Sunday, March 27, 2016

A masterpiece in the making

I have not been able to update my blog for a long time. Just got busy with a lot of stuff. However, recently I got the opportunity to see rehearsals of a play being directed by none other than Theatre Veteran Avijit Dutt. Getting behind the scenes of a theatre pro’s brand new theatre production was an opportunity I was not gonna miss. The creation process of a genius masterpiece would be as interesting as the masterpiece itself, if not more. So, let’s get down to business.

Artwork by Sonamm Sharma of Sozart Creative

The rehearsals was on first floor of an office. The owners of the office were generous enough to let the team rehearse there. This office wasn’t filled with ‘modern’ soul sucking cubicles but had and old school feel to it – wooden floors, beautiful desks and tables and a hangar to hang your coat – now if that is not a touch of class, I do not know what is. I had arrived a little early and only Mr. Avijit Dutt was there. I introduced myself and it was a great feeling just sitting next to such a theatre great – just the two of us in the room. I could feel the aura of creativity around him. Soon members of the cast started pouring in with gentle greetings. Everyone realised that Mr Dutt didn’t seem in best of his health and he in fact was running high temperature. But that did not vaporize his spirit or flow of creativity. I do now know where people draw their energies from. 

Avijit Dutt - Writer and Director of the Play
Most of the people I work with (who are probably third the age of Mr Dutt) take a day off just because a mosquito bit them in the morning. Soon, everyone was busy reading through the script. I have been in several situations like this – a team working together in a conference room and discussing a ‘project’. But other than the conference table, nothing was similar. Corporate board rooms are where insomniacs got to get treated. However, on this table, juices of creativity were flowing. Play is scripted by Mr Dutt and I realised that he constantly improves upon the play. Parts of scripts we re-written, scenes are re-designed to intensity the story telling. Actors learn their new lines quickly and get cracking. 
Theatre Exercises
Before they start, the actors indulge in team exercises. Not only does it work as a physical stretching of muscles, it also brings the actors in an unison. 
How the hell do we get out of this? 
Every scene was being carefully observed by the director. Some scenes came out perfectly while others were re-enacted until perfection was attained. As scenes were being enacted, rest of the actors immersed themselves in the script, byhearting their lines. Rehearsals happen almost everyday for weeks on end to attain perfection. Theatre is not a high paying (actually it pays almost nothing) profession, so make ends meet most actors have day jobs. It's not easy to manage daily rehearsals with a job and family. That is why I really appreciate these actors who come togther for pure passion of the stage. 

 “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the Axe”
Abraham Lincoln

In case of theatre production, the team spends 5 hours and 59 minutes sharpening the axe and finally shop it down in a minute on stage. It a great experience seeing the axe being sharpened. Now just want to see the Axe in action.

The play is being staged on April 9th at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre. Be there. This is going to be epic.

About Noor Jahan – An Empress Reveals

Actor Oroon Das as Jehangir
This 1 hours 20 min play tell the story of Noor Jahan (born Mehrunissa). She was not only the Empress of India but was an accomplished poetess, designer and an architect. The play takes you through her youth, her deep love for Jehangir, her being widowed, becoming 20th wife of Jehangir and then becoming a captive on orders of her husband. Her life broke several shackles of the society as she was above 30, had a daughter but still became the favorite and most influential wife of Jehangir. Trials and Tribulations of Noor Jahan are captured in this play and it’s a must watch.    

Writer/ Director: Avijit Dutt

Cast: Vidushi Mehra, Oroon Das, Vani Vyas, Yuvraj Singh Bajwa, Anhad Singh Anand, Rea Krishna, Priyanka Sharma, Eesha Singh, Sarthak Mattoo & Shekhar Murugan.

It was founded in 1964 with the sole purpose to project arts as a dynamic living force, provide regular sustained performances of theatre, music and dance, build an interesting theatre audience  by presenting some of the best plays, and establish a theatre club and organize workshops to nurture new talent 

Some Pictures from the Rehearsals

Mehrunnisa's Dilemma. 

