Comedies Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar and The Play Begins at 8 pm, both of which debut this weekend, feature wannabe actresses as protagonists. The Guide goes backstage to find out what's making theatrewallahs look at their own fraternity for inspiration
Samuel Beckett did it with Catastrophe, Michael Frayn did it with Noises Off and David Mamet with A Life In Theatre. Closer home, we've seen Satish Alekar's Begum Barve, Vijay Tendulkar's Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe and, of course, Natasamrat by Kusumagraj. The one thing that all these plays have in common is that they're located inside the world of theatre. From the theatre of the absurd, to realist drama and comedies, playwrights representing different genres seem to find inspiration in their own reality.
Television actress Nausheen Ali Sardar plays the protagonist in
The Play Begins At 8 pm
Recently, in March Artist Studio Production premiered Crystal Anniversary, which was based on the lives of two performers who've had to make compromises to make ends meet. Now, the Mumbai theatre scene will see the debut of two plays -- Akvarious Productions' Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar and Chilsag Chillies Theatre Company's The Play Begins At 8 pm -- which derive their plots from the lives of struggling actors.
Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar is a simple, feel-good love story featuring an aspiring actress, Sweety (Shivani Tanksale), and a considerate and affectionate producer, Vipul (Pawan Uttam). When she 'screws up' her audition, the crazy actress tries to makes things go her way by holding the producer hostage in her home. Things only get crazier from here.
Working on a play based on familiar territory did help director Hidaayat Sami. He agrees that rehearsals for the initial scene, which shows the audition process, were a cakewalk. "The play starts with an audition and it's a scenario we identify with, so it becomes easier to block the scene," he says.
Pawan Uttam and Shivani Tanksale in a still from Akvarious
Productions' Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar
With The Play Begins At 8 pm, playwright-director Sachin Gupta intends to focus on the conflict between experimental and commercial theatre. Sophia (Nausheen Ali Sardar) and Raymen (Siddharth Arya) represent "the two different sides of theatre", according to Gupta.
"The play explores the conflict between attracting a huge crowd and sponsorship for a production by diluting its essence and staying true to the art form by putting up a show for a discerning few," says Gupta, who insists he cast TV actress Nausheen in the lead not just because her name would pull in audiences.
In the past, Mumbai's theatre-going junta have lapped up several revivals of Noises Off, Shantata Court Chalu Aahe and Begum Barve. The version of A Life In Theatre, directed by Zubin Driver, and featuring Akash Khurana and Denzil Smith is still talked about. So, do Gupta and Sami envision similar success for their plays? They hope so, they say. Modesty and the fear of jinxing a project prevent them from further speculation.
Catch Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar on April 10, 5 pm and 7 pm, at Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point. Call 22824567 Tickets Rs 300, Rs 250 and Rs 200
The Play Begins at 8 pm premieres on April 10, 8 pm, at Ravindra Natya Mandir, near Siddhivinayak Temple, Sayani Marg, Prabhadevi. Call 24312956 Tickets Rs 1,000, Rs 500,
Rs 200, Rs 100