Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Theatre/ Play review- Wedding Album- an original, gone yawn!

Girish Karnad’s Wedding Album was playing in Prithvi Theater the other night. There was a lot of buzz surrounding it, considering the cast and the writer in question. Hence decided to give it a shot and that too on a Saturday night, when a shot usually means getting something that lifts your spirits!
The play started off promising to be something different, especially with the treatment of the typical pixilated video call by Vidu (Ira Dubey) to her prospective husband Ashwin, who is settled in US and yet wants an Indian bride. The storyline centers around the incidents that happen within the Konkani family, around the impending wedding of their daughter. Vidu’s family consists of her retired father, mom, her elder sister Hema (married and settled in Australia, flown down for the wedding leaving her husband and two kids behind), her brother Rohit (the breadwinner and also a prospective bridegroom) and their maid Radhabai.
So the stage looked set for some fun, drama and other things that you usually associate with an Indian wedding. But then that is where exactly the story lets you down. Every character is touched upon, the underlying tension in them /dual personality is revealed but then nothing progresses beyond that. There is no deeper probing of the characters, no justifiable background given as to why a character has been moulded or become the way he or she is.
As a part of the cast, Ira Dubey as Vidu and her father, Utkarsh Mazumdar leave an impression. Ira for her spirited act and Utkarsh for his awesome comic timing and one liners. He definitely provided the much needed comic relief during the play. However then these do not lift the overall feeling that one gets of a script with potential gone horribly wrong. The first half was tolerable but the second half just loses the plot and you get bored as a viewer. The wedding theme hence does not hold any relevance and actually works against the plot as you progress as a viewer. It could have just been any other occasion.
At the end of it you get the feeling of having watched something that was left incomplete with way too many unanswered questions. Part of the reason could also be the fact that the play was originally written in Konkani and the English version definitely doesn’t ring a bell.
So in this case, the play Wedding album is an original gone yawn… I mean wrong! .Get high the other way guys on a Saturday night and be responsible.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Theatre/Play review : Ravanleela- a laughing virus attack!

Am writing this article with a premise that all of us know Ramayana- the story of prince Ram. If not, kindly buy a book or rent the entire DVD collection of Ramanand Sagar’s epic serial –Ramayan, which is how most of India learnt about it! The Ramayana play is staged during the Navratri festival leading upto Vijayadashmi, the day when Lord Ram killed Ravan and avenged the abduction of his wife Sita. Ramleela is the name given to the play format that is staged during the festival every year, more so in North India. It’s become more like a tradition that has to be followed come what may.
However what makes it interesting is the drama that is usually associated with its casting and the eventual screening. Today people have lost the interest in it, given mythology is uncool for the youth. Most stage actors, given the pittance of the sum they receive as remuneration for their performances don’t really care. Also women do not participate in such plays given the stigma associated with female actors especially in villages. So then it becomes an all male crew of whosoever is willing to act. Also to increase interest /generate footfalls there are occasional item numbers thrown in. Sponsorship usually comes in from the local politician who also views this as a populist opportunity.
 Yatri’s play by Om katare is a satirical take on the above and hence is aptly titled Ravanleela. It showcases all of the above and the added drama that creeps into the play, when its central character Ravan refuses to die for want of proper remuneration! Went for it the other day at Mysore association, Matunga .
The show is a play within a play and takes place in the fictional small town of Jigarpur. It is filled with all the nautanki that is usually associated in small towns. Audiences throw tomatoes, okra etc at the helpless announcer who time and again apologises for the late start of events. They jump on the stage at the slightest given opportunity. There are the usual goofups like actors forgetting their lines, the organizer having a tough time prompting dialogues apart from running from pillar to post to make the show happen and the background music overpowering the dialogues time and again. Male side actors come out to dance with an intent to add to the drama of certain scenes making the entire effort look like an item number. Every incident is hilarious and is wonderfully captured.
The play begins with the introduction of a ‘punjabi’ Ravan, who is the senior most actor in the troupe. He drinks, forgets his lines and is more concerned about his leaking roof than the play getting completed. One by one all the characters are introduced and each one has a nuance. Every scene is a delight and most of them have you in splits. The scenes of the unwilling and overweight male actor who is forced to play Sita, those of  Hanuman who gets injured on his leg leading to a limping yet standout performance throughout the play, the love angle of Meghnad with a female audience member are all wonderful moments that one will cherish. The icing on the cake is the scene where Hanuman challenges Ravan in his court and gets an impromptu applause from the crew and a reward of Rs 500/- from the audience .There are also cleverly designed behind the scene moments, which explore another dimension of the characters in the play. A special mention to the fashion designer also for increasing the cool quotient of the play and making it more relevant to the audiences of today. While Ravan has a playboy locket and a 'virus' chain that establish his credentials, Ram has 'anti-virus'!
The play's dialogues are top notch and deserve a standing ovation with every character getting his fame under the sun. The characters of Sita, the organizer Jagannath and Hanuman stay with you even after the play. But the showstopper here is the central character of Ravan. Played with aplomb, this punjabi Ravan is cool  and leaves a lasting impression. The best of one-liners delivered with splendid timing make him the hero of the play undoubtedly. This Ravanleena ,even the gods will enjoy and probably have a laughing 'virus' attack.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Movie Review- Thoroughly Entertaining- Inside Out!

