Friday, 30 June 2017

Dayashankar ki Diary

I must confess that I am a little partial to soliloquies. And Dayashankar ki Diary made me a little more biased. From a clerk, to a lover, to the king of Nepal and finally as a mentally impaired man, Ashish Vidyarthi is an absolute delight to watch. Dayashankar ki Diary is a tale of a small town man who comes to Mumbai to nurse his dreams of becoming an actor but ends up with a clerical job. Fed up of daily rejection and humiliation, Daya spins a web of fantasies and soon gets entangled in them. Amidst all this, Daya falls in love with his boss's daughter. The scene where he tries to gauge the girl's feeling befriending her dog is a show stealer. Despite being engulfed by a make believe world , how the small town Daya craves for his mother's love and worries about arranging sufficient dowry for his sister's marriage  is heart rending. My only complain with the play is that it was a little too short . Probably I was too engrossed and lost track of time.

The protagonist of the play loses himself in the mad rush of the city. It made me wonder how much this city has changed me. It has been five long years and I think I buried the old me long time back in the coffin of social acceptance and aspirations. But then, it is not just a story of this city, it is a story of adult life, story of failures, the inability to cope with them. We all have our shortcomings. Some of us are fat, not pretty( as per the societal norms), some of us never make it to the that premier college we pined to all our life, a few of us are lovelorn, and some of us are misfits wherever we go. And we all have a story to protect us from -OURSELVES. In the battle against society, we ending up fighting against ourselves. Ironical, isn't it?

I think there is a little bit of Dayashankar in each one of us. We all spin yarns to buffer ourselves when the going gets tough.How much we succumb to our fantasies, only that varies.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Nothing like Lear

Shakespeare’s king Lear dons the hat of a clown, a lovechild, an abandoned father and a ridiculed man. An unloved, neglected child who tries to reclaim his childhood by being a doting father. To me the play is about an illegitimate child who thinks he is the cause of  misery to his family. He tries to claim acceptance and bring about happiness by choosing to become a jester. Clown, a symbolism of happiness and glee, in the play is an embodiment of grief and sorrow. Grief of a rejected child and an abandoned father. I have seen the play twice and I didn't bat my eyelids even for a moment throughout the 90 minutes of the play on both the occasions. Vinay Pathak does a brilliant job, making the audience split into laughter one moment and reducing them to tears the very next. The way he curses his daughter, just to be filled with overwhelming guilt of cursing his only child, the very next moment.Simply BRILLIANT.” The hand feeds the mouth, the hands feeds on the hand”- This for me was the highlight of the play. Vinay seemed to have this missed this line the second time round.  The audience was quite a dampener on both the occasions, laughing at poignant moments, missing out the underlying message of despair of a heartbroken father.
This is my all time favourite play. It makes me want to sip on that masala chai and go over each line after the play.Every play I go to, I  inadvertently end up comparing it  to this one. Well,Nothing like Lear .Yes sire, nothing like it indeed.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017


Fed up with the idiosyncrasies religion brings along with it, Joshi, a successful writer, decides to denounce his faith. He decides to replace God with  his long forgotten childhood fairies. However, he finds it is a daunting task to give up something that is is so deep rooted in our society. By denouncing your faith you just don't sin against god, you sin against the entire society is what he finds out.He finds resistance from everyone he encounters on his journey to "nirvana", from the local cop "Satpute" who refuses to let him throw his idols in the sea, to his wife who gives a heavy donation in the name of god just to pick a bone with him. In the midst of all this, there is a love story thrown in between the two "God fearing" cops. Then there is Satpute's sister, a blind girl who falls in love with Joshi through his writings and shares his belief. The melange finally ends with Joshi finding his fairy in Satpute's sister "Pari". Sigh!. The play did nothing for me. The script seemed jumbled and lacked focus. It began on a high and lost course somewhere in the middle. There were too many parallel stories which instead of helping paint the bigger picture led the audience astray. Just how, the telepathic conversations between Pari and Joshi alluded to the central theme is still a mystery to me. A woman who falls in love with a writer through his writings and a writer who finds his long forgotten fairies in her just because she is named "Pari"neeta was too mainstream for me to digest.The randomness and digression from the central idea of the play was, in fact, quite a task to bear with. Sadly, the love story between the two constables is the only highlight of the play. Nivedita Bhattacharya as the female constable tickles your funny bone and leaves you wanting for more in an, otherwise, dry play. Makrand Deshpande as Joshi, the writer, delivers well. 

