Through a series of eight monologues, Bombay Talkies forms a collage that symbolises Mumbai — its poverty, crime, romance, corruption and beauty
Name of the play: Bombay Talkies
Performed by: The Orchid Room Experiment, Mumbai
Date: August 11
Venue: Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, Chetpet
Mumbai, Maximum City. Where 20 million people struggle to survive and grow. Where success, poverty, crime, romance, corruption and beauty co-exist and create a collage that is terribly depressing but strangely inspiring at the same time. Vikram Kapadia of The Orchid Room Experiment from Mumbai, who has written and directed the play, captures the sheer magic of the city in a series of eight monologues, each presented by an individual whose story becomes a microcosm of the city itself.
The format is similar to the anthology film genre, like New York Stories or Bollywood’s own Life in a Metro. What appears to be a series of seemingly unlinked stories reveals itself to be a shared leitmotif of urban struggle, failure and success. There’s Neha Chopra, former TV newsreader, disenchanted with breaking news and on a journey to find herself and her country. There’s the man in his early 40s, in a Mumbai high-rise in 2091, talking to the audience just before he commits suicide. Then you have Baby Dimple, former child artiste trying to reinvent herself as a Bollywood star… each character different but each similar in his or her despair or irony.
VIKRAM KAPADIA, DIRECTOR, BOMBAY TALKIES
All the monologues in the play are about Mumbai and its spirit. But in a broader sense, does the play also engage with the highs and lows, the trials and tribulations of the urban Indian?
One particular monologue has much to do with Mumbai and its spirit. It is titled Wonderland and is performed by Devika Shahani. In fact, it is this monologue that provoked the entire evening of theatre. I was earlier commissioned to write and also direct Wonderland for Embracing the Future, an event staged at the NCPA, commemorating the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. It was then performed by Mandira Bedi. This inspired me to write seven more monologues, which manifested itself as Bombay Talkies. The other characters also happen to be in Mumbai because I generally write about the immediate world around me. The resonances of the play, though, will be recognised by every urban Indian.
You wrote Black With Equal, that dark comedy which was showcased at The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest some years ago, and received very warmly. What led you to turn to the dramatic monologue as a form this time around?
Dark comedy, somehow, crawls into every blank page of mine. It is ubiquitous; even appearing in my latest musical titled The Greatest Show on Earth, which is currently being planned. Bombay Talkies, however, is varied. Each monologue has a very different tone and this breaks the monotony of the structure. One is quiet, one is funny, yet romantic, one is poignant and nostalgic, one extremely funny and dark, and so on. A monologue on corruption titled No Tension is probably the funniest piece of the evening; yet, it’s also the darkest. It is usually performed by the veteran actor Darshan Jariwala. (Jariwala has not been able to make it to the MPTF for this performance.)
I look at Bombay Talkies as a more subtle, mature and intense piece of work. It does have depth; yet it is very deceptive in its simplicity. (Of course, I am saying all this myself!) But there is, most often, no obvious, dramatic graph used as a paradigm. I bring to the theatre my own idiom without being aware of a style and its label. I hope it gets the same warm response as did Black With Equal.
Bombay Talkies is the name of a famous movie studio founded in the 1930s. Is the cinematic resonance of the title accidental?
The title was suggested by Zafar Karachiwala. It sounded right to me. I didn't give it much thought. I would say that the cinematic resonance is inspirational. In a lighter vein, Bombay is coming to talk to you and I hope you will enjoy watching and listening!