A recent theatre adaptation of “The Revised Kama Sutra” is one to be remembered.
A Mangalorian boy from a Catholic family, with a soldier dad, talks about sex. If you’re already smiling and forming imagery of coconut palms, bicycles and sorpotel, then you would have enjoyed Jalabala Vaidya’s stage adaptation of Robert Crasta’s “The Revised Kama Sutra”. Staged at the quaint wooden Akshara Theatre in New Delhi last week, the play attempted to condense the book, which talks of the author’s journey to understand love and sex in modern India. Directed by Anasuya Vaidya, who also starred as the protagonist’s mother, the play was narrated by Sunit Tandon, who plays the contemporary protagonist Vijay Prabhu.
The cast was young, and rightfully amateurish in tune with their characters. The flipside of this was that a few of the roles seemed quite contrived, bordering reality only as much as a book reading. Sunit splendidly steered the narrative to safety, aided by an eclectic soundtrack — by Harendra Bhadana — of Western and Indian numbers of the various time periods in the play.
What made this play special was the successful integration of live instrument music — the sarod by Rakesh Prasanna and the tabla by Bande Hasan — with the narrative and lights by Mahant Shah. This was complemented by Nisa Shetty’s singing. Nisa, along with Deepankar who plays Vijay’s father and a priest, were some of the better actors. There were others like Shreya Hajela, who had all her expressions right and understood the geography of the stage, yet the quality of her dialogue didn’t surpass that of a college skit. Others, like Michelle Agresti, who played the publisher, were underutilised.
The plot, of course, was great. It was a warm relief of humour and intellect drawn from an understanding of the main philosophical traditions. The scenes were also well done and gently transformed from one to the next. The discourse of sexuality was funny, sensitive and not over the top. But it lacked the finesse — that which captures your mind, not allowing you to deconstruct the play until after you get home.
While it is hard to compress an entire novel into a stage performance of just above an hour, Anasuya worked well with what she had. A sepia tint blurs out blemishes. She chose the flow of the story and creation of a humour over perfection in acting. It was undoubtedly entertaining and worth every rupee of the ticket price, but it could have been a great play — something that could have been remembered long after this winter.