Though these are films on two very different themes, the film Island City reminded me more than once of Party, Govind Nihalani’s brilliant adaptation of Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play which explores the role of the writer as artist and activist in a shallow, self-serving society. Both films constantly make the viewer pause to think and reflect on the questions raised by the premise.
Island City is a thought-provoking exploration of urban loneliness, conveyed through three loosely interconnected stories. The corporate employee in an Orwellian setup who is desensitised to obey any instruction unquestioningly, the suppressed housewife who chooses the lead character in a schmaltzy television soap over the tyrannical man of the house, and the blue collar worker who finds love in an unexpected place which proceeds to render her life bleaker than before, come from very different backgrounds, but their lives are equally affected by the impersonal hollowness of life in a city. Though the stories are set in Mumbai, these are universal tales of present times which could have played out in any city in the world. The boundaries between fiction and reality, as well as technology and human emotions, blur and eventually dissolve at the end of each story, leaving the viewers with a paradox: despite the images of absurdism and black humour, the film comes across as more real than surreal, reemphasising that we now live in a post-postmodern world.
I had to read The Visit and A Raisin in The Sun for the same drama class. Though these are two very different plays in all other aspects, Langston Hughes’ poem that inspired the latter’s title can also be thought of as constituting the former’s premise. Claire Zachanassian’s eventful visit to the impoverished town of Guellen is about the betrayal of love which then turns into a festering, toxic hate that drains her of humanity as she pursues and extracts her terrible revenge from the judge who declared her a fallen woman, the false witnesses who claimed to have fathered her child, the lover who disowned her for pecuniary gain and above all from the society which passively watched as her life was ruined.
Despite the darkness of the premise, the play reads smoothly, almost like a fable, with dialogue that evokes questions on ethics and morality interspersed with light comic relief. Dürrenmatt implies the inevitable fallibility of human greed through the fall of the townspeople, which triumphs even the voice of morality and reason in the character of the schoolmaster. A play that leaves the viewer with plenty to think and reflect on the nature of society, the concept of morality, and the ultimate meaning of good and evil.