Another visit to Prithvi – a Hindi play this time. I normally try to avoid those because most Hindi productions love to immerse themselves in cliche themes of ailing India and poverty. However, this one was both a surprise and a delight. It did not just keep away from these cliche themes, but dealt with philosophy in stead – something plays often keep away from. Perhaps because to deal with the abstract in front of audience, without the liberty of cinematography, is a very difficult task.

Directed and written by Manav Kaul, the play is the story of a middle-aged man who claims to have ‘Ilham‘ – a term from the holy Quran, which means a private revealation. Leading a very average middle life, he one day goes to a park and begins talking to an imaginary man. Slowly he begins to show signs of ‘madness’ as he plays with imaginary children in the park, talks to his imaginary man (Chacha) and becomes happier, even commits the sin of being satisfied. He begins to understand the mute and the birds, but forgets the human tongue.
His family is worried, running from doctors to magic men. And while they treat him like the mad man that he becomes to the world, his happiness hangs from a thin thread. Caught between the two worlds – the one that his Ilham promises and the one which he has created and cherished till now, he becomes miserable. That is when he realises that he has to chose one world – he cannot live in the promised world while being with his family and so he gives it up.

There is a lot of thought that this simple play with its less known cast but highly competent lightings could have generated. But it gave that slightly dissatisfactory feeling. I may not be living in 1984, and I may not want to dance spontaneously in the middle of the road – but if I ever want to, I know I am not free to do so.

Unscreened…One Small day

When the days are long, no good movies are playing in town, and South Bombay looks too far, one can still look dearly forward to the evening if one works not too far off from Prithvi (Prithvi theatre for the Non-bombayites)

The place is charming to say the least – even if one is not able to get the tickets for a play, it is easier to come out of the disappointment sitting in the quaint cafe sipping coffee and eating a delicious sandwich. Thankfully, when I went there yesterday I was able to enjoy both the play as well as the sandwich, not to mention the soft lighting and a softer drizzle. The little bookshop thrown in to the experience was what a marketing guru would call ‘customer delight’. Such are the rare moments when I truly enjoy being in Bombay and am able to ignore the excess of people and paucity of roads in this city.

It was a play by Anish Trivedi (apparently of the ‘Still Single’ fame, which is a play I have not yet watched) – he also acted in it along with Dipika Roy.

The play had no story – only a depiction of a man and woman’s conversation as they get thrown together in unusual circumstances. They come from two worlds far apart, but each with a slightly twisted life. For a hour and a half, they keep the audience entertained through their sharp blurbs on each other, in between keeping a little place for romance (of course).

Anish Trivedi had a quiver full of quips – ‘Who do you look like – your mother, your father or the Colonel?’ Even in his introduction of the play he made some sarcastic comments about how he was fascinated with authors whose characters had fantastic lives, while his own came from the real world – a statement I found uncalled for. Through the play I felt his asset was chiefly his arrogance, sarcasm and his attitude, which he played well and used to generate throes of laughter. In as far as acting goes, Dipika Roy was far more convincing and expressive and exhibited the multitude of emotions remarkably well.
The play was not exceptionally brilliant, but entertaining nevertheless. There is a charm to theatre which partly emanates from its rusticity and partly from looking at the actors directly without a screen. The way Pirsig puts it: …the frame is gone. You are completely in contact with it all.

The rear view…

Its yet another 31st of December, and time is trying to tick its way into the next year. All newspapers, TV channels, magazines et al are bustling with the flashbacks of the year gone by. On my own turf, I thoroughly enjoyed the year that went by – with a lot of new things, mingled with old. Some of it I want to jot here, as my farewell gesture to 2006.
Bookswise, it was a very fruitful year – both in terms of books purchased and books read.I built up a collection of more than a 100 books ( of course I am proud!). I got introduced to some amazing authors like Orhan Pamuk, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Jose Saramago

Favorite reads of the year: Snow, My name is Red, Never Let me go, The Double, The Blind Assassin, Possession, The Pickup
This was a great year for travel as well, though of course not as much as last year, when Europe offered a platter to explore. But then, India is no less. I saw the hills, snow, mist, and the spleandour of the sea.I traversed through the backwaters, spent days on a cruise, took a 52 hour train journey and enjoyed a drive through Himachal
Places I visited: Mukhteshwar, Chila, Rishikesh, Trivendrum, Kovalam, Alleppy, Cochin, Lakshadweep, Matheran,Lonavala, Khandala, Tungareshwar, Mahabaleshwar, Goa, Coorg, Simla, Kufri, Naldhera and Fagu. Also visited Bhopal and Cal for the first time.
With a lot of free time in the campus as the slower sixth term rolled on, there was enough scope for movie-watching and I watched some really good movies this year.
Favorite movies of the year: CRASH, Dor, The Prestige, Godfather, The Omen, RDB, Walk The Line, Blanc, Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi, Malena

