Night of January 16th, presented by Naatak company www.naatak.com, of Bay area, is an adaptation of Ayn Rand’s original play, by the same name. Director Ravi Bhatnagar and Producer Alka Sippy has done a brilliant job in staging this challenging murder mistery, with complex plot and challenging twists. And like the original play, Naatak has adapted the twist of seating jurors from the audience on the stage, who at the end, decide the final verdict.
Ravishing Sunaina Karanwal (as Radhika Roy), is accused of murder of her boss and lover, the financier and swindler, Jai Walia. Karanwal gives a brilliant performance as irreverent and straight shooting Roy who maintains her innocence, despite mounting evidence, to the contrary. When asked, how did Walia die on the night of January, 16th, “that”, she says, “is a mystery”, and when asked what Walia did was right or wrong, she says, “with Walia, it is not about right or wrong” but it is about whether “he could or could not”. In few dialogues of this type, we see glimpses of Rand’s philosophy that embodies heroic individualism.
Anubha Prakash, in the role of Pooja Walia (Walia’s wife) who persuaded Walia to marry her with a promise to help him out of his financial mess and Mukund Marathe in the role of her father, Hari Singhania give excellent performance, at first, as victims of Walia’s mistress turned murderess and as the plot thicken, as victimized by Walia’s adultery and reckless disregard for other people’s money. The performance of the judges, Sonia Saini and Aditya Thakur, while driving the trial forward and in grilling a long lineup of witnesses, is fabulous. The performance of many witnesses, Sriram Iyer, Gaurav Baone, Dhanjay Motwani, Surender Singh, Rantija Chakravary, Pratiksha Rao, Sathish Sattanathan, and Ashesh Divetia was both exemplary and at times, funny and kept the play moving along at a good speed.
My disappointment was with the story line. While it tangentially brought out the individuality of the protagonists and their conflict with the socialist, the philosophy of “that which is good for all”, was not explored in any depth. But this was Rand’s first play and her philosophy might not have much developed, at that point. Her philosophy of “Your life, your achievements, your happiness, your person are of paramount importance; Live up to your highest vision of yourself no matter what the circumstances you might encounter;” is clearly evident in the characters of Roy as well as her lover, D’Silva, and particularly in the character Jai Walia, despite his absence on the stage. So how would you render a verdict? Would societal notions of right and wrong have an influence, when you consider the evidence?
Don’t miss the opportunity to see Naatak company’s beautiful adaptation of Ayn Rand’s, “The Night of January 16th”. Buy your tickets at www.naatak.com . And who knows, with some luck, you too might be the star of the show, as a member of the jury!