Friday, March 26, 2010

A Funny Thing Called Life by Tahatto

21st March 2010
A Funny Thing called Life by Tahatto – 70 minutes

Short plays put together in a sequence, then interspersed with witty, humorous, interesting and informative bits of conversations by actors placed off stage went into making a single play.

70 minutes of humour and laughter was certainly worth a Sunday evening and the 15 kilometer drive.

For the record, the series of short plays as I can remember, started with the limitations and ludicrousness of the ‘automated telephone operator’, an exchange between a Gujarati boy ‘in love’ and a Malayali girl and her father (the highlight being the idiosyncrasies of two communities, often the instrument of humour and comic relief in most performing arts), Fatal beatings, the interview of the bee-keeper and a psychiatrist counseling a patient who thinks he is God.

The gap between two plays was filled with witty exchanges between two actors who played the audience. Some lines were so witty, I wished I had a notepad and could note down the lines.

Unlike in other plays that I have seen where amateur actors stammer and fumble and even deviate from correct grammar, the actors in this troupe have done their part well; all of them speak commendable English, and deliver their lines effortlessly even when they have really long and tongue twisting lines on their plate.

I like the fact that they take their work seriously and practice until perfection. This trait is valuable especially in today’s world, where people have this ‘Chalta Hai’ and ‘Adjust Maadi’ attitude, where it is easy to get away with shoddy work (thanks to the fact that all people have access to art and not just the elite); the motivation to do a perfect job must come from within and not without.

Only two of the short plays were reproductions of Mr. Bean and all others were original, I was told by one of the actors.

The good thing about reproducing the work of another, like the Mr. Bean short plays, is that you are presenting to the audience what they most probably have not taken the trouble to dig from the archives. I have watched ‘Fatal beatings’ and ‘The Interviewer’ some 25 times on Youtube but I am not sure how many among the theatre going people have.

On the other hand, a troupe has to be very careful about their choice of a play, when they are looking for something to reproduce.

Now, Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is a very very funny looking guy. All he has to do to make people laugh is simply appear on stage. He looks like a caricature, and can make very funny faces. His plays are hilarious of course but most of the laughter he evokes from his audience can be attributed to his appearance, his expressions and his body language. Unusually lean, clumsy, awkward, funny, dumb, joker-like, having a baby face and the like.

A reproduction of such a play may not evoke as much laughter unless the troupe is blessed to have a guy who looks as funny as Mr. Bean.

But yes, the troupe is certainly blessed with good looking people. All of them! Something I noticed when I watched ‘A Funny Thing Called War’ and wondered at the ‘co-incidence’!

Tahatto actors certainly need to slow down their speech rate. They are really fast.
Given that their audience is mostly Indian, no special effort need be made to anglicize pronunciation and accent. Plain Indian English (slightly improvised – please :-)) would do.

The last line of ‘Fatal Beatings’, ‘I would not cancel afternoon class to bury that little rascal’ was so fast, that a punch line that deserved roaring laughter, merely received a few chuckles.

The venue had a good ambience, soft lights, sophisticated crowd and all, but not really suited to the occasion.
Serving food or eating while the show is going on is not fair to the actors or to art. The atmosphere gets too casual.
I feel the same about the pianist in Leela Palace who is playing for anyone in general and no one in particular, also about the violinist in Lalita Mahal Palace in Mysore who plays the violin for himself as people, eat, talk and walk about.

An artist should never be reduced to a mere ornament. Most unfair.

Someone dropped a glass and covered the floor with sharp pieces. The clinking of cutlery could be heard now and then and burping sounds too. I would have been offended and distracted if I were on stage.

The occasional cries of a baby on the first floor surprised me. How could they allow children when a show was going on?

Also, more planning was in wanting as regards the seating arrangement. I and my friend had to ask for chairs and were given them after some waiting. Not wanting to be obstructed by two pillars in the centre of the hall (what are they doing there?!), we occupied a small space in between two tables, close to the wall. This of course, is feedback for Kyra, not the troupe.

A friend, who debuted in this play as a voice-over artist, has now officially entered the world of theatre. Best wishes to you.

They say doing the right things or doing things right does not necessarily take you far; but knowing people takes you places.
One thing that the team is doing right, whether knowingly or unknowingly is endearing itself to people. The screen that separates the actors on stage from the spectators off stage, is very light (the heavy curtains are not there). Let this not mislead you to doubt their professionalism.

The first time I saw this in theatre was when watching Doubles, Triples & Quadruples by Evam in RS. Snatching the few minutes after each short play, while the stage was being prepared for the next one, each actor came to the forefront of the stage, removed their footwear (this gesture made a big difference - when you take off your shoes, you become more ‘down to earth‘ :-), literally & figuratively) and narrated an interesting episode from their personal life with sincerity. Karthik talked about his cup of wine, Shakila about her multiple marriage ceremonies with the same man, Sunil about his search for a partner and others…
That was surely the moment that decided that the audience would applaud in the end, no matter how the play turned out. Personal touch and sincerity never fail to win the hearts of people.

After the play was over, members of the Tahatto troupe mixed with the audience, thanked them personally for coming to watch the show and asked them for their feedback with humility.
That was enough. It takes care of the rest.

Do watch this play.


notgogol said...

I'm relatively certain I've been here before. Then why can't I seem to find my comment. Why did you delete it? :P

I remember saying nice things about how envious I am of how much you've traveled. You have traveled so much!

Shuchi said...

Hi Sowmya

Discovered your blog through twitter. Good stuff here!

I had wanted to go for this play but couldn't make it. Hope to watch it on its next run.

Sowmya said...


I never delete comments unless they happen to be left with irresponsibility in a condition of anonimity.
Keep coming here.
And your satire is brilliant. I have been hooked to your blog for sometime now.


Welcome to this space. And thanks for the nice words :)
Yes. Do watch the play.

Piyush Agarwal said...

Hi Sowmya,

Thank you for the review. Nothing matters more to us than our audience's feedback and your review means a lot.

We will surely keep in mind the point on 'Dialog Delivery Pace' and also make sure we do not loose the essence of what makes us Tahatto!

Looking forward to having you for all our future shows. Happy writing.. :)

notgogol said...

Don't worry I'll keep coming here. Whenever I want to feel envious about people's travels I'll be here (and secretly cursing you as well) :)