Saturday, December 14, 2013

Play Review: "Between the Lines" by Nandita Das

About the play:
Language: Hinglish
Directed by: Nandita Das
Written by: Nandita Das and Divya Jagdale
Maya: Nandita Das
Shekhar: Subodh Maskara
Kavita: Nandita Das
Mukesh: Subodh Maskara

Due to busy few weekends, I had not been able to see a play. When I was casually checking the play listings for the weekend, I saw “Between the lines” Written, Directed and Acted by Nandita Das, I had to see it. Venue was FICCI Auditorium - venue I like. Thanks to some ‘auspicious day’ there were like a million weddings in Delhi on that day and it took me about 75 mins instead of usual 40-45 mins and hence I missed the first 5 mins of the play but atleast I got the tickets.

“Between the lines” primarily is a play in form of conversations between an urban, well-educated, upper middle class couple. It talks about the issue of gender inequality – the obvious and the subtle forms of it. Shekhar (played by Subodh Maskara – Nandita Das’ husband) is a successful and famous lawyer and Maya (Nandita Das), a college gold medalist who is getting back to her professional life after a 14 year gap. They have recently sent their son to boarding school, giving her a chance to pursue her career. The first case she takes up is defense counsel for Kavita, a woman who has shot her husband - who survives. Coincidentally, Mukesh accepts the case representing the husband as a favor to an influential person who has helped him in the past. Now starts the war of the genders. Maya develops compassion for Kavita, the accused who has actually shot her husband. The reasons for the shooting unfold but looking at Kavita and her situation, Maya starts to question her own identity as an independent woman and the subtle inequalities between a man and woman start to bother her. This becomes a reason for debate between her and her husband. These debates are thought provoking without being loud or aggressive. While at one end they talk about couples like Mukesh and Kavita where there is domestic violence – a clear case of women rights and inequality at the other end are Mukesh and Maya – an urban well educated couple where the husband fell in love with his wife because of her intellect and strong personality and supports her decision to start working. Nandita Das fits the strong personality of Maya perfectly and for few scenes plays the role of Kavita – the timid and scared lady for whom domestic violence is part and parcel of a marriage. Talking to the audience after the play, Nandita said that half of the play came from their own conversations at home. It is easy to talk about inequality when it is very evident – cases of domestic violence, women not being allowed access to education or opportunity to work. But the society which has been patriarchal for several centuries has infused subtle sexist behavior in both men and women. Maya questions her own habit of selecting the smaller piece of cake between her and husband. “Why are you blaming me for taking the bigger piece if you were to select the smaller piece anyways?”. But why does she always pick the smaller piece? These are the kind of questions this play raises.

This play works well primarily because of the chemistry between the two actors. It is like they have placed seats around their real life living room and charging you to watch them debate. There are productions which take up serious social evils related to child abuse, domestic violence, dowry deaths and others. After seeing those, you become a little sad. But you feel helpless that you are not able to do anything about it. Best we can think of is go for a candle march or donate to an NGO. “Between the lines” addresses an issue which is not as evil as those but people (readers of this blog) would be able to relate to personally and can actually take steps to change (if they want to). Is a liberal and modern man as modern as he thinks he is? To know the answer go and catch this play when it’s up next in your city. 

In conclusion, “Between the lines” is a well written, beautifully performed engaging debate without being overbearing or loud. Must watch for Nandita Das fans. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Play Review: Candida

·         Director : Vishesh Arora
·         Writer : George Bernard Shaw
·         Duration : 1 hr 15 mins
·         Genre : Drama ( Romantic Comedy)

Miss Proserpine Garnett played by Lovelinna Sharma
The Reverend James Mavor Morell played by Sarthak Mattoo
The Reverend Alexander (Lexy) Mill played by Nihaal Parashar
Mr Burgess played by Adhiraja
Candida played by Shivani Nagar,
Eugene Marchbanks played by Shivam Khanna

Written by the Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw (Also the Co-founder of London School of Economics), the story involves Candida, wife of a Clergyman (Reverend James). Candida (falls in love with a youthful poet, Eugene March banks, who try to win Candida.  The story gets complicated when Candida has to choose between her husband and the Poet. The play questions Love, marriage, desires and the sacrifices a women makes. The script is crisp and has the flavor of Bernard’s writing rich with sarcastic humor on society, people behavior, relationships. There has been numerous adaptation of the play worldwide, attaining the claim of ‘Romantic-Comedy’ or Rom-coms

