parag looks for a future beyond this village and he thinks his uncle
can be his saviour, while he is looked down upon by his father Bhaskar.

We see Ranju, the adolescent daughter of Bhaskar, completely in a denial mode with the
traditional ethos of Deshpande family. Ironically, she reads ‘Filmfare’ loudly, to have a
command over English language, apparently advised by his vagabond tutor who is also
dating her.

‘Aai’ displays the selflessness of the women of joint families of her generation and their
ability to face the reality, while at the same time caring for her children. In the moments
of debate over how to handle the expenses for rituals for dead Tatyaji, she takes out her
last savings in order to provide peace to the departed soul of her husband. Though the
Deshpande family is knee deep in loan, they have to feed the entire village, in order to
maintain their prestige, apparently the only thing they are still proud of. Here again, Aai
sold her share of the property to salvage the false prestige.

Chandu is the true ‘progenitor’ of traditional values. He never thinks of himself. Aai knows
him being so straightforward and simple. She cares only about him in the end. Once she
says, “Chandu, all the others will manage. But, what will become of you?”

Dadi is oblivious to the happenings around her; all she does is crying out taking the name
of her son Venkatesh from time to time, ironically, asking him the time. She is just a human
clock which had stopped working and lost itself. Symbolically it shows stopped time of
the mansion & the heritage as well.

Bhaskar, one who is responsible being the head of the family, is busy in snatching other’s
share. He is portraying himself as the troch-bearer of values of the decaying Deshpande
family, but is himself bereft of all values. He steals the family gold from the ‘Dev Ghar”
immediately after the death of his father and expresses his intention of not sharing it with
anyone to his wife.

We witness a very heart-breaking scene where, Bhaskar with his wife is planning to hide
the box containing gold. His wife could not resist her temptation to put on all the gold
ornaments. Seeing this, we witness lust on Bhaskar’s face. In another room, Aai and her
unmarried daughter Prabha are talking, Prabha is requesting her mother to give her the
share of gold and planning her education on the basis of that. In another room, Sudhir and
his wife Anjali are gathering courage to ask for their share in the family gold.

These characters in different rooms are busy with planning their self. All of them have
forgotten about the transitional phase ‘wada’ is passing through. Perhaps, they have
understood the certainty of collapse, so, they are trying to save their self. That very night,
when all of them are discussing the share in family gold, Ranju elopes with her English
tutor leaving them all to repent. Next day, when they woke up, only to know that
everything is been lost and had to forget about the share, and work together to save the
prestige of the ‘wada’.

Sudhir, interestingly emerges as the one, who not only upholds the prestige of the family
by rescuing his niece from a brothel in Mumbai, but at the end requests his elder brother
not to sell the wada. He expresses unequivocally his passion for his roots and promises
to visit it again and again.

In Virasat, we see, the losing battle ‘wada’ fights, is a battle in between the old feudalism
and neo-commercialism/capitalism. Tatyaji, the supreme authority in Deshpande family
had bought a tractor to accept modernization, but, neither could he use it, nor could he
give on rent due to opposition by the outside world and inner as well. That tractor
becomes a symbol of false prestige for the ‘wada’ without any use. Rather, it becomes a
hindrance in the courtyard. Chandu gets severely hurt and Anjali gets her sari torn.

Though, decline of feudalism and joint family culture seems to be the subject of this play
at surface level, it focuses more on inner darkness of the human souls. In the play, the
playwright only tells the truth through the dialogues. He neither discusses nor suggests,
through any character or technique a remedy for the problem. His is a role of a historian-
telling ‘things happened in these ways’; thus, bringing the reality in front of our eyes.