Point of View

This month Avinash D'Souza reviews QTP's 'Project S.T.R.I.P.'. The views expressed in this article are those of the author. You are welcome to agree, disagree or comment by emailing us at qtheatreproductions@gmail.com

Statutory Warning: Consume as appropriate to condition

Not even in Amsterdam would they advertise sex so openly. But Bombay being Bombay, hope springs eternal...bolna padta hai. Currently being staged at Prithvi, Project S.T.R.I.P. is a satirical paradox written by Ram Ganesh Kamatham and directed by Quasar Thakore Padamsee. The cast consists of Shruti Sridharan, Neil Bhoopalam, Dilnaz Irani, Harssh Singh, and Tariq Vasudeva. This play marks Quasar's directing comeback and is a million sights better than Sanjay Kapoor's. Difference: the man has obscene talent which comes through in the direction of this play. The play focuses on the impacts of development on the native inhabitants of a fictitious island in the Bay of Bengal. The subtext of the play surfaces from the outset as the island’s commercial recognition is translated to imply discovery and the play overtly deals with the negative aspects of unstructured development. Issues such as integration of the primitive, the fallout of globalization and the balance of progress against cultural rituals are grappled with. Project S.T.R.I.P. begins in rather unpromising fashion with imbalanced stage energy and strong physicality. As the play progresses, the energy evens out to a staccato and more emphasis is drawn to the issues being addressed. The male and female leads are played by Harssh Singh (Roy, a retired navy man now recon expert) and Dilnaz Irani (Aarti, an anthropologist/conflicted social activist/…) and they do a very fair job of leading us through the storyline through their characters. Roy has his dry humour and Aarti has an honorary specialization in the ENT area. The corporation re presented by Shruti Sridharan and Tariq Vasudeva, displays admirable...commitment and focus (insert endless loop here). On a serious note, though Tariq's performance is an abrasion on the senses; that's exactly what it's intended as and he does a stellar job. Neil Bhoopalam. The man is a funny. Now what more I say macha? Ayababubenbadademamen.
Lighting, set design. It isn’t that kind of play. Honest. That said, it has Arghya and Dhanendra (people I’ve previously raved about) on lights and set design so it’s really quite sorted. J I don't normally notice costuming but this time I did cos it was spot on. Right from the leather patch blazer of the out of place navy man to the REALLY tight (my sympathies Tariq) suit of the yuppie corporate head honcho. It’s not something one really cottons on to but it lends a lot to characterization.
I think, one of the main reasons to watch this play is the sieve through which it has been filtered. As opposed to the tradition of treating the script as gospel and finding actors to fit the mould, the script has been arrived at through a flexible and op en-ended stint with a group of actors. With a brief outline of the story to work with, the characters were etched by the actors instead of the other way around. While such lab-work has shortfalls, QTP has managed to keep the stern pointed in the right direction in terms of storyline and context. It’s not a new approach for sure but it’s novel for Mumbai theatre for sure. If, like yours truly, you’re a semi-sadist you won’t fail to enjoy the arterial dark humour of this play. Your mind will conjure metaphors that cannot be rightly attributed to Q or Ram. And then you’ll reach. Which is what theatre should aspire to make the audience do. This play is like olives: an acquired taste. You will like it or you won’t. It's a very involved piece with a pov on some serious issues and it must be respected for that. I can't help but link this play to something Ram had written a couple of years ago for the Thespo 2007 magazine. He implied that theatre is a social process and that the final stage is the absorption and regurgitation of the audience. Or close enough. S.T.R.I.P. facilitates that but the true brilliance of the penmanship is that the real subtext is cleverly vignetted. That the consequences of development are a process and not a static-state switch. The changing strips at the back of the stage are an indicative metaphor (I think) of that ideology. S.T.R.I.P. spares us the naiveté of a silver bullet and keeps away from ... (Suitable verbatim analogy: “He’s masturbating. On my screen.”). There is a certain ambivalence to the depiction of a rather strong message in that it’s neither a balls-out comedy nor a harbinger of doom. It leads you but lets you. It’s not one of those plays that forces you to think. You have to choose to. Or hick-hocks rulz…