This was also an year when I got introduced to the charm of theatre for the first time. I did not watch as many plays as I would have liked to watch, but the ones I watched were quite gripping.
Favorites: The open couple, Mitr, Vagina Monologues

New stuff:
Yes, there were a lot of new happenings in life. Moving out of campus, shifting to Mumbai, Joining JPMorgan, rejoining i2, going to pubs, watching theatre, getting on Orkut, doing a trek through water, etc. Above all, for the first time I saw a brown land turn into white as snow covered it in its beautiful shine. And it was a beautiful moment, not only because it was a pretty site, but also because some of my closest friends stood with me as I saw that happen..
On that note, I wish that beautiful year a goodbye.

Once upon a time there was a partition…

…And for years and generations, we will never cease to center our poems, movies, plays and life around it. Whenever someone will mention the theme India or country – Wham! we will go and perform something that talks about the pain of partition and the ensuing bitterness.
Nobody can deny that it was a very significant event for our country. It did draw lines in many hearts. But what carries those lines through generations is the folklore that passes it around, sings it around – trying to evoke fear, pity, awe, pain and as a result of all this, hatred.
Currently Prithvi is running a festival with a very politically correct, but in my eyes a largely irrelevant theme – “Kala Desh ki seva mein” or Art in the service of nation. Apart from the fact that very few people will enjoy plays based on such a nationalistic theme – the assortment of plays does little to serve the nation. At least two of those plays are based on riots (and therefore linked indirectly to ‘The Partition’). Then there are others which are supposed to talk about exchanging values for commercial gains, may be in a socialist bid to remind us that it is a sin to have or earn money. How can such a theme serve a nation which is trying to reach out to the entire world is beyond my understanding. I don’t think that this service oriented populace is really giving up values to grow and have respectable lifestyles, then why is this depressing seed of doubt being sown into their minds?
When did nationalism become synonymous with Hindu-Muslim riots? Even though the partition was a part of our independence, how can that single event be the identity of our country which is trying hard to make a place for itself in this world. Is the only way of proving our patriotism is to shed a few tears for the pains that were suffered by so many families once upon a time. Why can we think of only things wrong with our nation when we try to “serve” our country – is there nothing to applaud in it? Are we not seeding further riots when we continue to take pride in performing the latest ones on stage?
I did go to see one of these plays, and more because it was written by Gulzar and that I like theatre, than any obligation I felt towards the nation. I cannot point one single flaw in the play – it was amazing in its direction, acting and technique. And yet, I could not help feeling a little suffocated. As the actors cried over a newspaper that was doused in blood day after day – I wanted to ask them back if they were doing any better than dressing up a blood soaked issue.

Playing up..

I have been wanting to see a play for a long time, but have been putting it off for the sake of eternal laziness – its just too easy to go to a swanky mall and combine a weekly shopping expedition with a movie that is conviniently scheduled. But today, thanks to a chill (and thus boring) day at work and constant insistence of a friend, I finally ended up visiting the famous “Prithvi” theatre to catch an interestingly named play called “The open couple”, which quite lived up to its name and managed to both completely engross and entertain the audience.
The whole experience was very artsy – the place was full of people who are the complete anathema of boring engineers who dress in dull unamusing clothes fashioned after the stereotyped western executive . These guys(and lets call them the theatre gang or TGs for future reference) on the other hand, were more relaxed and at ease with their consciously unstyled indian attire, sported with draggy chappals and long unkepmt hair tossed in for effect. At the artsy cafe (which by the way is very cute) designed to match the TG style and make them look more at home in the “ped ki chhaon mein” seating style, the patrons discussed even their shopping bills with the ardent passion that engineers reserve for a highly dramatic quantitative puzzle. Even the waitors at the cafe are trained to cater to a highly developed clientelle, and reserve the right to distribute menus based on how much time is left for yr show.
Well, after a small stint at the cafe, we walked into a nice, homey theatre with a very limited seating capacity. It was so different from all the other huge theatres I have seen before, that it looked immediately inviting – it was smaller even than the classrooms in hell.
The play itself was brilliant – especially the lead actress. It was a theme that Kundera would have loved, but while he would have made it a heavy writing full of every character’s endless introspection- the two actors made it a hillarious satire. They moved between engaging conversation, flashbacks and the current story in an almost seamless fashion.
All in all it was good fun – it is refreshing to be amongst the TGs for a while, especially after an ongoing dose of the engineer class – or MBAs who are even more predictible and monotonous. Will look forward to more evenings of plays now…