But what happens when a Indian Actors try to do a Classic English play (with Indian Accent) set in Early 1980. Yes you got it right utter chaos.
Lesser known Curtain Call Productions performed this Play in Delhi In Alliance Francaise In July 2013).
The director of the play took the script as-is from Bernard Shaw writing. There are a number of instances James makes his socialist remarks about the state of affairs (which unfortunately go over the head for most Non-Economic People unrelated to the economic scenario of 1890 British Era). There is an intense scene between the poet Eugene and James where the poet confesses his love for his wife. The overall plot when portrayed looks similar to a Bollywood masala having a love triangle.  The actors transition from a perfect brit to Indian accent which looks ridiculous.

Candida played by Shivani Nagar was the saving grace as she kept her character throughout the play. The others were too fast in their delivery of dialogues and wanted to leave the stage.Overall the play was average, with the humor element scattered in bits. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Theatre Festival: Theatre in Motion

We will try to bring updates about Theatre Festivals which allow theatre lovers to relish several plays in succession.

'Theatre in Motion' is a unique festival which is happening simultaneously in three cities: Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. It also brings together several theatre groups such as Asmita, Pierrott's Troupe, Primetime Theatre Company and several others. I would call it a multi-cuisine buffet of theatre. I would love to post all that is happening in Theatre in Motion festival but I would just be reproducing what is already available in great details at their website: 

Theatre in Motion: Browse Groups, Dates, Venues

However, here is the schedule for Plays in Delhi. You can book the tickets from their website. I have sorted the play schedule date wise.

Please feel free to write reviews of the plays you watch and we will be happy to publish them.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Play Review: Nothing Like Lear. Review by Rahul Sharma

This is our first guest review by Rahul Sharma - A theatre lover from Delhi with a cocky sense of humor. 

Play: Nothing Like Lear
Written and Directed By: Rajat Kapoor
Based on: Shakespeare's King Lear

Comedy, Tragedy, Tragedy in a Comedy, Comedy in a Tragedy ... At the end of the day, content needs to tell a good story. For me at least, this holds true. Playing with stars is only fruitful when there is a good story to back them up ... and, I mean, that's how stars are created.

I had seen "Noises Off" and "Hamlet - The Clown Prince" by then, and was extremely excited to be able to watch quality English theater in Delhi. And, next on the line was "Nothing Like Lear". I said to myself, "Dude, this weekend is awesome. First, Hamlet vala play, and now Vinay pathak in a monologue ... Machauuu". I had seen a few monologues before, including Saleem Sheikh and Lushin Dubey, and was hoping for this one to be of same level.

However, this play turned out to be such a disaster that I wanted my Tyler Durden to beat the shit out of my Edward Norton. I mean by not coming for this play, I could have bought a better section at upcoming Ghulam Ali's performance in Oct.

It was all the same. Something that you always witness on a weekend at Kamani. Flashy cars, absolutely no parking space, "O my gaawd, you are here too (hugs and giggles)" crowd, and yes, on an evening like this, few celebs too.

I entered in the auditorium. Play started, my excitement took a bungee jump ... and never bounced back.
To start with, this play has an exceptionally weak script. From the inception of the play, it was filled with jokes those were a hit the time when JFK was doing Marilyn Monroe. Had I been in his place and telling those jokes, people would have arranged a meeting of my testicles with my tonsils. But on those F-grade jokes, people laughed as if Nitrous Oxide was in the air. I flexed my zebra neck to take a look around, and realized that for meters and kilometers, only 4 people were still as Katrina Kaif's and my friend + 2 guys on our left (who honored the scriptwriter with an invisible middle finger and left after first 15 minutes).

Smartphones were probably invented for times like these. As time crawled (literally), smartphones took over the laughing herd. Soon, people were talking on phone, watspp-ing their friends, moving out and buying food ... some would have taken a sutta break too, I am sure.

Nevertheless, we laughed twice during the play, and that too when Vinay Pathak did something impromptu. That said, I do not doubt the actor's skills, I mean, the way he changes a character was smooth and flawless. And his delivery of 
Shakespearean dialogues was hard hitting.

