June 26, 2008

One Review and Another – Wedding Album (Girish Karnad) and Karna (Ranga Theatre)

Since I have come to Mumbai, plays have become an integral part of my life. Finding people interested in watching plays is however a problem. But when there’s a will there’s usually a way. In the recent times there have been a couple of plays that have really been above the rest and I think they are worth a mention.

A friend dragged me one night to watch the play Wedding Album. It was also the day the rains hit an unsuspecting Mumbai. But she had made the right choice. As I sat in my second most favourite seat at Prithvi, I just laughed my heart out all along the way. This was a new Girish Karnad I was experiencing. Light, at times frivolous, but hard hitting all along the way. Some might call the characters a collection of stereotypes but if stereotypes are so lovable then bring them on I say.

The story revolves around an urban, educated Indian family planning the marriage of their second daughter. The patriarch is old and depends solely on his memories to believe that things will work out well. The adoring mom, the elder siblings and even the cook are all protective of the youngest member of the family whom they adore. Each have their own share of frustrations in their lives and yet coming together for the marriage of their daughter/sister is perhaps a break from their mundane lives.

Each of the minor characters has also been sketched extremely well. The neighbourhood teenager who has a huge crush on the elder sister, the ‘suitable groom’ who has done ‘everything’ in the US of A but comes back to search in India the girl with ‘our rich cultural traditions’, the parents who want to help out in the wedding since the brother is also extremely eligible for their own daughter.

The best part about the play is that if anyone has had a wedding at their house in India, they will relive those moments, good, bad or ugly. My two cents - don’t spend your time worrying how can one agree to marry someone without meeting them, how can a family have so many dark secrets and other such earth shattering concerns. It’s a play best enjoyed if you as the quintessential Indian and look at yourself in the mirror of this play and laugh at your idiosyncrasies.

The second play I want to recommend is the play called Karna – The Generous warrior by a relatively unknown group (at least to me) Ranga Theatre. Two things made me decide that I wanted to watch this play. First of course is that it was on my favourite character in The Mahabharata. And secondly, they had a line in their promo poster, “like every 2nd actor who has not seen the kind of theatre he/she believes in.” I have seldom seen such candid acceptance of the reason to be ‘different’ from the rest.

Karna doesn’t tell you a different story. It just tells a story differently. It does not tell you the story like Vyas’ glorification of heroic traits; it doesn’t tell it like Tagore’s lyrical rendering of an unspoken pain. It tells you the story like a story would have been told hundreds of years ago, the way the Chou dancers from Purulia still tell their story. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions which even scholars have failed to decipher. Karna denoted the paradox that greatness in India is usually compared with. Did he ever repent for what he had done? Was he a hero or a misguided genius lost in his burning desire to prove himself better than his arch rival? Was he a friend or a follower? Answers that are best left to be answered by individuals in search of their own meaning of The Mahabharata.

What I loved about the play was that it reminded me of how we used to think about a play - Think about every step; make modifications to the histrionics to make every scene just a little better and often going overboard with it.

The play was physically intense and extremely well choreographed but that’s perhaps where the acting takes a beating. Theatre drains one of energy with every single movement and it takes great training and talent to be able to live up to the hundreds of eyes looking at your every step.

An excellent endeavour but can improve with better dialogue delivery and acting. The raw smell of passion however makes it a definite watch.

I hate the fact I am moving away from Prithvi and closer to NCPA.


Anonymous said...

me again!
i live in a part of the country where they dont have many/any(?) quality plays and theatre performances. But i will be in mumbai for all of july...can ye suggest something for then??
am a first timer in mumbai.

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

Dear Me Again! Can definitely help you about Mumbai in my limited capacity. Just let me know what your interests are.

Anonymous said...

How nice of you to offer help :)
...i d lap up pretty much anything given my present state of being....i d say along lines of your muzaffarpur. but yes i ll be stationed at colaba and distance will matter cuz i ll be new :)

Krishnaja Gutta said...

I loved wedding album for the most part- the characters potrayed the stereotypes very well and that made the play light and funny. But the monologue right about in the middle of the latter half of the play by the NRI groom which went on for around 20 mins was very unecessary I thought

peculiarblend said...

My partner has suggested me this play and we are going for the'Wedding Album' this Saturday. We are new into this play world but we surely are very excited to watch our very 1st play in our very own city of madness, Mumbai.

Thank you for your insights about the play.