The success of “Kasturba Panda” is a shot in the arm for Epic Shit

Their name may make a sub-editor wince, but their debut play is popular enough to stage a comeback. Epic Shit Entertainment (ESE) — a theatre company launched by newcomer Madhav Mehta late last year— has struck gold with its debut play Kasturba Panda ki Pantie.

The play is an adaptation of Steve Martin’s 2002 comedy The Underpants, which itself is an adaptation of Carl Sternheim’s 1910 German satire Die Hose. Kasturba opened in November last with a focused yet under-the-radar publicity campaign. Its popularity has brought it back this month, to Akshara Theatre with the tickets hiked by Rs. 50. It has also drawn Madhav Mehta out of the shadow of his elder brother, dramatist Nikhil Mehta.

The play is a solo act, with Farhad Colabavala playing all the roles. Dressed in a sari as Kasturba, he switches between characters and changes voices in a diary-novel like narration. “I had compressed a two-and-a-half hour play to an hour and fifteen minutes. We didn’t know how it would turn out. That’s what made it exciting,” says Madhav, the director.

In the play, Kasturba becomes the talk of the town after her underpants accidentally slip off when a film star visits her neighbourhood. Her husband— a stereotypical male chauvinist— is furious, but also surprised when a number of prospective tenants turn up for their house, after the incident. The plot is a farce on the conservative value system that dictates a woman’s role in the family and society.

Akash Mehta, the assistant director (who points out he’s a Himachali Mehta not related to Madhav who is a Punjabi Mehta) explains that they managed to attract an audience which usually doesn’t go to plays. “The demand for the play mainly increased by word of mouth… People think of theatre as something intellectual. We’ve created something for people like us who just want to laugh,” he adds.

Madhav puts it bluntly. “We are crass and vulgar. There are jokes in the play which one would only say in private. Our play has proved its mettle as quality art and good direction.”

ESE is going the whole nine yards in promotion and commercial viability. They had a preview of the play in a prominent Hauz Khas pub on Sunday and also hosted a Kasturba Panda ki Party at a Saket café this week. The ticket sales, supplemented with the additional revenue from these gigs have helped them get sponsorship and break even. They’ve even released a trailer and a music video which has been viewed a lot on facebook, a lot by theatre standards.

The play is on this weekend and the next. Tickets priced at Rs. 400 each, can also be booked online at bookmyshow.com or a JOSS in Khan Market. “If you’re a prude, don’t watch it,” cautions Madhav.