Play ended. I came out of the auditorium and the noise, the praise that I heard in previous two plays was nowhere to be heard.
And, there will always be people who would not call a bad play a bad play. Probably they have a fear of being an outcast. I mean, how can a play with Bollywood stars can be so mediocre..."ya must be outta ya mind kid". 
I came out, and bumped in to a fellow from theater in the washroom. The first sentence that came out of his mouth was, "play accha tha na?". I said, "No...horrible script ". These words from my mouth and gates of we-belong-to-quality-theater-world were closed for me. 
The guy, with a smirk on his face, took my expression that said "Vinay Pathak's monologue, Rajat kapoor's direction and he says he dint like it...Loser". And I took a leak, thinking of a girl in the auditorium who developed an incredible firang accent when talking to a firang, and talking normal when turned towards her desi friends ... "she must be a mutant".

Kahani ka Lolipop: This is not a play that I would recommend to my friends who have a sense of good theater, solely because of an extremely wannabe script which wasted an exceptional actor.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Play Review: Play it Hot by Akshara Theatre

This play is based on a concept which we have seen in movies like 'Some like it Hot' starring Marilyn Monroe and Rafoo chakkar (starring Rsihi Kapoor)  - couple of cross-dressing musicians on the run trying to save their lives.

The play opens with a radio conversation between the senior police official and the raiding party (voice overs). It then switches to a small cafe where an out of luck band is hanging out. They have no money to pay for their coffee let alone pay their rent. Suddenly they get embroiled in a gun fight between two gangs and become a witness to it. To escape the goons and the police they disguise themselves as 'Rapchik Rockers' - all girl band. They take up a gig in Goa which will provide them the much required money and a nice holiday. What happens next is a series of lies, deception, flirting and love trials. 

This play is a pure entertainer. The range of characters and their antics make this play a light hearted comedy. Be it the beautiful gold digging lead singer Sweety, the bubbly but strict Shruti Ma'am who breaks into a dance sequence at drop of a musical note, creepily flirtatious Thakur Raj Singh or pretentious Jijo managing two identities - every character has its quirks which audience loved. The guys get a taste of what it is to be pursued by men high on libido.The songs are absolute treat to the ears sung by very melodious Nisa Shetty in the role of Sweety and Vipin as the chotu turned Asst Manager. Jaya as Shritu Ma'am lets her hair lose along with the rest of the crew and you clap on. There is even a shayari competition between two warring gangs which ends in an anti-climax.

The cozy setting of Akshara is just a cherry on top for this entertaining play. This might not be a contender for any awards but is not meant to be. It is meant to send you back home refreshed and happy and it will not disappoint you.

Do check it out at Akshara Theatre on September 21 and 22.

About the Play:
Director: Anasuya Vaidya
Play By: Akshara TheatreCast: 

Vipin Heero

Nisa Shetty

Shaily Priya


Chhotu/ Asst. Manager
Vipin Heero
Jijo/ Jia
Angad Thakur
Jaani/ Jenelle
Dhruv Shetty
Saxy/ Chitrangada
Mahant Shah
Kaalia Flunkeys
Shaily Proya Pandey

Yashna Shetty

S. Gayathri
R.K. Peter
Sidekick/  Bellboy
Ankur Anand
Nisa Shetty
Thakur Raj Singh
Vikalp Mudgal
Shruti Ma’am
Voice Overs
Ajay Shetty

Rocky Grover

Lights: Anusuya Vaidya
Sound: Harendra Bhandana

Friday, September 13, 2013

Play Review: Curious Case of Mr Kolpert

Boredom is the root of all evil - the despairing refusal to be oneself.
Soren Kierkegaard