The theme of the play held a lot of potential. To bring to light the present state of our society where the shackles of religion have impaired our capacity to think and the reluctance to challenge the established truth was indeed commendable. Turning back to fairies, to me, symbolized going back to one's childhood, an age when inquisitiveness was a state of mind, where every answer was pondered over and challenged. Each one of us has a little of our religious culture ingrained in our day to day routine, from a particular colour to be worn on a specific day to eating habits to humming of a particular chant. But we never seem to question these "sacrosanct" rituals. We just believe whatever the scholars of the faith interpret and feed into our brains. And we all are a witness of what this blind and mind numbing  faith has led us to - absolute chaos. A society where religious fanaticism supersedes humanity.

The play took up a really interesting subject but just kept beating around the bush. It is actually disappointing to see such a great idea being wasted like this. Just a humble request Mr Deshpande, next time you play a similar "joke" kindly attach a statutory warning.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Bombay Talkies

Bombay Talkies is about eight Mumbaikars, who pour out their souls in stories that define Mumbai.Ironically there is nothing “Mumbai” about any of the stories. It could have been any other city in the country but I guess Bombay makes it a little more fascinating.

The most poisonous venom ever known is fame. Once bitten, you never recover. Baby Dimple, a former child star discovers it the hard way. Struggling to re launch her career she suffers bouts of hysteria reminiscing her days of stardom. Eventually, she goes down the shuddered path in the hope of finding what she lost ages ago. This seemed more like a stereotypical take on Bollywood and its notorious casting couches. I have a severe dislike of the portrayal of women as being forced into it. For me, rape and consensual sex even on the pretext of giving you lifetime of fortune are two different things. I do not belong to the category of antiquated pre- marital sex phobic generation but I just do not agree with women being portrayed as helpless creatures despite “choosing” to be a part of the act.

The next monologue " Ideas" is about a housewife and her condescending husband. It touched upon the issue of a kind of abuse neither punishable under the Indian law nor reported by any woman – Psychological abuse. Ishita Arun plays a housewife who tries different business ventures but in vain. Her husband doesn’t leave a single opportunity to remind her of her failures.  As the story unfolds one realizes that it isn’t professional success she is looking for. It is her husband’s acceptance as an individual she seeks to attain. I think the housewife represented every woman today. After all, aren’t we all trying to seek acceptance by trying to be that great looker cum career oriented cum home maker of a combination. And those criteria form an AND gate for us women. We default on one parameter and our lives refuse to function. We as women keep spinning this never ending guilt web, not just for us but other women too.

The next story " Seven Tiles" came as a breather amidst the mundane-ness . It touched a very sensitive topic of child molestation and was dealt with sensitivity. Viraf Patel portrayed the character with grace and subtlety.


The fourth monologue "Wonderland" is about a journalist played by Devika Shahani Punjabi. She represents the herd of mindless, sensational news reporters. Her conscience wakes up one day when she is stuck on a deserted road and asks for help from a passing car, just to realize this may be the biggest mistake of her life. It strikes her how a split second that can change someone’s life is merely fodder for tabloid journalism. Conscience strikes and she vows to uphold the ethics and morals on which the foundation of journalism was laid. Five years back, this story would have been a revelation but to stage something which is widely ridiculed in our society today without an iota of extra punch seemed futile to me. Some may argue that it depicted the life at the receiving end, but if you are into senseless journalism and it takes a nearly fatal encounter to wake you up to reality and become the torch bearers of the profession, then we all need to be really worried about the appalling state of affairs in this country.


Darshan Jariwala’s portrayal of Mumbai's Man Friday in No Tension is like a breath of fresh air in this run of the mill play. He plays a loud and ostentatious agent who wears his flamboyance unabashedly on his sleeves. He has a wife in Versova and a mistress in Borivali. A rags to riches story, Gidwani believes he has earned the right to keep both of them. His rhetoric are hysterical. The man who takes bribes for a living, takes the aam admi way to get a visa to appease his “honest” mistress. Though the script is banal, it’s the execution that sets it apart.  


Then there is this story " US Visa" about a Gujarati boy wanting to migrate to the USA. Another cliche. Well, not. Amidst his great American dreams, the Patel boy talks about his escapades during the Garba nights. It’s that time of the year when young girls and boys have fun on the pretext of going dancing. An unwritten ritual these days. There is another unwritten rule for this period- You don’t marry the girl who indulges in a physical relationship with you during this time. Why? Simply because women who succumb to their sexual desires are low on morals. This is when this very ordinary boy turns into a super hero for me. Simply because he refuses to understand how the rules apply differently for men and women. He fails to comprehend how a woman you could make love to one day becomes an object of despise the very next day. I hope one day this society would take a page out of this young Gujju boy's book and stops using a woman’s libido as a yardstick to approve of her very existence in this world.


