One of the great joys of attending theatre festivals such as the recently concluded one is the drama it provides off stage. Opening night (by which I mean the night after the invited-audience-only inauguration which had Evam's Hamlet - A Spoof) had great crowds of people waiting outside but according to some Hindu representatives, no one was buying tickets. Which probably means that complimentary tickets were cast as bread upon the waters, because in good Hyderabad time (7.45pm for a show that was to start at 7.30pm) people were actually beginning to take their seats instead of doing some frantic socialising.
The first instalment of drama began shortly before that, however. Row three in the front had, I noticed, three cops complete with batons and topis. I was thinking incredulous and uncharitable thoughts when they spotted some event organiser and jumped up to surround him. There was much hand-waving; another couple of event organiser tuchchas joined them but they appeared to only be watching the fun. Hindu official turned up. Hectic negotiations for an entire row were apparently on. The event organisers seemed to be refusing to turf out the occupants of an entire row to accommodate person or persons not yet arrived. I held my breath to see what would happen next.
What happened next was the tamest capitulation I ever saw. No drama at all; only masses of irony. People were moved out of their row. One cop stood guard over one aisle and another at the other end. As the lights began to dim, they faded. In a minute, one lady and a couple of gentlemen stood at the door and looked in surprise and delight at this wonderful empty row in which no one wanted to sit but which had a very good view of the stage. They sat and greeted friends and acquaintances. The play began.
What could compare with all this gossip off-stage? The play (The President Is Coming) was sort of fun, flagged a bit, had a thin script that rested heavily on stereotypes. If you've seen Loins of Punjab, you can skip this if it ever comes your way - it's just more (and more and more and more) of the same.
But wait. Hindu has this thing called The Citizen's Review. Basically, they give their Metro Plus staff a break and ask people who've watched the play to bung in a 150 word review by the afternoon of the following day. The 'best' review is all highlighted in the next day's paper and the winner gets a dinner. Guess who won the first play's Citizen Reviewer Award?
Come on. It was the lady in the guarded row, of course. It wasn't the greatest review. You want to know what deserves the Greatest Review Award? (In fact, I propose that from next year The Hindu institute another level of awards: for the best review out of the four best reviews.)
Here it is:
I am no patriarch of the theatre aficionado, yet when the opportunity arrived at the MetroPlus Theatre Fest, I grabbed it, albeit as Noah, for the Scorcese’s and the Spielbergs had warned me, not to try to catch the deluge in a paper cup, for it was a crowded house inside Ravindra Bharthi, and there I was on the corner seat waiting to sail on. The Suit says it all, infidelity by a wife and the male egoism among us, the natives. One fine morning Bunty Walia, the male protagonist wakes up and makes toast to the beautiful night he left behind, with a hot cup of tea and the usual morning newspaper, as if Mina, his wife and the female protagonist, didn’t really fake it. That is because, the moment he left for his office, there she was with the Complete Man, the male infidel, wearing a suit.
On his way to the office with Papaji, Bunty was made aware of the suspicion, which he confirmed upon his chance arrival. The piousness of the bed romping session was ravaged by the Suit resting on the back of the dining chair, and so was the loving and caring Bunty. As a mark of penance, Bunty makes the Suit, a guest of his house, who divides the line between relationship and forgiveness – does not one complement the other. Instead, he substitutes that with continued repentance for Mina, who loved him, but was a victim of boredom. The suit was everywhere for her, the dinner, the after supper walk, and even the house party for instant gratification.
There's more. Please go read. In fact, I insist.
It's actually a pity that the best play of the festival (thanks Swar and Anindita) should have got the most moronic reviews. I skipped the play from Hyderabad (which was bound to have been so terrible that if people actually remembered their lines you'd have felt relieved for them and clapped with enthusiasm) but I'm wondering now if I should have gone to it after all, just so I can compare it with last night's play.
Last night's play, ladies and gentlemen, was by Evam and the most unutterably boring play I've had the misfortune to see in a long time. Actually, it wasn't a play so much as a variety entertainment programme, with skits that were genre-rip-offs (one Kill Bill meets John Woo type scenario and just in case you didn't get how clever their quotation was, because actually it's a quote within a quote, within a quote, they had this on the soundtrack) or just mind-numbing pieces of sentimentality.
The skits was puntuated by each of the six actors talking to the audience. This was actually the most interesting part of the whole evening, because while it was clearly rehearsed, some of them managed to pull off an impression of spotaneity while retaining the sense that this too was 'acting'. But whatever. It wasn't interesting enough to sit through the play and I wanted to leave at the interval (the production was two hours. Can you imagine two fucking hours of this?!) but my friend didn't. So I sat and sat and actually considered sending in a review.
I have time - a few hours left - but I doubt that I will. Who could top the gem I've quoted above?
(The Suit deserves a proper stand alone review. Maybe I will, if I drown in work first.)