The main difference between humans and animals is the presence of brain or rather our ability to use it. And what governs our brain or headquarters are emotions. They play a very major role in how we feel, what we do, how we respond to situations/people etc.  Any significant experience in our daily lives, triggered by these emotions, usually gets registered in us as a long term memory. These could be related to something that’s happened around a place or a person. And whenever one gets into a similar zone, these memories resurface and with them the emotions too.
Which is precisely the reason why we gel with certain people or like certain kind of food/cuisine or places . And when it comes to a different kind, we just cannot stand them .They leave us with emotions like disgust, anger, sorrow and sometimes even fear . The other kind makes us feel wanted, happy. They bring in the everlasting emotion of joy into our lives thereby creating a strong mutual bond. This bond is what we identify or conclude as friendship, family, soulmate, life partner etc.
Well hold on guys, this is definitely not a psychiatry class, neither am I blogging about the human mind and its complex emotions. This is just the crux of the animation movie Inside out. What is amazing is the simplicity in which this complex subject, which even adults fail to comprehend easily ,has been laid out bare to children.
Inside Out is the wonderful story of Riley and her experiences in life. Right from the moment when she is born, to the different experiences that she has as a part of her growing up in life, we are introduced to the five basic and wonderful emotions that rule her mind. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust manifest one by one in her brain post birth. They play inside her head,influence her to make decisions, which eventually reflect in her actions in the outside world. These actions create memories, some of which are core memories (lifetime experiences), that get stored in her brain.
The entire job of these emotions is to make her arrive at decisions meant to protect her, make her feel better etc  which is basically how a human brain functions. How these emotions eventually play out in Riley's life when she moves out of her cocoon forms the engaging climax of the movie.
The discerning power of the human brain is what makes us take decisions and the outcome of these decisions goes on to influence our lives later on. But what is outstanding is the treatment of this subject by the director Pete Doctor. Not once will you feel that the topic is too heavy or boring.
The simple narrative and the pace at which the plot unfolds, thereby explaining the complexities of our emotions, yet keeping it engaging is a mind boggling achievement by the director.
The script has been executed in a way that even kids will find easy to comprehend or relate to. The animation is engaging and keeps you nicely hooked to the narrative. The beautiful message,that every emotion has an important role to play in our lives and no emotion is never completely negative or positive, is brought out nicely through the movie. The fact that Joy and Sorrow co-exist in our lives and help us overcome our struggles is also cleverly depicted in the movie. 
Overall  Inside Out is a beautiful watch . Very seldom have such topics been explored and that too through animation. So hat’s off to the entire team at Disney and Pixar for the outstanding effort . 
And yes this movie tingles every emotion in your brain and has you throughly entertained-Inside Out…throughout!