Actor Vidushi Mehra Plays Noorjahan and goes through variety of Emotions. 

The Love between Jehangir and Noorjahan is legendary

Noorjahan's Daughter played by Eesha Singh

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Play Review “Bumboo: The Play” by Epic Shit Entertainment

What happens when two out of luck depressed beings, get kidnapped by a gay drug lord and two drug dealers? Epic Shit happens. “Bumboo: The Play” is the third installment of “The Bad Deeds Trilogy” by Epic Shit Entertainment. This is one of those no-holds barred play which makes you laugh with “Oh no, you just did not say that” going in your head.  It starts with three very different, unrelated stories involving some interesting and peculiar characters and then all these characters come together while despising and 'loving' each other. Every character is peculiar and well laid out. The act opens with a monologue by Tara, played by Sukhmani Lamba. Tara is an unemployed and potty mouthed woman whose language and attitude can send the toughest of men packing home. Tara is has created a strong exterior to hide her insecurities. Then comes the story of a timid, socially awkward highly under confident Kashish Panda, played by Farhad Colabvala, telling his story. The scene then switches to shadow play between two people. They are ‘Delhi Gangsters’ and cocaine dealers. The gang comprises of helpless Aslam, drug lord and tyrant Ganesh and funnyman Puchi. Aslam, played by Rahul Tewari would’ve probably been the guy next door who is stuck in a forced relationship with his boss, Ganesh. Puchi, played by Gopal Verma likes to see the glass as half full.
Strength of the play lies in performances of each actor. Farhad and Gopal steal the show with their facial expressions doing most of the talking. It’s a situational comedy which is very physical and loud. If you are someone who raises objection over ‘obscenity in cinema’, stay away from the play. 

The Director has used shadow play for showing 'sex scenes'. Do not expect them to be 'flowers kissing' we are used to in old hindi movies. Must give credit to writer and director Madhav Mehta for a fast paced, unapologetic play which entertains all through. 

Do watch this play when it's next in town. Needless to say, do not take kids. 

Cast and Crew
Kashish Panda –Farhad “Kingbawa” Colabvala
Tara Khosla – Sukhmani “Sookhi” Lamba
Ganesh – Akash “The Axe Man” Mehta
Aslam – Rahul “G-Faadu” Tewari
Puchi – Gopal “The Scrotal Assassin” Verma

Written and Directed by – Madhav Mehta
Story by – Rakesh “Smackie” Palisetty and Madhav Mehta
Inspired by – Christopher Durang’s ‘Laughing Wild’ & Larry Shue’s ‘The Foreigner’

Sound and Music – Ritwik “Jaan Lemon” De

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Play Review: The Guest List

“It’s better to have loved and lost than to live with a Psycho for the rest of your life”
These are the words I saw written on a porcelain plate somewhere once and the words stuck to me.  Nothing describes divorces and this play more aptly. Four guests, trapped in a restaurant with no waiter, and the host missing sounds like a mystery plot. It starts like one with a an uptight, rich antiques dealer Bengali guy named Roy playing Sherlock Holmes about why he was there and where the host is along with a loud, dumb as a rock Punjabi Nikunj. However, it soon turns into a clash of the ex’s as “No.3” arrives. Roy’s thought of “What can be worse than this?” is answered in form of his equally uptight and successful but confused Punjabi ex-wife Ashima Khurana entering the scene. Things get even more interesting with the arrival of “Guest No.4” who is none other than Nikunj’s archeologist ex-wife Gauri.  But shit really hits the fan when the fifth guest arrives.

