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  •  Frightfully Funny - an evening of Comedy

Frightfully Funny - an evening of Comedy Author:Amit K Dutt   Posted On:2018-09-23


42 is haunted. For certain. All right, so you folks believe I have had one too many. Don’t have to take my word for it, no; ask all the DI-ites who watched the play-reading at Live@DI on Wednesday, the 19th September 2018. That disembodied tinny voice, that apparition  unlocking with  contemptuous cynicism one dark skeleton after another secreted away in what was till then considered by the young couple their own  secure cupboards. And she – the shade claimed return from a dead aunt of the house -- even took umbrage at not being addressed with the reverence a doyenne merits! One does not cease to wonder how many of those present watched with nonchalance, -- one never knew, that mean, godforsaken wraith just might step out of the script any moment and lay bare their liaisons as well. I, for one, -- psst, this in an aside, out of Aditi’s earshot -- confess missing a beat or two. Of the cardiac variety, what else.  I quaffed the trepidation down with  liberal draughts of whiskey: intrepidity has this Netherlandish association -- inexplicably intertwined, you know.

Yes, that was the stuff of Bichitra Prem, a young husband and  wife, -- admirably portrayed by Bisakha Sen Das and Georgie Guha, -- coming to terms with their share of dalliances, revealed by that gossip-mongering, resident spectre, the nasal interpolations creditably intoned and inflected in the voice-over by Tapashi Mukherjee.

The ten-minute skit was preceded by Sasuri Banam Bouma. Translated as Mother versus daughter, -- relatives by marriage, -- this was a comedy of manners .  A sharp exchange between the two brought forth the hypocritical respectability of what is considered a sedate and conservative life of an average middle-aged Bengali lady and a matter-of-fact daughter-in-law who cocks a cynical snook at the traditional values and mores. The veneer of the sasuri, it transpired, was a diaphanous mask over a yearning for the liberalism she envies the generation next of. Tapashi as sasuri and Aditi Dutt as bouma redeemed their roles, -- in the process evoking quite some guffaws from among the audience.

Biliti Pishi, on the other hand, portrayed the misgivings of yet another tradition-bound bheto-Bangali, Jaya, and her friend, Shanta, on  how to converse with an aunt of Titli, the daughter-in-law, and what fare to rustle up for her,  who, they apprehend, has forgotten her tongue, as also her traditional way of life, -- metamorphosed irredeemably hoity-toity after six months  in the United States of Anglicism, baby-sitting her grand-daughter there. No amount of conciliation by the daughter, Shiuli, could calm their jitters. And leading them on, this pishi enters suitably attired in a western dress fanning herself daintily, sending yet more icicles down the collective spine of the hostesses. The relief was palpable when pishi admits there is nothing biliti about her and that she had sorely missed the traditional Bengali cuisine and language seven seas away. Minu Roychowdhury in the eponymous role, Ranjini Roy, Rituparna Sen, Tapashi Mukherjee and Aditi acted their character. The peals of laughter that rippled across Live@DI left many a throat parched.

Naturally, the ten-minute interval saw an almighty rush to the bar. Of proportions, one feared, having a resemblance, if general, to a stampede. To replenish glasses that would not be topped up for the duration of the next half of the play-reading, this time in Hindi.

The one slated first, a monologe by Ramanjit Kaur, had, unfortunately, to be given the go by, the lady having hurt her cornea earlier that day. Wish you Godspeed in your recovery, Ramanjit.

The second, titled Mard ka Dard, centres around a newly-wed couple on their honeymoon. The girl, unlike others of her age who while away time at shopping malls and kitty parties, is outgoing, a fitness buff and skilled in martial arts and takes on a pickpocket and thrashes him roundly. This hurts the ego of the husband, who, by contrast, is a scaredy-cat but longs to show off as a knight in shining armour saving damsels in distress. While Madhu takes such acts in her stride, Sanjay considers these, even such trivialities as signing the hotel bills, an affront to his self-esteem and, in a comic reversal of roles, resolves to go to his mother’s in, what he considers, righteous indignation. At Madhu’s pleading inability to open the lid of a jar of jam and Sanju’s retort that she was faking it and his insistence that he could make out every time she does that, ripples swelled into billows of laughter at the double entendre.  However, just as he was all bluster about taking care of her in times of peril, he jumps out of his chair with a start on seeing a common lizard and screams to Madhu to save him! While it cannot be said that Bisakha Sen Das did not look the role, Raja Shah, in his robust, six-feet frame, did sound comic.

 The divertissement was an interlude of Behes, -- lively banters, again between Bisakha and Raja.

Mohabbat ka post-mortem, the second of the two play-readings, was essentially looking at the same subject – the relation between a man and a woman -- through two different prisms. While the girl complains that men-folk have this tendency to consider girl-friends mere chattels who are there basically for doing the chores, having carnal pleasure with, who they feel have this obligation to go into sundry household jobs directly on returning from work, while they themselves have earned the divine right to relaxation after the same work at office. Without, to the girl’s ill-concealed exasperation, having any firm commitment to get into wedlock lest he come across another girl later he develops stirrings for.  The man, on the other hand, expresses his disgust at having to repeat over and over his protestations of love, this compulsive urge  women have to splurge money on shopping and uploading the marriage status on social media. Bisakha again, and Vijay Singh render their monologues convincingly.

The accompaniment – on the synthesizer – struck the appropriate chord. The ivories, bobbing under the deft fingers of Debasish Saha, magnified the comic effects. The proceedings of the evening were compered with customary elan by Raju Raman. His emceeing, in English, Bengali and Hindi, showed his proficiency in the three languages, just as it  complemented the performances of the evening.

This, in stark contrast to the sombre note Raju commenced on, referring to the passing away of a member whose  association with the club matched the degree of his congeniality. Charles Crizzle, a member of the Hockey squad in the days when the nation used to be acclaimed universally for its prowess in the game and mediocrity looked askance at, will be sorely missed. A minute’s silence is a tokenism, but it served to illustrate the esteem the soft-spoken gentleman was held in at DI. Evidently, such a soul has legitimately earned eternal peace; may the Almighty grant fortitude to his near ones in this their hour of loss and agony.

[Note: The photo album of the play reading can be viewed on Facebook at Play Reading Photos