A comedy that casts the spotlight on backstage disasters

Well-crafted dialogues, judicious use of gags and display of perfect timing are the hallmarks of “Cut…Cut…Cut” which was presented by Pierrot’s Troupe at Shri Ram Centre this past week. No wonder the evening offered the jam-packed hall undemanding entertainment punctuated with boisterous laughter. This is indeed the right kind of comedy where one can spend an evening with one’s family.

Written and directed by M. Sayeed Alam, a political science teacher-turned-full time-theatre practitioner “Cut…Cut...Cut” has a structure popularly described as a play-within-the-play. Alam seems to be fully conversant with the hardship a theatre director has to undergo in the course of producing a play. While confronting the seamy side of the theatre scene, he is also endowed with a sense of humour to enjoy himself about the lighter moments the off-stage activities offer. In fact, we have seen several productions of this genre which delight as well as evoke new social awareness. Long back we saw the Hindi version Michael Frayan’s, “Noises off” which revealed the funnier aspect of off-stage activities. Last year we saw Bhanu Bharti’s “Tamasha Na Hua” devoted to ideological polemics in the era of globalisation and the so-called death of ideologies. Alam’s play doesn’t claim to take any high moral stand. His basic aim is to keep his audience in good humour by exposing them to the fun in the off-stage activities involving the director and the cast.

The play opens with a director in a rehearsal. He is worried and harassed. He wants to be a perfectionist. His scriptwriter is always present during the rehearsals, correcting the cast whose accents are horribly wrong. In the course of the rehearsal the director and the scriptwriter often create a scene to establish their supremacy. Their clash of ego pleases the performers and when they realise they are becoming the butt of ridicule, they declare their clash to be a friendly one.

Confronted with several problems the director becomes increasingly irritated. At one point the actor in the main role deserts him to join a Bhojpuri film. Each character has his or her own story to tell. The director claims he came all the way from Chennai to do theatre in Delhi and now he feels disgusted to work with such a lousy group of actors. However, he doesn’t lose heart and keeps on rehearsing his play in spite of all such roadblocks. The director has also to deal with the chowkidar of the place where they rehearse. He is loud and acts as a bully who often needs to be treated with tact and gentleness. At one stage the director not only compels him to act as a tantrik but also as a “financier”.

The premiere of the show is finally held and it turns out to be an utter failure. The actors forget lines, fight amongst themselves, resurrecting their personal differences on-stage. The scriptwriter is also forced to perform. A highly harassed director asks his cast to improvise. The entry-exit of the actors, their comic timing and performances all go haywire, making the situation more and more bizarre and farcical.

The director has aptly designed his production with off-stage and onstage action visible to the audience simultaneously. We watch the poor director trying desperately to prompt his actors to improvise. Contrasted by these offstage scenes, we watch the onstage action in which actors act in a ridiculously funny manner. The awkwardness of actors who think themselves intelligent and the references to small town shoddy theatre practices referred to by actors who have come from those towns are sheer fun.

The entire cast performs commendably. Harish Chhabra as the director JK is an impressive comic performer. What makes his director more funny is the way he misspeaks to great comic effect. It appears he has a knack for malapropisms. Vijay Gupta in the role of the chowkidar, and Manish Singh as writer Alam display remarkable histrionic talent. Manohar Pandey as the one possessed by a spirit, Jaskiran Chopra as the witch and Ram Naresh Diwakar as the son of the possessed man, along with Yaspal Malik as the overexcited producer help make the overall comic rhythm powerful.