Photo Credit: Blue Phoenix Productions FB Page

Co-Produced by Blue Phoenix Productions and Leap Of Faith Productions in association with EOS21, “The Guest List” is a story of an encounter gone hay wire where two ex-couples are embroiled in a surprising tale of events filled with dramatic twists and turns. This has to be one of the most original, well written and well directed play I have seen in a while. It is a refreshing change to see a play which is original and not ‘adopted’.  Co-Produced by Mohak Pajni and Adhiraj Sharma, the play is a typical “Indian Masala Comedy” which strong characterisation and a hilarious script. Adhiraj also plays the role of Roy and with equal aplomb as his direction. Shruti Kattar plays Ashima Khurana, the successful modern writer whose Punjabi roots sprout in tough situations. Kaavya Bector, in the role of Gauri Bharti Murli plays the control freak who likes to flaunt her “PhD” but was strangely married to Nikunj, played by Gaurav Amlani.  While every actor played their part perfectly, Gaurav just steals the show as a typical Punjabi with perfect comic timing, eloquent dialogue delivery and body language. The script uses just the right amount of Punjabiness and words to keep the audiences in splits throughout the play. Each character’s “statehood” is butt many jokes but by maintaining a fine balance the jokes do not enter the offensive and “have heard it before” category. Mohak Pajni enters the scene just before Act 2 and leads the second Act. I would rather not say who she plays except that she is the fifth guest. Her demeanor and actions scare everyone but she is doing it for a reason.

Photo Credit: Blue Phoenix Productions FB Page

This is a must watch play. The biggest strength of the play is the perfect  comic timing with a great script and direction which will make you laugh your ass off.  You can watch it on 23rd May at LTG Auditorium, New Delhi.

About the Play: 

Written and Directed by: Adhiraj Sharma

Gaurav Amlani: Nikunj
Shruti Khattar: Ashima Khurana
Kaavya Bector:
Gauri Bharti Murli
Mohak Pajni: Guest No. 5 (Watch to play to see what her role is)
Adhiraj Sharma:  Roy Chatterjee 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Play Review: Black Comedy by Old Cheese and The Chhota Haazri Theatre Company

I had just come back after spending a week at my native town and as soon as came back to Delhi, I saw in the newspaper a play being performed in the evening and immediately booked the tickets. I wasn’t too sure though what to expect as I had never seen any production by the team. I must say I had an amazing time and have not laughed so hard in a long time.

The play is adopted from one-act farce written by Peter Shaffer and was first performed in 1965. Farce are one of the best comedies or the worst if not executed well. Directors Raghav Puri and Roopali Singhal have done a brilliant job in keeping the pace of the story up, audiences in split throughout the play with charted out characters and situations.

The name of the play “Black Comedy” does not come from the theme. It does not poke fun at a dead person. The title is a pun for the reverse lighting condition used in the act.  What is this reverse lighting condition? The play is written to be staged under a reversed lighting scheme: the play opens on a darkened stage. A few minutes into the show there is a short circuit, and the stage is illuminated to reveal the characters in a "blackout." On the few occasions when matches, lighters, or torches are lit, the lights go dim.

Produced by Old Cheese and The Chhota Haazri Theatre Company the play is about the chain of events that follow when Aditya and Naina, an engaged couple, invite a millionaire to see Aditya’s artwork, and to impress him have stolen antiques from a neighbor Jai Juneja. Naina’s formidable father, Colonel Sethi is also expected. The lights fuse, and the arrival of several unexpected visitors effectively wrecks the evening. What happens next is a rib tickling comedy arising from dumbness of Naina, perpetual disdain of others by Colonel Sethi, confusion and discomfort of Aditya to the entire situation, weirdness of Ms Catherine Jacobs, bitchiness of Aditya’s ex-gf Samira and homo-cidal tendencies of Jai Juneja . Throw in the short stint by the electrician and we have an hour of pure clean comedy. It is hard to say what made the act so brilliant. Was it the script, the direction, the perfectly timed acting or on stage props and lighting? I think it’s a combination of all four. A brilliant stage performance is held by four pillars – script, acting, direction and props. All four pillars are equally strong in this one and even if one of them went weak, the play would be weak and shaky. Kabeer Ahmed has brilliantly pulled off the role of Colonel Sethi and sends the audience into a fit of laughter with his perfectly timed one-liners. He loves and at the same time loathes his own daughter Naina  played by very beautiful Vidushi Chadha who plays the role of a typical beauty without brains to the tee. Tanvika Parlikar as the over religious Ms Katherine Jacobs says very little but when she does open her mouth it is at the most inappropriate times. Dhruv Sirohi buys some sympathy for his character of Aditya Mehra though his own character is to blame for all that goes wrong during the night. Vishnu Sinha gives an over the top treatment to the gay character of Jai Juneja, the neighbor who has hots for Aditya. Sakhi Upadhayay as Samira would make you think about your ex and how an estranged ex can make a bad situation worse with just her mere presence.
It is a must watch for everyone and kudos to the entire team for such a brilliant performance. Looking forward to more productions from them.

