It is not often Coimbatoreans have an opportunity to say “I spent the evening with Naseeruddin Shah”. But, now we can. The Fourth Edition of The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest festival launched with A Walk In The Woods by Motley, a theatre group started by Naseeruddin Shah. The two-hour play in which he acted along with Rajit Kapur was directed by Ratna Pathak Shah. Since it was about two diplomats from India and Pakistan trying to broker peace, people watched it keenly.

“Is there a solution?”, was a question from the audience. “Theatre is not about finding solutions, but about raising questions,” replied Naseeruddin Shah. Someone from the audience said the play reminded him of Waiting for Godot — an endless wait with no end in sight. But Ratna held out hope in the seemingly dead-end situation. She recalled how when they staged the play in Dubai, it evoked a huge response from both the Indian and the Pakistani expats there. Motley is hoping to take A Walk in the Woods to Pakistan.

With Motley having set the bar really high, Romeo And Juliet — No Strings Attached had a tough task on hand on the second day of the fest. Tahatto from Bangalore gave a contemporary twist to the Bard’s ageless romance. Warring clans, revenge, plotting and killing all came into play as puppets cut loose their strings and decided to stage their own take on Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare’s lines shone through, and so did the modern-day issues of choices and consequences, freedom and bondage. There was plenty of laughter, especially during a particularly good imitation of a well-known news anchor.

The final day was dedicated to Bollywood with Evam, Bangalore, paying irreverent homage to 100 years of Indian cinema. Bollywood KEE-MAA gathered all the masala of Hindi films, mixed them up and presented a khichdi of familiar lines, characters and situations. For all those brought up on a diet of Ram, Lakhan, Vijay and Basanti, Shakti and Ramu Kaka and, of course, the long suffering Maaaa, recognised it for what it was, a reaffirmation of our undying love for Bollywood. The audience even had the dialogues pat.

The theatre fest was held at a different venue this time and that was well received too. There is something nice about having performances in one of the oldest educational institutions in the city. The auditorium of the PSG College of Arts and Science was roomy and the seats comfortable. The acoustics by Bose were excellent (Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak and Rajit Kapur will vouch for this). And there was ample parking space.

It was heartening to see friends of The Hindu turn out in such large numbers. The response to the Citizen Reviews was overwhelming. We have carried as many letters as we possibly can. But, we also treasure those that have not appeared in print.

Suggestions and criticisms have been noted and will be acted upon.