Does boredom lead people to do crazy things? To what extent will people go to kill their boredom? Kill? It has been while since I have seen a black comedy. While I do enjoy a light, simple comedy after a hectic week at work, sometimes one needs to get out of comfort zone. As much as I enjoy movies like “There is something about Mary”, comes a Pulp fiction which throws every rule in the book out of the door.  If this play is a bench mark, Ishwar Shunya is to theatre what Quentin Tarantino is to movies. As soon as the play opens with focus on Ralf Shroff (played by Adhiraj Katoch), we knew this is going to be one unsettling play. A couple has invited another couple for dinner. Sounds simple, right? What if the couples were Vincent Vega/ Catherine Tarnell and Jules Winnfield/ Mia Wallace. If these names elude you, Google “Basic Instinct” and “Pulp Fiction” – just make sure no kids are around when you do that. Ralf is a chaos researcher who creates a chaotic situation by informing the invited couple that they have killed Mr Kolpert and have put his body in the trunk. This does not go well with physically violent Joy Bastian (Tushar Dhaudiyal) and he is curious. Where is the knocking sound coming from? Is it the trunk? At the same time his wife Edith (Kriti Vij) is unperturbed. She would rather snort rather than be sore - though Mr. Kolpert is her senior at work. Sarah (Shibani Bedi) is absolutely indifferent to what is happening. Adhiraj Katoch steals the show playing an insane but strangely in-control Ralf. He was so convincing in his performance that if I was to see this guy in real life, I will be scared. Performances by the entire cast keep you on edge of the seat throughout the play. You Though the theme is dark, the play is not dull. Dollops of humor add a strange but delectable taste to the dark chocolate.

Did they really try to kill Mr Kolpert?  Is he alive? Who is more likely to be a killer – an ever laughing person or a constantly angry, violent person? Will the much needed pizzas finally arrive in the right order? Go and watch the play if you need to know the answers. Needless to say, do not take children.

About the play:
Language: English
Theatre Group: Saanjha Sapnaa
Director: Ishwar Shunya
Written by: Davis Gielselmann
Music by: Sonam Sharma
Lights by: Ishwar Shunya
Props and set by:Saanjha Sapnaa
Poster/brochure by: Kanchan Ujjal

Adhiraj Katoch – Ralf Shroff
Shibani Bedi – Sarah Pinto
Tushar Dhaudiyal – Joy Bastian
Kriti Vij – Edith
Manik Papneja – The Pizza Man

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Play Review: Chukayenge Nahi by Asmita Theatre Group

If we were to ask a middle class person, what worries him the most these days, many of them would say ‘inflation’. Only thing which is growing faster than corruption in India are prices. You do not have to cut an onion these days for it to make you cry. Just looking at its prices sends the tears rolling.  
Image Courtsey: Asmita Threatre Group's FB Page

चुकंयेंगे ? नहीं ! (Chukayenge? Nahi!) is a Hindi adaptation by Amitabh Srivastava of Nobel Laureate Dario Fo’s original “Can’t pay, won’t pay”/ Non Si Paga! Non Si Paga!. The original play was written during autoriduzione (self-reduction) movement, during an economic crisis in Italy, in which women (and men) would take what they wished from markets, only paying for what they could afford. In the current state of India, a lot many people would want to do that. In the play they show what would happen if they actually did so. The entire play is set in a working class man’s house. The lower middle class woman (Lakshmi) becomes a part of spontaneous uprising at the local super market and comes home with lots of household material without paying for it. She is scared that if her self-righteous husband would find out, he would not agree to it. Her reluctant neighbor (Mala) becomes a part of mayhem and more complex spontaneous situations unfold when the police come knocking. So a lady suddenly becomes 5 months pregnant, new medical miracles happen with pregnancy transplants and things really get out of control when there is a “ek policewaale ki pregnant laash” on stage. The cast, comprising of Asmita’s lead actress Shilpi Marwah (playing Lakshmi – also seen in movie Ranjhnaa as Sonam kapoor’s friend) has given some phenomenal performance. Palak Bhutani (as Mala) was very expressive with her hand gestures and facial expressions and really showed her discomfort for being put into the midst of the situation as a spontaneously pregnant woman. Rahul Khanna and Ishwak Singh had small roles but set the audience rolling with laughter with their one-liners and body language. Himanshu Maggon and Gaurav Mishra depict the plight and the struggle of working class to great effect.

Asmita Theatre connects the audience like very few other theatre groups. Theatre in Delhi has often been associated with aristocrats and high society people, Asmita caters to entire population  - to the well read with their intellectually stimulating plays like Ambedkar vs Gandhi, to middle class through almost all their plays since they are an integral part of it and to the not so well read people like me can still enjoy a good laugh with easy to understand language without going bankrupt (due to their low ticket price). 

About the play:

Language: Hindi

Director: Arvind Gaur

Adapted by: Amitabh Srivast

Play By: Asmita Theatre Group

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review- Ishq da Syappa, Daughter In-law Weds Papa and Hi Punj (Stand up comedy)

Some say a miser is a capitalist gone mad. Behroopiya Entertainers have adopted the Moilerer's 'The Miser' into Punjabi (adaptation by which tells the story of a miser old man who wants to get his daughter and son married but not before he gets married himself to none other than his son's sweetheart. 