Dhruv Sirohi - Aditya Mehra
Vidushi Chadha -  Naina

Tanvika Parlikar - Ms Katherine Jacobs
Kabeer Ahmed - Colonel Sethi
Vishnu Sinha- Jai Juneja 
Sakhi Upadhyaya - Samira 
Rishan Dhamija- Mr. Tomer

Produced By:

Directed by: Raghav Puri and Roopali Singhal

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Play Review: Kathgodam Express by Behroopiya Entertainers

A guy on the run from the law for a crime he did not commit. This sounds like a very common plot. This is the theme of the play “Kathogodam Express” which is based on “39 Steps” and English classical movies hailed as one of the best Hollywood has ever produced. Theatre is just not about the story, it’s about how it is presented. The play is about Hari, an event manager, accidentally framed for murder, becomes a fugitive running from the long arm of the law. As he unravels, global conspiracies are exposed, and hidden truths of modern existence revealed. What differentiates this play from others is the fast pace, the multiple roles played by a single actor. Karan Mann did a brilliant job playing very different characters which were different not just in the role they were playing but the body language, dialect and personality. He switched between the various characters brilliantly keeping the audiences in splits in all his roles. Ritu Mago as the ‘spy who gets killed’ plays her role as spy-seductress with aplomb. Udit Ohri, playing the protagonist did a good job but the fast pace and quick changes between scenes did not allow for long scenes which really bring out the best in an actor. The entire team did a good job in switching between the scenes and sets though I wish they could’ve reduced the number of acts by combining them. It gets a little overwhelming. You will be laughing through several scenes but some acts could’ve been better script wise.  One message we get at the end of the play is that it is made from the heart to bring awareness for autism.

Written and Directed By : Shivani Singh

Produced By: Mudita Sharma Mehta, Rishi Mehta for Behroopiya Entertainers.

Cast : Nancy Arora, Ritu Mago, Gurinder Singh, Udit Ohri, Sonu Sonkar, Karan Maan, Deepak Yadav, Ritesh Kumar Vdy, Amit Verma

Monday, January 5, 2015

Play Review: SHE by Curtail Call Productions & Events and Behroopiya Entertainers

Plight of women in our society is well known. Some are the cause of it, some accept it exists, many have accepted it and very few want to change it.

 “She” is an original play which is a compilation of monologues surrounding current women’s issues. The script is fresh and written by Debontika Das. The script is the strength of the play. The monologues create a surreal experience about real problems women face these days – rapes, domestic violence and honor killings. With classical and contemporary symphonies, the audiences are taken through the journey of pain a woman goes through when she becomes target of crimes. I had goose bumps as soon as the play started with three figures – dressed what seemed like angels of death came on stage. Wounded angels, wounded as much by an indifferent, judgmental society as by the criminals who changed their entire life. Sonamm Sharma, whom I have seen in Medea” proves her mettle as an actress portraying a strong character with strong dialogue delivery and loud body gestures. You can feel the anger deep within the character. Then comes Shibani Bedi, whom I have seen in No experience in theatre required”, as a helpless victim of domestic violence. She creates real scenes with just her dialogues and you can feel the scenes of injustice happening in front of your eyes created by her monologue and dramatic actions performed in the background by the other two actresses. One could see the helplessness in her eyes and her body. Then comes Aarti Nayar, victim of another evil of our society – “Honor killings” – where hate overpowers love and society’s obsession with their idea of right clouds all logic. She did a great job but I wish the role was given a little bit more time for the character to develop and the problem to be highlighted. Overall, the three main elements, which make for a great play, come together –  direction, script and the acting.

