I was not very keen on watching Lovepuke; the directorial debut of Saba Azad. But, when a friend of mine called me on the day of the premiere show and asked me if I would join her, I said, “why not!”. When we reached NCPA around 6pm (newspapers had goofed up and wrong show timings were published), we were told that show was sold out completely. This aroused my curiosity about the play. Well, a new production which was hardly advertised except for a few articles in newspapers and Time Out and creation of a Facebook group and the show was sold out on a Thursday evening!! Wow! Now, I had to watch it. I was told that the next day show was also sold out. Hmmm…, I want to watch it more desperately. I tried online booking as suggested by one of my sources and I managed to get the tickets.
The story of this play of Duncan Sarkies revolves around these eight young individuals: three couples and two narrators. The play begins as each couple walks on stage and outlines the major events that shaped their relationship: namely, lots of sex, lots of arguing and, for some, lots of breaking up and getting back together and again lots of sex. The plot then winds back to the beginning of each of their stories: a chance meeting at a bar and proceeds chronologically from there. Their adventures are narrated by a cynical singleton friend (Imaad Shah). Who are these three couples? A low esteemed dorky guy (Karan Pandit) and a “need to look happy in front of my ex-boy friend” gal (Rifq Sarao); an “am I gay” guy and a “Sex is never enough” gal; a “she looks like my ex-girlfriend” guy (Ishaan Nair) and a “wanna have a fairy tale romance” gal (Preetika Chawla). And then there is the second narrator-figure (Saba Azad), a poet who for the most part was in a corner of the stage sitting on a commode (she seemed to be enjoying her constipation a little too much) and punctuating the proceedings with verses comparing love to a bodily function more related to what goes on in the loo than the bedroom. Her character seemed largely superfluous although her nursery rhymes about poo and goo goo were indeed amusing for those who enjoy potty humour.
Much of the laughter in the play, came from the use of swear words, simulated sex acts and while these were cheap shots, there is no denying that they worked tremendously well with most of the audience. A particularly memorable moment was when the cynic narrator, expounding on the joys of singlehood, admitted to masturbating and then pointed to the audience members and accused them with macho bluster, "I bet you masturbate too!" He seemed clearly enjoying himself as he did it.
The performance drew quite a bit of laughter through the different characteristics of the lovers that went through the discovery experience of their partners and themselves. The journey of the couples was shown through a very interesting use of placards. The Couples flashed cards in various sequences surrounding the key words of ‘Sex, Argument, Break-up, Make-up’. At the ending of each scene were displays of cards by the couples showing the key word, ‘First’, ‘Second’, ‘Not Participating’ or ‘Unfinished’ after moans of sexual elation or frustration. A couple flashing cards with ‘First’ and ‘Second’ represented an I-win-you-lose situation, whereas a couple flashing cards with ‘First’ and ‘Unfinished’ represented a bipolarity of satisfying-doubtful situation. A couple flashing ‘Not Participating’ and ‘Unfinished’ cards represented a situation of sexual depression on both sides for reasons like discontentment and disillusion with an uncommitted partner.
The success of a play like this, however, ultimately rests on its cast. They need to be completely at ease with their characters. Unfortunately, except for Imaad Shah, Tariq Vasudeva and Aditi Vasudev, all actors seemed ill at ease with their characters. As a result, though the script had real high octane energy, the performance did not give the buzz that it should have given, almost like a flat beer!!
Imaad and Tariq sizzled on the stage. Aditi was terrific with her caustic reactions to Tariq’s attempts to win a few complements. She looked and behaved a complete tease. Karan and Rifq had a very flat graph. I immensely enjoyed the first introduction scene between Preetika and Ishaan, however, as their relationship progressed and Ishaan lost interest in Preetika, I, too, lost interest in them. There was an overenthusiastic use of music score which sometimes became a little bothersome. Sometimes, even the silence works!
It was not one of the most brilliantly executed performances but one cannot write off the confidence and polish with which it was presented. Full marks to the team for that! And I hope in future we can say “full marks to the team for the performance” too!!