A collection of citizen reviews of 'Rafta Rafta' staged recently at The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest in Chennai
In keeping with their premise of a dysfunctional, cross cultural family story, ‘Rafta Rafta' wasreasonably successful with witty dialogues and well-timed acting. The sets provided a functional space but seemed to miss that unique touch which defines Singapore. The crux was the struggle of a second generation Indian finding his identity in a mixed Asian world — an overbearing Punjabi family andhis loving newly-wed Chinese wife. While the struggle was evident with the man dealing with conventional taboos, the story lacked the focus which proves the point that multiple themes in a family drama can be dangerous. If not for Subin Subiah and Daisy Irani as the delightful parents of the groom, the fabric of this play would have been in tatters!
HuM Theatre's ‘Rafta Rafta' initially gave the impression of being slow, but, in fact, laid the foundation to drive home poignant truths about relationships, especially marriage and family.
It was dramatic without melodrama, sentimental but not soppy, loud but subtle in conveying the message. The acting looked simple and effortless — but that again is the secret of good theatrics. The setting was functional without frills — that's what the story needed. The music and lighting were effective. The director deserves to be congratulated for leaving certain areas of morality for the viewer to draw conclusions about.
Sustaining audience interest with a fun-packed script, ‘Rafta Rafta' was indeed a play that grew on you even after you left the auditorium.
‘Rafta Rafta' was a play marketed as an award-winning comedy. Unfortunately, the jokes seemed clichéd and many fell flat. The production was a lengthy two hours with a lot of redundant dialogue. The Indian parents were definitely the most entertaining and had the best lines. For me, the sets were the best thing about the play. They convincingly created a cramped, but cosy two-level home which complemented the characters' frustrations of living in close proximity to one another. The set changes were occasionally annoying, as there were long moments of darkness where nothing happened. A play with a lot of unfulfilled potential.
Indian Dad scores
Long and painful in parts, ‘Rafta Rafta' was disappointing. Either the fact that there were very favourable reactions to the previous plays or the fact that there was so much said about ‘Rafta Rafta's comic content, the play did not impress. With the exception of the character of the Indian Dad, the other characters seemed shallow and unreal.
Some well-conceived sets, unreal cinema-like characters, clichéd situations, typical rifts and stereotypical characters… sounds like a formulaic movie of the early Nineties. Or much worse, like the soap operas of today. That's the idea of ‘Rafta Rafta', well almost. Euphemisms and innuendo almost kill its USP. The dialogue was funny but not witty.
The Chennai theatre audience deserves better than this. Surely, this one comes from the rather outdated notion of Indian families and the concept of cross-cultural marriages. The comedy becomes mindless humdrum.
No comedy this
My great great great granduncle Shankaran Mudaliar, who was a journalist in the 7th Century, once said in an Editorial meeting “Thou shall not write reviews for free lunch”. Being his nephew, I adhere to his principle and am writing my first citizen review after seeing ‘Rafta, Rafta' without expectations of winning a free lunch at The Park.
The play has truly an award-winning script, in testing the audience's patience that is. The preview said it's a laugh aloud comedy, but ‘Rafta Rafta' had no comedy. The clever cast had found it during the rehearsals, so everyone on the stage kept laughing to evoke laughter, but in vain.
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Cocktail of emotions
|As sweet as a cassata, as bold as a “Parineeta”, as engrossing as the Mahabharata... “Rafta Rafta” was an unforgettable cocktail of emotions. Whether it was the father Ishwar who scored with his humorous dialogue and Bhangra steps or his wife Lopa whose performance was marked by maturity, whether it was the celebration of love over lust or the bold portrayal of modern-day homosexuality eating into relationships, ‘Rafta Rafta' was a well-thought out play which while revolving around the post-marriage scenario of a couple affected by relatives and personal attitudes, also brings out the nuances of acting. The wonderful sets — the TV, the bathroom and the kitchen — made the audience feel they were really in the home of the protagonists. The dialogues were humorous. In short, ‘Rafta Rafta' was a spectacle that wowed.
Double entendre galore
The exploration of human dynamics in a joint family coupled with the adaptation troubles early immigrants face and a cross-cultural marriage should be great fodder for a play. But ‘Rafta Rafta', though it provided a few laughs coupled with aha! moments when you identified with a character, did not delve into these characters — it just made likeable caricatures of them. The characters conversations about ‘it' or the lack of ‘it' (sex) reminded me of many similar conversations during family weddings and get-togethers, but the play did not resolve realistically.
‘Rafta Rafta' is the story of cultural interaction between a migrant Punjabi family's elder son and a Singaporean Chinese girl whom he marries. The bridegroom is the mother's pet and the bride, her father's pride. The head of the Punjabi family is a highly critical, powerful, vocal, demanding and alcohol-loving man.
His son, on the other hand, is an anxious and tense person unable to consummate his marriage. The loving couple's plight and the immediate family members' and friends' sarcasm and inquisitiveness provide the play's hilarious moments.
Mithran Devanesan's sets and lighting were excellent.