The Fourth Wall, the dramatics society of IIT, Bhubaneswar, on the 13th of September 2015, performed a skit in the institute auditorium titled: MAUT KA KHAT or THE LETTER OF DEATH.
The story starts with a voice, somber, steady, announcing the weather of the day. A seemingly not so important news of salvage of a dead body by the police in the nearby forest under suspicious conditions follows. The news went on….
The fact that a letter has been found attached to the body was never revealed to the public, not a suicide note, but a letter of death. And the ominous piece of paper, blood smeared and tragic, explicitly heralded the death of two more women in the mansion situated in the near proximity of the spot of this horrific scene.
A Hindi professor, who conceals a dagger in the name of self-defense. A young, boisterous wildlife photographer who shoots wildlife in the dark of the night. A lonely mother with a psycho son. A government officer whose vehicle fails while going past the mansion. These are the guests at the mansion. Added to this is the fact that the owner of the mansion comes home in the dead of the night, the night of the murder, to be faced by a lovely, angry wife who goes to the verge of unconsciousness on noticing the blood stain on his pristine white dress. The killer has to be one of them. But who is it? What might be the motive? Why take the life of an innocent woman and then dump the corpse unceremoniously and quite inconspicuously, out in the forest? What purpose does the letter serve: is the killer a professional who thinks he can dodge the police? Or is it a she: even a woman could be the assassin. And in the midst of all this, the wife of the owner is shot dead, in the head, just after the police interviewed all the characters under suspicion.
Although mystery and horror dominated the play, comic elements were well placed. The ever silent sweeper, observing everything with an uninterested keenness and a bald head to accentuate his seriousness, would definitely have thrown you into fits of laughter.
As the story progressed, with each character playing their role quite efficiently, the intermittent seconds of light and dark being played on the stage and the background music heightening the intensity and intrigue, it morphed seamlessly into the silence that was registered on the faces of the spectators.
Every character presented was shrouded in a light mist of suspicion and one thing was guaranteed- right from the beginning, until the very end of the play, it kept every spectator on the edge of his seat.
Needless to say, it was a brilliant piece of work with some minor flaws in the flow which did nothing to bring down the excitement or the adrenaline. Many sequences were unnecessary while the one act at the very end where the sweeper attaches a letter of death to the dead body of a woman left the spectators with as much confusion as exasperation. But if you didn’t watch the play, you definitely missed a lot (don’t worry, the video shall be uploaded soon).
Nonetheless, the whole play was brilliantly directed and the characters were quite appealing. Special mention can be made of Shobhit Dutta and Ashwin Chaturvedi, both playing the role of a mentally arrested boy, in childhood and in teenage respectively. But the main attraction, as was realized at the end, was the role played by Anshul Mundra, the sweeper. He swept the whole evening in his name even without uttering a single word. He was literally silent throughout the play.
The only regret of the evening may be the vacant seats at the back of the auditorium. To this end , on everyone’s behalf, a sincere request to the concerned authorities to speed up the process of making necessary arrangements in the community hall at Argul campus to make it soundproof and suitable for conducting such plays.