Lalaji (Sahil Kapoor), has large amounts of money stashed away in 'Gold Coins' but is constantly looking to save money and make more. So he wants wants his daughter Billo (Nancy Rustagi) to get married to a rich old man because he will not have to give 'dowry' but has no qualms in expecting dowry for his son Jassi's (Mudit Malik) and his own marriage. The daughter is very much in love with a guy who saved her life and the guy is now a loyal brown nosed servant Sukhi (played by Himanshu Mahajan) to Lalaji to win his heart and approval. The other loud mouthed, sarcastic servant Nambu (played by Pranav Midha) leaves no opportunity to tease lalaji. 

I felt a little disappointed as I had great expectations - having seen 'Run for your wife' (another production by Behroopiya). I was hoping to be rolling on the floor but most scenes, expect for scenes featuring Lalaji and Nambu were flat. Another character which tickles the funny bone is the character of Kuljeet bua (Nancy Arora) who can sweet talk people into doing what she wants. Jassi ended up shouting through most of his stage time. Punjabi language is energetic, expressive and funny on its own but script was a little let down. The play allowed for several comic situations but the opportunity was not fully utilised. While "Run for your wife" was a constant twisting and turning race track, this one was more of a straight highway with some sharp turns of fun. The play hit a low in the end when all the fun and laughter just fizzled out. Mrinal Dhar's direction was good but it was mostly the script which was a let down. 

After a short break, the stand up act 'Hi-Punj' was opened by Nancy Rustagi with a small but original and entertaining act. Sahil Kapoor and Pranav Midha presented the main standup act. There were some original pieces and the pair delivered them pretty well. However, several jokes were old and that is not what I expected. Stand up acts should be original. They pair has tremendous potential and if they get the script right, they can do wonders. I think Nancy too has great potential as a stand up comic and I would love to see more women doing stand up comedy. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Play Review - "Run for your wife" by Behroopiya Entertainers

Having two beautiful working wives who can support themselves sounds like a dream for everyman. But then they also say: Be careful what you wish for because it might actually come true

'Run for your wife' is the longest running play in the world (so they say). In India, it has been adapted by 'Behroopiya Entertainers' (under license by Samuel French Ltd. (JAGRITI)). The original is written by Ray Cooney and it premiered way back in 1983 in London. The Indian presentation has been directed by Mrinal Dhar.

It is the story of Delhi cab driver Parminder Singh Bedi, who has two wives, two lives and a very precise schedule for juggling between them both. With one wife at home in Tilak Nagar and another at home in Rajouri Garden. Too add to the confusion is the upstairs neighbour in who gets entangled in the web of lies but tries his best to help. 

It was after a long time I laughed my heart out. With quality of Indian humor falling faster than morals of Indian politicians, this play brings some hope. This is not one of those mindless comedies which use slap stick humor and cliches which makes you question your own intelligence for having spent your time and money on it. For this comedy, do keep your brains switched on because it gets really confusing and this is a situational comedy at its very best. It begins with an 'unscheduled' encounter of Mr Bedi with an old lady's handbag with him being taken to the right home at the wrong time and thus begins a series of lies and confusion. I am sick of those comedies where all the characters are dumb as a rock and directors try to make audiences laugh through their dumbness. This play presents that how people with normal intelligence end up in cobwebs of lies and deceit. No one is dumb in this play.  The primarily English play has dollops of Punjabi thrown in which gives the play that perfect local flavor. While most of the actors were perfect in their own characters but were limited by the range of the characters they were playing, it was the character of Sukhi Singh Bali which provided the best of laughs in the entire play. He is the first one to know about the taxi driver's double life and therefore his only confidant. Sahil Kapoor, the actor playing Sukhi, provided amazing facial expressions ranging from delight to pain and to fear along with expressive body language. 

The audience was in splits throughout the play time of 90 mins and there were no dull moments. It is a one act play and the single stage set sometimes represents two homes and sometimes just one. It is the first time I have seen such a use of one single frame. Kudos to the creator and the director of the play for that. 

Do catch this play the next time it is in your city. You will relieve your entire week's stress. I am awaiting the next production from this group.