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Ok Tata Bye Bye

Where do I start? A lovely play with an engaging narrative – Ok Tata bye bye scores for infusing color into a dark subject like prostitution. Hoping to get aid and ultimately rescue the highway sex-workers in a certain village in central India, Mitch and Pooja set out to make a documentary on their way of life.
Their attempts to get the sex workers to open up in front of the camera and talk about what they do and why they do it form the storyline. Not only do they discover that prostitution is rooted deep in the tradition and customs of the community, but it has its share of economic ramifications as well. Most of the womenfolk in the village moonlight as sex workers to support their families. In this particular village, prostituting oneself is seen as far more lucrative and convenient than taking up a nursing job, which is perceived as pedestrian and pays poorly. Besides, these women are indispensable to the truck drivers who need sex on the highway as badly as they need food and fuel – the demand far exceeding the supply.

In the process of filming the women, relationships are forged, inner demons exposed and hearts
broken. The play was as educational as it was entertaining. And while the subject matter of prostitution has been the premise of many a play and film, Ok Tata bye bye was fresh in terms of treatment and staging.

Even thought the set was minimalistic, it was definitely one of the most effective sets I have seen. Four towering panels that stretched up to the ceiling and a choice assortment of odd props and pieces gave you the feeling that you were seated on the dirt tracks on either side of the highway next to the camp site where the film-makers were put up, and not in Prithvi theatre. And the cast were wonderful in enhancing this feel; the scene where the sex workers pile on to Mitch’s car for a drive, and the scene where Mitch and Pooja watch the footage of Seema’s dance performance on their laptop was particularly memorable.

Prerna Chawla as the unapologetic and spirited Seema was the star of the show. I almost didn’t recognize her in “All about women” – a multifaceted actor. Her performance in this play were endearing and funny. And the protagonist Pooja seemed to share better chemistry with her than Mitch. The play was replete with twists, turns and revelations that kept you well engrossed. Mitch as the typical “gora” with a weakness for the dusky beauties did justice to his character but his relationship with Pooja could have perhaps done with a little more depth. And Nishi Doshi as the timid Rupa, the fourth pivotal character in the plot brought in the surprise element; her “Amway” dance sequence nicely showcased her versatility.

What didn’t I like about this play? I am tempted to say that it dragged in parts, but it did not. However there were many poignant moments in the last ten minutes of the play that seemed befitting for an ending and yet the play lugged along. For instance, when Pooja decides to take Seema along with her to the city, the moment was perhaps apt to conclude. And the blackout at that point seemed to indicate that the play had ended. But there was more. Again, I thought the play was done when the truck-driver did his little song sequence, black-out faithfully in tow. But there was more. The script sought to provide closure to the characters even if some of them didn’t quite require it. As a result, there were multiple anti-climaxes, diminishing the high note that the audience could have walked away with. Watch Ok Tata Bye Bye for Rabijita Gogoi’s adept direction. If in fact the script was a tad lengthy, the director more than made up for it with her vision and execution.