Theatre Watch: "One Small Day"

I happened to catch a performance of One Small Day at NCPA. Not quite sure if it follows the mood of watching an idyllic sunset at Marine Drive with special someones, but the play was good in some parts, and average in some.

Backdrops first – Directed by Jayant Kripalani, Produced by Anish Trivedi, and enacted by Dipika Roy and Anish Trivedi himself, the play traces the interaction between two very different, yet similar people, caught in a room together where the lady has come to kill the gentleman (in a self-redeeming effort of avenging her sister’s death).

First, about the cast and the people. Jayant is known for his wit, timing and acting, right from the days of the TV Series – “Khandaan”. Truly a man of great theatrical skills, Jayant lends his credibility and touch to this play. Anish, an ex-Investment Banker turned playwright, with his previous play “Still Single” going off the streets after an year of performances, started the Banyan Tree production company, and has a radio show on 92.5FM. Banyan Tree is one of the largest radio programming companies in India. Theatre, has been a recent foray for Anish and Banyan Tree. And for encouragement, the previous act (Still Single) did win him some good and some bad press. Dipika Roy has also been around in the theatre circuits for quite some time and has a list of impressive plays to her credit. Anish’s partner at Banyan Tree, she is Anish’s muse for sure given her role in Still Single as well as One Small Day.

Trivia: In the initial running of the play, Jayant was acting and Anish was directing. But for some reason, within a month or so, the roles were reversed.

Back to the play, which apparently is an inspired play. The original required people to take sides, define things as right or wrong, while Anish and Jayant’s effort is more on the humorous side. It’s not an intellectually challenging play, and plays for approximately 2 hours on the humorous/ satirical side of things.

Sheila (Dipika) barges into Bollywood Producer Hari Kapoor’s (Anish) office to kill him. His crime – Sheila’s sister Seema has committed suicide, after Hari failed to live up to his promise of casting her in a role. A heartbroken Seema ends up taking her life, but not before telling her sister why she is doing it. Having had a troubled childhood (after losing her mother at the age of 18, and father at the age of 22, Sheila raises her 14 year old sister all by herself. She has lived her life by the social norms of right and wrong, doing all the right things and sacrificing her “life” in return. She blames Hari for having lost the most important person in her life- Seema. Hari, over the course of a long conversation which fairly wittily tries to address the question of different personalities, insecurities, actions, motives, reality, people, emotions, individuality, sacrifices, choices, careers, and most importantly, the futility of it all, end up liking Sheila, and making out with her (not on the stage, of course! Indian audiences are not ready for that real a play as yet!). Sheila, however, having been pulled out of her shackles in the first half of the play, digs out Hari’s insecurities in the second half, and shooting him (not fatally, though) towards the end.

The play continues to hit upon the broken dreams and failed aspirations of each of the characters (Sheila, Sushma and Hari) and the roles they played in making them the kind of people they were. And the undertone used is –humor and sarcasm. The play is quite funny, with its wisecracks. However, the essence of a powerful script is that the audience should carry the play with them when they move out of the theatre. That does not happen here!

Background score used in the play is quite involved and in sync with the theme. The stage handling is very apt, and so is the use of the stage. The two actors have played their parts well. However, some of the estrangement and grief that two torn lives should have was missing in their performance.

Overall- a good effort. Can definitely be watched. Much better than spending a weekend on movies like “Just Married” or “HatTrick”

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Couple of weeks of missed reviews!

Few snippets that’ve been lost in the sands of the last few (phew!) weeks –

1. Double deal – I decided to catch up with this fairly well known play. Experience – 4-5 out of 10.
Sandhya Mridul looks very beautiful. But Mahesh Manjrekar acted better. Even if I am the only person to think so – I always got a feeling that both the people are acting at 2 levels – 1. when they are trying to have this continuous conversation in English (I find it normal for Indians to intuitively think in their native tongue and then translate before conversing), and 2. The play itself.
It must be difficult to pull these multi-stor(e)y acts!
Also, its a one-act play split into 2 halves. 2 characters. Talking continuously.
Sense of humor – ok. Sense of drama – average. plot – good. Use of stage – minimal. Use of props – minimal. Characterization – could be better. Background music used- average.
Final comment – Its that one thing you dont want to do for fun when you want to do something for fun.
2. Ghostrider – Again.. Pathetic! Of all the comics turned movies, I have ended up liking X-men and Spiderman. Superman- the older ones. The recent one was not quite there.
Ghostrider is that Ajay Devgan action movie where even if he jumped from the 50th floor to land on 2 bicycles, there would be some B-grade movie watchers hooting for him. And the director would still say – my movie is different. It appeals to a different class of people.
Nicholas Cage, and Eva Mendes disappoint. Cage looks like a doped patient of running-stomach-syndrome. I want to go somewhere but I am too doped to understand where I want to go kinda looks! The devil is useless – does not evoke a laughter, definitely does not scare. Villains are more funny with their frozen white makeup!
Action sequences are basic, stuff that can be seen in every third movie.

High point of the movie – Emraan Hashmi, the serial kisser of Bollywood, was standing next to me in the washroom. And I realized that he is shorter than me (for those who havent seen me, someone has to be extremely extremely short to be shorter than me). God bless Indian Cinema!

3. Chennai – the city deserves a mention. I was in Chennai for 3-4 months in 2003. While talking to Bonnie and Tushar, we all agreed on two things –
a. Anyone who stays here for more than x months, should be a given a certificate of appreciation. X is a function of how far north of chennai the person is from.
b. If you see a beautiful girl in Chennai, then most probably she is a tourist. And its not about them not being good looking. They just dont have the attitude to look good.

In 2006, with probably 60% of educated families having one family member who is/has been abroad, the city is down in the pits with its conservative nature. The autowallahs havent changed in the last 40 years it seems. The roads continue to be messy (though definitely better than Mumbai roads). People on the street still cannot come out of the north-south divide and their biases. Extremely unfriendly. And any johnnie can become a hero down south!

4. Saving the best for the last – Prithvi Theater– Celebrating Poetry. I was there on a saturday when they were showcasing the emergence of progressive poetry. However, the story went back to as far as Bulle Shah, Kabirdas and covered Ghalib, Nirala, and contemporary Nida Fazli sahab as well. Beautiful collection of poetry. Couple of the actors could have done better by memorizing their lines completely.

Final suggestion – The Babbar family kids (Raj Babbar’s son and daughter) – they should stay away from theatre. Those who cannot act in movies, will never be able to act on a stage. and especially, if the stage is like Prithvi!

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