Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

“Who’s afraid of living life without false illusions?” Edward Albee wrote this when he started his play – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

In fact, it’s the story of a vacuum in the life of a childless couple. It reveals paranoid shape of the deportment of women in fifties in a Sunday midnight party that starts at 2.00 a.m. and ends in a bizarre condition at the next morning sunrise.

Martha, the leading lady (Liz Taylor) in her fifties, saying her husband, ‘I am, George, I am,’ rebutting the title question. Martha keeps repeating, her husband was not sure of being her son’s father throughout and keeps on insulting him in the party time; let’s assume throughout life, the original playwright might be trying to emphasize.

In the party, Martha dressed in transparent blouse and tight slacks, openly tries to seduce Nick complimenting him to be a better teacher than her husband and for his masculinity as a quarterback and boxing champion.

The pathos is pushed back due to the language shattering the ears thence, like Edward Albee’s 1962 play was stuffed with dialogue that included multiple instances of “goddamn” and “son-of-a-bitch”, along with “screw you”, “up yours”, “great nipples”, and “hump the hostess”.

The film and hence the drama was considered groundbreaking for having a level of profanity and sexual implication unheard of at that time. George convinces them to have served them one more round before closing and suggests that having played a game of “Humiliate the Host”, the quartet should now engage in “Hump the Hostess” or “Get the Guests”.

After the party, George tells his wife he cannot stand the way she constantly humiliates him, and she tauntingly accuses him of having married her for just that reason. Martha drives off with Nick and Honey, leaving her husband to walk down. George discovers Honey, Nick’s wife nearly delirious and realizes his wife has taken Nick upstairs. Martha accuses Nick of being sexually inadequate.

George accuses Martha of engaging in destructive and abusive behaviour with the boy, who frequently ran away to escape her sexual advances. George then announces he has received a telegram with bad news – the boy was killed the previous afternoon on a country road, the boy that never was.

Remember, Bhau Padhye, through his novels, was establishing the kind of new slum life coarseness and language phrases around the same time demolishing the then norms of Girgaon hegemony.

It keeps on happening, man, all over the world like the growth of culture taking amazingly similar path at different places on the earth.

With such unusual language and the sharply piercing eyes full of venom of a barren woman or incapability of impotent man the pathos was thrown into an abyss. To add, Elizabeth Taylor, the powerhouse of acting was at the peak of her glamour not caring a whit for a role that demanded 20 years of age and 20 pounds of weight.

What a script writer and a director would wish to have more? The pathos pierces due to such additions, confusion ferments though the mind, and the audience initially has the difficulty to weigh the picture correctly. More so the subconscious mind wakes from the slumber absorbing the tale to last for ever. It’s an evolutionary but enduring process.

That’s what has been attained by the writer and the director, the cruel mix of sorrow and lust.

About the movie the most important but least mentioned is the Oscar for cinematography to Haskell Wexler. It was the last Oscar (1966) in this category for a black and white film.

So appropriate! Colour photography could have destroyed the magic.

It should be noted that Pyaasa’s cinematographer, VK Murthy, had similar opinion about such subjects.

“My God! We’ve got a seven million dollar dirty movie on our hands!” – was a statement by a Warner Brother studio chief while looking at the rough cut without music, as reported by the Life magazine reporter.

It’s more a drama, than a movie, that I couldn’t see. Perhaps Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni, a great drama, movie and art critic might have seen it. However, he has not mentioned it anywhere. He saw more British plays than American.

A Marathi serial Kunkoo’, written by Chinmay Mandlekar and directed by Rakesh Sarang is on an otherwise repetitive and boring Marathi channel devoted to third and fourth rate so called entertainment programmes.

Both have quite a good understanding and grip of script, drama, emotions that are necessary of their jobs. They can be even labelled as the best pair in the field. Chinmay Mandlekar was associated with a play namely Adipashya based on Oedipus as a director.

Rajesh Joshi though he has not written nor directed the play was another associate of Adipashya and knew Sadanand Rege has translated as well as adapted Oedipus as Raja Oedipus and Jayketu respectively, a rare feat in any language to achieve and to know somebody has done it, as well.

A childless couple in the serial though on the second spot is playing havoc in the family drama and another character with a language as vulgar as possible. I’ve found no traces of ‘….Virginia Woolf’ in the writing so far.

I hope Chinmay Mandlekar (script writer) and Rakesh Sarang (director) duo takes a cue. They are no plagiarists, like the rest of the breed, I know. Great works should make a deep impact on such a rare and intelligent species for saving the language and culture-that is not survivable by throwing alms of a crore or a few more rupees, to whatever nonsense available as the pseudo-rulers of today feel.

There were art movies, Chhabildas experimental theatre of eighties; now home theatre of this kind to be explored by such trailblazers.

PS : At the end I’m afraid. The sub-editor of Sakaal, the morninger. In a translated report of PTI news of Liz Taylor’s death he wrote ‘whose’ for ‘who is’ in Marathi/Devnagari script not knowing nor trained to the significance of apostrophe. What a catastrophe!

“Who’s” is “whose” according to him. Is not the head of the headmaster who apparently shows more than a degree on interest in uplifting educational standard in Marathi through literary events and education, responsible for this manifestation of ignorance or moronic mistake? Whereas Samnaa’s sub-editor wrote it in a correct manner, the educationist minded braggers should note.

Madhav Gadkari, the great ex-editor of Loksatta having a Roman warrior like strong face and chin was once having a stroll in his office when a young sub-cub was shuffling through a dictionary. MG asked the cub what word he’s searching for. The reply was – the meaning of Gorbachev! A cause to be afraid of.

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