Monday, 30th October 2017

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Tom raises a toast

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 9.09.06

Stage and swig make very odd companions. When God Says Cheers!, hosted by the Mumbai-based Two Plus Productions at Saturday Club to mark the launch of Hayward’s Black beer last weekend, drove home the point once more. A little after 7 on Saturday evening, Bollywood actor Tom Alter took the stage as God, dressed in a brown jacket, for a hilarious chat with Cyrus Dastur, who played just another man.

With a dash of wry humour, the conversation between God and Cyrus in a pub, with God stealing sips from Cyrus’s beer, veered from omnipotence to poverty and corruption, ambition and one’s purpose in life.

Both Alter and Cyrus, who also directs the play, tried hard to keep out the noise of hushed chatter, the tinkle of beer bottles, the ring of a cell phone and the banging of a door every time a waiter sauntered in.

For the Calcutta audience, this was yet another brush with pub theatre, which is now common in Mumbai. “We do the best we can under such circumstances,” admitted Alter, after the play. “We have done this play in the proscenium, at clubs, pubs and hotels. And we have doing it for more than two years.”

The script, written by Anurag Kashyap of Satya and Shool fame, mentions Hayward’s Black more than once, and Alter explained that names of liquor brands are inserted whenever they agree to sponsor a show.

Alter, who last came to town with And Now She Says She’s God!!! and the same team, is busy with more interesting projects back on the Mumbai stage. He stars in a solo act on the life of Maulana Azad, in chaste Urdu. The play titled Maulana Azad has won him rave reviews.

“There’s another play on the life of KL Saigal where I am playing the narrator. We plan to bring it to Calcutta sometime in December. It is written by Sayeed Alam, who has also written Maulana,” said Alter. Then there is his own production Trisanga, a collage of poetry in Urdu, Hindi and English weaving in a host of things from Swami Vivekananda to Mahabharata.


Calcutta is in for a contemporary interpretation of Sukumar Ray’s Laxmaner Shaktishel (or Laxman Shellshocked) on September 11, 7 pm, when The Performers’ Wing stages it at Gyan Manch. Performer’s Wing has switched to Bengali in an attempt to bridge the divide between the audiences of English and Bengali theatre in Calcutta.

Leading them is Joyraj Bhattacharjee, 27, making his directorial debut. Bhattacharjee, who topped his roles in Chetana and Suman Mukherjee’s film Herbert with a commendable performance as Francis Flute in the Tim Supple production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, feels this could be a way to revitalise the fare, from Gyan Manch to Academy.

“The theatre audience here is at best people who watched or participated in theatre in the 1970s. Young people, even in my age group, don’t come to watch plays unless they are into theatre themselves. There also exists this amazing gap between English and Bengali plays,” says Joy.

Reinterpreting Sukumar Ray’s classic text had long been a wish for Joy. “I could never read Laxmaner Shaktishel without seeing parallels with the contemporary times.”

The text has not been changed and all the old humour is there. Maybe Sukumar Ray never intended the text to be read this way but there are satirical elements and the epic war is seen as a childish farce.

The stage will resemble a military camp; Rabon Raja will be dressed as a WWF wrestler, there will be a tower on stage and the vanarsena will wear khaki shorts and white T-shirts reminding audiences of both the army and the RSS!

The celebrated songs of the play will not change but the accompanying music will be modern, with pink and blue psychedelic lights turning the stage into a rock concert floor.

The actors, students of Jadavpur University and Presidency College, include Abhijay Gupta, Yagnaseni Das, Inam Hossain Mullick, Parni Ray, Ritam Sengupta, Rohini Chaki, Prodipta Sarkar, Sahana Bose, Sukanya Chakrabarti, Dana Roy, Uttaran Dasgupta and Prodipta Sarkar.

Abhijay Gupta with others will execute the sets, lighting will be by Sumit Chakraborty — all under the guidance of production managers Aditya Bikram Das and Trina Nileena Banerjee.