The next story "Relationship Status" is about a single mother and the daily battles she fights every day. It is about her "blasphemous" desire for companionship. It is about the solace she finds only in the anonymity of chat rooms. It is about men who are liberal enough to accept a divorced woman but shudder at the very mention of her offspring. It is about realizing that to be good mother a woman does not need to forgo her desire for a man’s love. It is about understanding that sacrifice is not a mother’s obligation and martyrdom is sacrosanct only in battle fields.


Zafar’s The Uprising is about Mumbai of the 22nd century. An era where we can erase our emotions just with a tap on a chip fitted into our necks. A time when oxygen will be the pseudo currency. It seemed like a 5th grade students essay on pollution and its detrimental effects in the future. Absolutely disappointing. 

I have seen quite a few Mumbai themed plays by now and quite peculiarly all of them have a sad undertone to them. It makes we wonder are people in this city actually so depressed with their lives or is it just that sadness appeals more to the human mind than happiness these days?


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Colour Blind


"I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung or probably, unheard.This defines the relation between Rabindranath Tagore and us - " the lesser mortals". This is because we refuse to see beyond the greatness of Gurudev. Well, for a man who was a poet, novelist,playwright, painter as well as a musician in one lifetime , it isn't tough to understand why. But then, he was also just another man ( which is not necessarily such a bad thing to be). Colorblind is an attempt to introduce the world with this other shade of his life. Shades of the ordinary ,which we have turned a blind eye to.


It begins with Kalki doing a research paper on the life of Tagore. She attempts to break away from the usual thesis of glorification of Tagore and his works and discover more about Rabindra, the man. The play oscillates between different time zones. Kalki dons the role of the research student in the present and that of Victoria Ocampo, the Argentinian writer, in the past while Manav Kaul plays a scholar on Tagore and his works and her guide in the present and Tagore in the past. The play also has parallel stories depicting his childhood and his youth. The loss of his mother during his formative years and his yearnings for her . His stoicism over the loss of his two young children. The fact that despite facing so many personal losses, the only way he unleashed his pain and agony was by writing more and more, makes you see Tagore in a very different light.

Tagore stayed on Ocampo's farm in Argentina to recover from his illness on her behest. While Ocampo already admired Tagore's work, he developed feelings for her during his stay. I think the bond between the two was based on the fact that she challenged the intellect in him than just blindly revering him and his works . Ocampo ignited the vulnerabilities of a lover in him in her own ways. The strong , independent woman that she was she refused to accompany him to Santiniketan for she had other things to tend to. He besieged her like an ordinary lover but she stood her ground. This is where the vulnerability in Tagore's characters are showcased. In his planning of meeting her in Europe and writing of letters, the boy caged in his old body comes out. The play also attempts to look beyond the traditionally conceived notion of the platonic relation the two shared, with subtle rawness. The two were in love, in their unique way and the existence of amorousness between the two, doesn't take away the greatness of the man. I like how while demystifying his greatness , the script celebrates the purity of his vulnerabilities.

Towards the fag end of his life, Tagore is shown battling the fear of death like any other ordinary man. The man who celebrated death during his lifetime, succumbs to the charms of the mortal life when death comes knocking on his own door. 

You need to see this play to see the veil behind the greatness of the man being lifted and yet see him rise and not fall.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Noises Off

Directed by Atul Kumar, Noises off is a play within a play. Executed in the form of comedy of errors, it is probably the most humorous performance I have witnessed. With quite a handful of characters and props and challenge of enacting errors nonchalantly, the execution of the play is nothing short of a herculean task. It is about an egotist director and his mediocre cast on the sets of his new play " Nothing On". The "well-read" director ,Lloyd, does not think highly of his actors and shoots down any suggestion of improvisation by his actors. His script , he believes, is as sacrosanct as the holy Bible. Some of his actors, nevertheless, try to bring their own ideas to get into the depth of the character while the others move around aimlessly.

The play is divided in to three different acts :

Act One : On stage during dress rehearsal

Dotty plays " Mrs Clackett", the care taker of the house. She looks after the house , when not obsessing over her Sardines, in the absence of the owners (who are holidaying in Spain to ward off the tax collectors). Her body language was so English, that from the very onset of the play, you feel like you are in a British household. Next walks in Gary, the house agent with his girl , Brooke. Assuming the house to be empty, the couple walk in for some quick action. Brooke as the dumb hot girl  is a visual delight. Her provocative gestures will keep you glued in. But she does it with elan without crossing the thin line between vulgarity and oomph. Gary, though, is a little dampener and looks a little desi in a Brit household.
Then walks in the owner of the house - Belinda and Freddy on a sly visit to the country. The laugh riot continues with the two set of couples unaware of each others existence in the house but confused over things moving around the house on their own. 
Selsdon, the incorrigible drunkard on the set, plays the bugler who never breaks in at the right time. Confusion escalates when walks in the Sheikh, a prospective buyer, and a Freddy look alike. 

