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Monday, December 16, 2019

Life of a cop

An upcoming murder mystery for the stage, 36 Defence Colony, attempts to highlight the often unseen side of Indian police officers

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay | Updated: August 30, 2019 8:43:50 am
A scene from the play 36, Defence Colony A scene from the play 36, Defence Colony

A grave crime has been committed at the palatial mansion number 36, Defence Colony, Delhi, where the matriarch of the Deewan family, Savitri Deewan, has been murdered. The culprit has left the lights switched off — quite unusual for someone who slept with her night lights turned on.

Police officer ACP Prakash Ahlawat, son of a Delhi Police constable, is made in charge of the case, as he runs door to door, along with the laid back sub inspector BB Jaakhad, trying to solve the murder mystery. All fingers point towards the spouse of Savitri’s daughter Nishtha Deewan, the rich and spoilt Samrat, who had been in constant fights with his mother-in-law over property.

But amid jokes of Jaakhad, of his wife’s fascination with methi ke paranthe, and reminiscing about fellow constable Ram from Chandni Chowk, who is admitted at AIIMS for lung cancer, the play 36 Defence Colony reveals that there is more than what meets the eye.

Written and directed by actor and writer Manil Mayank Mishra, the play follows the journey of Ahlawat (essayed by Mishra), as he snakes his way through clues of the case, amid pressure from the much respected politician Jai Vardhan Singhania (Girish Jain).

Having essayed the role of a journalist on the big screen in No One Killed Jessica, Talwar and Fitoor and the latest entrant in Savdhaan India, Mishra’s aim was simple: to show how a police officer is simply performing his duty for the welfare of the people. The inspiration lay closer home, starting with Mishra’s father, RC Mishra, a retired jail superintendent from the UP cadre, who was once in charge of the captivity of hardened terrorists in jails.

On returning with a production after 2015, Mishra points out how there are constant allegations against police officers and how they take advantage of their uniform. Mishra says, “Citizens post videos alleging injustice in treatment.

We are presenting the perspective of these officers who are just ordinary people, against whom injustices happen too. If one goes deep, the officer is simply performing his duty. I have spoken to my father’s friends and other Delhi police officers for the play, and they reveal the pain and agony they go through.”

Mishra, however, does acknowledge the presence of police officers who do take undue advantage of their uniform. Ahlawat is constantly on his toes, trying to uncover the face of the culprit, as he oscillates between the Deewan household and the police station.

“Most hindi films, especially from the ’90s, have shown how police officers can beat up gundas, and how they jump from the 36th floor, unharmed, as can be seen in Mithun Chakraborty and Amitabh Bachchan’s films. Only one inspector solves all the cases in the city, and directly confronts the don. That is not the reality. Many people are involved,” says Mishra, 35.

With a rather unexpected ending and showing the manner in which the cops obtain information from criminals in jails, the play draws attention to how the officers have no fixed working hours, and can be called at any odd hour. “Maine poori zindagi khakhi dekhi hai. I have seen my father return from work at 3 am, only to be called back for duty once he was home. My mother was used to his irregular schedule,” says Mishra.

The play will be staged at Vasuki auditorium, Lok Kala Manch, Lodhi Road, on September 1, 7 pm. Tickets priced at
Rs 350 and available on Bookmyshow

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