Monday, May 14, 2012

Fresh take on humour

April 17 2012, Aakanksha Devi
Brilliant Act

Failure versus success. Studies versus sports. Big brother versus little one. And an audience, at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall, left rolling with laughter!

Such was the effect of the play ‘Big B’, co-directed and co-authored by Sayeed Alam and Niti Sayeed.

Brought to the City by the Bangalore Royals Round Table for the cause of ‘Freedom through Education’, this ‘IND-lish’ rendition of Munshi Premchand’s 1934 short story, Bade Bhai Saheb, ‘Big B’, took the audience back to the era of the ‘Raj’ to a hostel room of brothers Srikant and Samrat Prasad Pande. In line with the cause, the play tells tales of Srikant, played by Sayeed Alam, and Samrat, played by Ram Naresh, at school, satirically critiquing the education system.

Opposites in nature and aptitude, the brothers are constantly, though unwittingly, at loggerheads. The typical father figure to the intelligent Samrat but with no credibility, Srikant is an epitome of failure. Despite remaining in the ninth standard for five years, he dutifully admonishes his younger brother using broken English to literally translate his precious Hindi.

And while suffering seems to be Samrat’s birthright, he still looks up and even looks out for his brother by warning him from going out on dark evenings saying it was too ‘nighty’! Unwilling, however, to accept that he isn’t the ideal mentor, Srikant continues to give Samrat unsolicited advice causing the younger lad’s ‘head to eat circles!’ Or for current times, when Hindi is not frowned upon, “uska sar chakkar kha raha tha!”

This performance by Delhi’s Pierrot’s Troupe, used flashbacks by introducing a third character — a 90-year-old version of Samrat, played by Ekant Kaul. Sayeed says that the play has been done so many times, a fresh take was needed. “The charm of theatre is that it takes one back to the age of the characters. And the challenge is in performing something that is true to an era we haven’t seen.”

While the audience was in splits throughout, it was interesting to see that people empathised with the characters. Nikhil Y, who studied in boarding school, said that times indeed remained unchanged. “Some seniors were terrible at studies yet they insisted we study hard. This was lovely. It showcased the sheer genius of both Premchandji and the theatre company.”

By retaining the original period of the 1930s, the play interweaved past with present, celebrating greats like Gandhiji while ‘making jokes fly’ (mazak udana!) about Ashish Nehra.

Sayeed appreciatively said, “Performing in Bangalore is always spectacular. It’s so encouraging when people actually pay to watch shows.” The audience was also forthcoming in their praise. Theatreperson Arushi said that she was apprehensive of a ‘Hinglish’ play but found the show fabulous. “The performers were brilliant and the humour so excellent; it’s a refreshing change from the usual crappy comedy.”

Her husband Amitabh was also greatly impressed by the show. “It was nice, clean, simply and funny,” he says between laughs as he recalled dialogues.

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