A recalcitrant ghost and his surviving family and mistress provide ample scope for mirth
Room 622 of The Residency has turned into the green room for the members of Coimbatore Art and Theatrical Society (CATS). “You must apply more eye shadow; go for the pink one,” advises Chanda to Tanvi Palaniappan. Chanda has donned the hat of the make-up artist for the evening’s production of Mahesh Dattani’s play Where There Is A Will. “Usually we call professional make up men for our proscenium plays. But, supper theatre is informal. The characters are people like us,” she says.
K.V. Siddhartha, the director, enters the room. “Make it fast,” he urges his team. “This is the first time CATS is performing an Indian play for their supper theatre production”, he says. “Our supper plays are usually 15 minutes long. The duration for this play is 75 minutes.” The original play is one-and-a-half hours long. “Every scene was a gem. We had to edit the play with a heavy heart. The subtle humour is the highlight,” says Chanda.
And she is right. A few minutes into the first scene, the audience is already laughing at Hasmukh Mehta’s antics. A successful business man, Hasmukh (Pierce Nigli) believes he is a self-made man. But, he trusts no one; not even his wife, Sonal Mehta (Monisha Mathur). He accuses her of feeding him bland food. He thinks his son (Deepak Raghavan) is a nincompoop and calls his daughter-in-law crafty. But the fun begins when Hasmukh dies of heart attack. But he does not leave. He roams the house as a ghost. He tells the audience that he is going to spring a nasty surprise on his family, through his will.
The shock comes in the form of Kiran Jhaveri, the mistress of Hasmukh, who becomes the trustee of all his wealth. Kiran moves into their house and bosses them around. The wife burns with envy, the daughter-in-law turns malicious and the son is just confused.
The ghost gleefully enjoys the encounters his wife and mistress have. But things do not go as he planned. Kiran is not here to wreck the family, but to get things in order. The two ladies become good friends (to the dismay of Hasmukh). Kiran says how the desire for money made her go behind Hasmukh. “He was a difficult man,” chips in Sonal. The ladies, blissfully ignorant that the scowling ghost is seated between them, remember how he always lived in the shadow of his father, even when he pretended that he was independent. It is a moment of revelation for Hasmukh, who always thought he was different from his father. The play ends on a light note, with the whole family, including Kiran Jhaveri, living happily together.
Pierce Nigli, delivers the role with aplomb. Monisha is natural as the melodramatic Indian wife. Chanda is the suave mistress, in every move. Tanvi pulled off the role of the pregnant daughter-in-law with ease. Deepak was convincing as the rich brat. The team, which handled production and sound effects, deserves mention. From the old world dial telephones to plush sofa sets, the props recreate the living room of a 90s Indian family. The evening’s entertainment is wrapped up with a delicious meal of hot navratan pulao, baingan bhartha, rotis and grilled chicken, whipped by the Residency chefs.