> AK's Various Thoughts

You may not have noticed, but I didn’t manage to send in my article for the last two issues of The Script. The first time, I just wanted to see if anyone cared. And the second time I was just upset with the realization that nobody actually did. I could have sulked right into 2012, but I wasn’t missing the year-end theater round-up article for anything. Especially now that so many more people were enthusiastically sharing their top votes.

So yet again, the question was posed to hell of a lot of people. A little over 150 replied, which while being a decent sample, is less than last year’s number. Last year’s poll was pretty representative, considering 3 of the top 10 plays went on to do pretty well, and even be selected for META from where they did not return empty handed. Lets see how this sample fares.

One interesting thing is that a lot of people landed up voting for plays that they saw this year, which didn’t necessarily open this year. But that’s fair, and thus this would be a representation of the most popular of the plays that ran in 2011. In fact 2 plays from last year’s list (Bade Miyan Deewane and One on One) got some votes this year as well, but not enough to make it into the top 10. However The Interview got a lot of votes this year as well and thus does move up from the top ten to the top five. Considering that 30 of its 35 shows happened in 2011, I suppose it makes sense.

Anyhow, enough with the explanations and disclaimers. Now for the results of the poll. Here are the 5 plays with the most votes, in alphabetical order.    

Come December, and The Industrial Theatre Company had a phoenix like re-emergence with their third (or is it fourth) take on Girish Karnad’s play about head swapping and other relationship issues. Arghya Lahiri and Pushan Kripalani took on a new space (Cama Hall), a fresh bunch of committed actors, interesting design elements, and a spate of consecutive weekends (good decisions, all) and regaled audiences as the year closed. 

The Interview
Siddharth Kumar’s corporate satire exploded onto the festival circuit and found much favour, not least from the META jury, where it bagged 4 coveted awards including Best Play. The play traveled extensively, finding new audiences across the country (and in the Gulf) that connected with the journey taken by the characters through a day in the life of the corporate maze that represents urban India rather well, tongue firmly in cheek.

Me Grandad ‘ad an Elephant
Here’s another revival that features an animal. And inventive direction courtesy Digvijay Savant. And some delightful music. I am personally pleased as punch that it had a second coming. This production has an inherent charm that makes you happy just to be in the theatre with its Kerala-ite characters and kooky chorus. A few cast changes worked very well for the play and here’s hoping this manages a lot more shows.

Stories in a Song
Unanimously loved, Sunil Shanbag’s musical production has won over the most cynical viewers. I am yet to hear one negative thing about this piece (which I, shamefully, have not yet seen). With Shubha Mudgal collaborating, this play is not only entertaining and musically sound, it is also an important theatre event. With a cast to put Indian Idol to shame, and a master craftsman at the helm, this one was a winner on paper itself. Now its popularity has led to a sequel that opens in February.

Super 8
The dearth of venues in Mumbai (for various reasons) led to Akvarious Productions setting up shop at The Comedy Store. While existing comedies worked well, the space and audience demanded a customized production. And Super 8 was born. A collection of contemporary comedies by Indian and foreign writers, this politically incorrect, potentially offensive medley of funny sketches was an instant success and a great launch pad for some new writing.

As is usually the case, here are the next 5. The ones that fell short of the highest bracket but got enough votes to justify a worthy mention:

By George
This has been said enough times, but I’ll say it again: Shah does Shaw. And who better? Three short pieces by George Bernard, celebrating his language and wit. A lovely design (that little shop is to die for), some super strong performances, and a text that can do no wrong.

Kishen v/s Kanhaiya
A solid entertainer, featuring Paresh Rawal, about a man fighting for his insurance only to find that he will have to fight God. Loosely based on the Australian film, “The Man Who Sued God”, this is a wonderful adaptation, perfectly remodeled for Indian audiences.

Peter Pan
An ambitious stage version of J M Barrie’s classic, this was a runaway success, helped along by some simple but effective stagecraft, a rope-climbing bundle of energy as the boy who never grew up, and a hilarious new rendition of Hook. Oh, and a crocodile. Kids of all ages lapped it up.

Rafta Rafta
While this may look like some serious plugging on my part, the fact is that Akvarious seems to have had a good year. This retelling of Ayub Khan-Din’s culture-curry comedy also scored. A strong uninhibited ensemble, and the inherent humour in a story about Indians abroad made this a guilty pleasure of sorts.

The Water Station
The newest offering from the creators of The Elephant Project, this play is unique, since it is a two hour long, wordless performance. Pushing the envelope, and Mumbai audiences, this emerged a winner nonetheless, with people appreciating its form, its visual style, and in some cases, its therapeutic silence. 

So that’s what the word on the aisles is. Like last year, a few plays that either opened late or didn’t have too many shows also got some serious love. I like to call this the “bubbling under” ones. Chances are that they will make quite a mark in 2012. The Centrestage festival at NCPA threw up a couple of winners again – Hassan Abdulrazzak’s moving tale of friendship, Baghdad Wedding, and Vikram Kapadia’s set of monologues for Mumbaikars, Bombay Talkies. A regular feature on such lists, Manav Kaul was busy making a film this year but just before the year was out, the opening shows of his newest play, Laal Pencil, created waves. Certainly one to watch out for.

That’s all folks. January sees 12 new plays by Indian writers showcased at Writers Bloc (including Siddharth Kumar and his second play, Spunk). Here’s a tip from an inside man. I’ve read / heard some of these texts, and they’re genuinely quite wonderful. Book your tickets now is what I’d say.