Concern of the country
Eight people, eight lives, eight monologues representative of the dreams and delusions, joys and sorrows of the 20 million heartbeats of the megapolis Mumbai. Stories about the ambitions of a child artiste, the escape of a ridiculed wife into art, a single mother’s sacrifice of her life for the sake of her children, child abuse, a TV reporter’s regret of the media’s inability to celebrate positivism rather than sensationalism and negative news, a hilarious take on corruption by a broker, the West beckoning today’s youth and a peek into the frightening future — interwoven effortlessly and essayed brilliantly by the actors and their writer-director Vikram Kapadia in Bombay Talkies.
The minimalist stage, with a captivating backdrop of the maelstrom of Mumbai, provided a perfect setting for eight powerful social messages to be delivered and forced the audience to stop and think.
These issues are of concern not just for the eight people or the twenty million, but for the twelve hundred million heartbeats that is India.
Seamless flow of ideas
Slowly, slowly, sloooowly…Bombay Talkies, by The Orchid Experiment, wormed its way into many an imagination, at the MetroPlus Theatre Fest, giving the audience an insight into a distant yet fascinating metro. With the taut lilt of Mumbai English and the real emotion from raw wounds, the eight monologues, that formed the structure of Bombay Talkies, blended into a singular but extremely complex mural; a paradoxical portrait, acutely alien and familiar, all at once. Sometimes, eight lives are all that one needs to represent a whole — a whole city, a culture, a society — only eight lives connecting to form the face of Bombay: the starlet who fades into the many shades of compromise, the housewife who merged with her own brilliant mural, the corporate employee who survived life’s 7 tiles, the Raj Gidvani who makes things happen his way, the TV reporter who was tired of sensationalising stories, the divorced, single mother who repeated sentences as a way of life, the young man who realised he couldn’t carry his home with him to the States and the man who had nothing to live for, not even oxygen. Despite the technical magnificence of the backdrop, the creatively customised lighting, the perfect timing in the drop of a shoe or the delivery of an “oh”, the captivating intonations that depicted hollow laughter, despite all these winning ingredients, the true success of Bombay Talkies lay in Vikram Kapadia’s script and his vision behind the artistic representation of Bombay, which flowed seamlessly till the very end. All this from monologues… who would have thought!
Rachel Pamela Joseph
Anna Nagar West
A refreshing change
The play took the road less travelled, using humour to drive home the truth. A refreshing change from the usual melodramatic way of communicating messages. Blatant truth I would have normally shied away from was easy to digest and etched in my mind. Each of the actors brought their own twist to the characters, and their stage presence was powerful. The only criticism is the use of Marathi, Gujarati and Hindi words could have been avoided to suit the primarily English (and Tamil) speaking audience.
Moyna Bammi Bedi
Pycrofts Garden Road
A couple of honest moments
Vikram Kapadia's Bombay Talkies was a valiant effort to document the travails of the “aam junta” of Maximum City. However, it ended up as a tautological mockery of itself with each actor playing up the “Brown Sahib” accent and manipulating the audience with childhood traumas and adult compromises.
The two honest moments came from a journalist's story of ennui born out of the breathless sensationalism of current media and a single mother's longing for a warm body. One was left hankering for more of those realities.
Life in a metro, an engaging show
Take your pick — the housewife or the single mom? The youth off to the U.S. or the agent and travails? A play comprising just monologues might sound boring. But once it begins, the performers keep you engaged throughout. Be it the starlet or the journalist or the man committing suicide. They take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions — humour, sentiment, shock and more — giving you glimpses into the lives of Mumbai’s very own. Each a symbol of its struggles, joys and ironies. Life in a metro captured memorably. Common themes of hope, despair, aspirations and dreams lost or shattered are apparent. The body language is noteworthy as it portrays the personalities better. The play satisfies your senses and the evening couldn’t have been spent better. Creditable performances but the agent — Raj Gidwani — takes the cake and the bakery!
V. Vamsi Viraj
Bombay Talkies had its own charm. It flowed in an unhurried fashion, giving rise to various emotions such as humour, pathos, anger, helplessness, acceptance, hope and even a modern version of romance. The style adopted by the playwright is monologues by eight people through which various facets of the Maximum City, Bombay, are revealed. The stage was bare except for a painting depicting the architecture of Bombay in the backdrop. Monologue was probably used to convey the loneliness individuals feel in a crowded city and to encourage them to reveal their innermost desires, longings and disappointments in a private/public sphere. In spite of the fact that there were only very few physical movements, the monologues were arresting on account of the skills and spontaneity of the actors. While the humour took away the tedium caused by the presence of a single actor on stage, the seriousness of the content through their speeches allowed us to ponder about life faced by a present-day urban population. As these problems apply to all big towns, there was a feeling of comradeship with the actors. Bombay Talkies is an example of good theatre without fuss.
Etched in memory
Vikram Kapdia’s Bombay Talkies is an anthology of eight monologues. With its diverse atmospheres, Bollywood clichés, laugh-out-loud humour, eerie, distressing confessions and even a surprisingly effective post-apocalyptic segment, the intensity of the play does not fluctuate. With only a minimalistic set, the actors carry the play forward — each performance translating into an inimitable and powerful experience. It makes us view it as one story, and not eight. With a commanding script, the performers create something unique by distancing themselves from the audience and eventually, forming a stronger bond as their story develops. The moments of silence are phenomenal — giving us time to take in information, absorb emotion and appreciate the depth of these characters. A touching and engaging experience, Bombay Talkies won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Bombay Talkies was certainly one of its kind, with eight wonderfully woven monologues — a play that almost received a standing ovation, as we were entranced by a tapestry of emotions!
The mesmerising soliloquies of each individual in the cast were furnished with brilliant expressions, phenomenal energy levels and rich nostalgic humour. Despite a narrative interspersed with local Mumbai slang, they were thoroughly comprehensible and pleasing to listen to, as we traversed through the world of pressurised actresses to futuristic humanoids!
The performance threw light on the corrupt and the hurt, the lost and the enlightened. This marvellous production kept us focussed on the stage despite minimal props.
From the use of the stage to the crystal clear acoustics, and the touch of humanity we could all relate too, Bombay Talkies lived up to expectations.
Mumbai in a nutshell
You couldn’t ask for more about Mumbai than what Bombay Talkies presented. Every monologue touched our hearts and lives. It brought out the fact that Mumbai is no different from any other Indian city. The eight different personalities were all part of everyone's life at different stages and kindled a moral dilemma between aspirations and choices, dreams and love, honesty and reality.
The role of Raj Gidwani evoked laughter, but the audience soon realised the joke was on them. The last futuristic monologue was enthralling. The play gave no solutions but instead made us ask more questions!