I personally feel that while lots of people are talking about the problem faced by women, very few offer a solution. Neither does this play. I wish the characters, could talk about what changes need to be brought into the society to reduce such incidents of crime against women. It is a pretty intense play. Not for your light hearted evening out with family.

Conceptualised by: White Noise Productions

Written & Directed by: Pallav S Chander & Debontika Das

Production: Vishesh Arora 

Aarti Nayar
Sonamm Sharma
Shibani Bedi

Friday, September 19, 2014

Play Review: OOPS! by Kailvalya Plays

I had two special reasons to watch this play and boy, was I happy I saw it. First reason, in the past I have seen a play by Asmita based on the same story "Death of an Anarchist", so I wanted to see how different directors adapt the same play, differently. Seconds reason was the protagonist of the play. I and Aakash were batchmates during our TCTS (Theatre for change, Theatre for society) by Asmita theatre group in 2011. Since then he has been actively involved with his college's theatre group and I wanted to see his work having attended theatre classes with him

Nobel Laureate Dario Fo wrote "Accidental death of an Anarchist" back in 1970 and since then it has been adapted and performed all over the world. The play was inspired by the death of Giuseppe Pinelli, a railroad worker who died after falling from fourth floor of a Milan police station.
It not only takes a good writer but great actors to send people into splits while bringing to notice a serious and important issue of police atrocities. All characters have been adapted well to an Indian situation by giving them certain amount of quirkiness Indians would relate with - be it SP Subhramanian Vallapattu (played by Ashish Dha) with a strong and beautifully executed South Indian accent or hawaldar Harpal Singh Cheema (played by Ratana Sambhav) who has more enthusiasm than brains or control on his tongue or SP's chamcha Insp. Rohtas Choudhary (played by Rupseh Sharma). The play however belongs to "The mad man", the central character played with aplomb by Aakash Gupta. While it might seem I am a little biased while looking at his work, but the rest of the audience who went into applause and splitting laughter were not. Right from the brief pauses in dialogue delivery to the energetic body language and the eye expression, he has delivered an incredible performance. The character is a clinically insane but decides to "investigate" the death of the social worker by posing as a judge. Curtain raiser is "the mad man" interacting with the audience like a stand up comedian. Each actor has given their heart and soul to their characters. I wish though that  character of the reporter, Meenakshi Dutta (played by Riya Singh) was given a little bit more stage time to develop the character and to give it some depth.  The ending is different in this adaptation compared to two alternative endings in the original writing. Watch it to know it. No spoilers here.

The play is fast paced and energetic through out, with both verbal and physical humour without getting slapstick. Kaivalya Plays have adapted it very differently than Asmita. Both are enjoyable but you walk away feeling differently. In this one, you would be carrying back a big smile on your face. 

I would highly recommend this play to anyone who wishes to see a left vs right debate laced with humour or anyone looking for a classic comedy.

Play By: Kaivalya Plays

Cast of the play:
Madman: Aakash Gupta
SP Subhramanian Vallapattu: Ashish Dha
Inspector Rohtas Choudhary: Rupesh Sharma
Inspector Sunil Yadav: Piyush Kumar
Constable Harpal Singh Cheema: Ratana Sambhav
Meenakshi Dutta: Riya Singh
Play Directed and adapted by: Shrishti Gupta and Karanjot Singh