Amidst the confusion and the characters forgetting their lines a night before the D-day, Llyod isn't the only one breaking a sweat. He is helped by his two back stage managers  - Poppy, who is also in love with him, and Tim , who is extremely over worked and subservient. 

Act One : Backstage during a matinee performance

The actors bring their strained and entangled relationships to the backstage of the opening night performance. Miffed with Gary, her lover, Dotty locks herself in a room and refuses to go on stage for the opening act. After much coaxing, she does finally agree. She, then, uses Freedie to make Gary jealous. Gary doesn't take it lying down and tries to get rough with the clueless Freddie. Dotty, on the other hand, continues to get cosy with Freddie much to Belinda's annoyance now. The Dotty-Gary-Freddie-Belinda love quadrangle leads to insanely comic moments. Meanwhile, the Lloyd-Brooke- Poopy love triangle is materializing at the other end of the room.
The actors barring a few minor hiccups and skipping of some thirty odd pages from the script do manage to finally take a bow. And blows.

Act Three : On Stage during a delightfully ruined performance

The backstage furor spills onstage. Wounded and wrapped in bandages after last night's backstage performances, the actors just can't get it right. They start fumbling and forgetting their entries and exists. Poor Tim even has to stand in for a few actors, on stage! The play finally ends , albeit a comical catastrophe.

This is probably one of the toughest scripts to just be executed. But the brilliant performances by all the actors made it look like a cakewalk. Another thing I really liked about the play was the way the props and the set was used. Usually, props are considered of secondary importance and it is usually the script which is stressed upon more. However, in this play, the set played an extremely pivotal role and was used beautifully. I, especially, liked how the sets were actually reversed for the second act to potray the backstage arena. 

Noises Off certainly takes the Indian theater scene to a new level altogether. Atul Kumar, please take a bow.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Hamlet - The Clown Prince

The thought of turning the "tragedy" of Hamlet into the "comedy" of Hamlet seems very ambitious, right? But then theater has always been about pushing boundaries.

'Hamlet- The clown prince' is a comical adaption of  Shakespeare's greatest tragedy - 'Hamlet'.The plot is identical to the original plot.  Hamlet's father is killed by his uncle Claudius surreptitiously. Soon after his father's death, his mother marries Claudius. On one cold winter night, the ghost of Hamlet's father appears and tells him that he was killed by Claudius and that Hamlet must avenge his father's death. And yes, there is the lady love Ophelia, the daughter of Claudius's most trusted aide to complicate matters and relationships even more. In my opinion, the story is an embodiment of subtle and dark humor and that's what this play really dwells on. I think humor in tragedy makes the tragedy all the more tragic. Moreover, it is the complexity of Hamlet's character that makes the play all the more interesting. His choices makes one wonder if it was the love for his father that made him avenge his death? Or was it the love for the throne? Or was it the unnatural love for his mother. Did he order Ophelia to the nunnery to punish her as a consequence of his distrust towards women? Or was he punishing himself for his other crimes by doing so ?

The plot makes me wonder if revenge was the only way through which Hamlet could prove his love and devotion to his father? Is love really that shallow that it seeks someone else's pain to be glorified? Is a murder, no matter how cold-blooded, worthy enough to justify another one? Why are sacrifices celebrated while seeking happiness frowned upon? Why don't stories about forgiveness become literature classics? Why does revenge and betrayal amuse the human mind more? A friend once told me - When animals smell danger they run away from it but when humans smell danger, they walk into it. I guess pain appeases the human mind more than joy and hence, tragedies are celebrated more.

The actors, as expected, are a powerhouse. It is indeed a task to stage this mammoth story in a short span of time and that too in a humorous way. The play succeeds in achieving the former but the latter is what it fails to deliver. The play is in gibberish. And that is great for someone like me who is handicapped at comprehending Victorian English. However, the plays takes its gibberish improvisation a tad too seriously. It became a little too difficult to understand the gibberish words being spoken. I think the play really needs to tone down the proportion of gibberish words.

Mark Twain once said - "Classics are what everyone wants to have read but nobody wants to read". If you want to breeze through one of Shakespeare's greatest classic, give this play a shot. Otherwise, an abridged version of the original work would be a better investment.