“Parde Ke Peeche Kya Hai” suggests the intrigues behind the stage.

Crazy Spotlight Productions is a theatre company that is one of a kind. When it started in 2006 all its members were about 18 years old, fresh out of high school. Soon after leaving school some of the members left for the United States and England for higher studies. The active base of the production team is now New York where director Nikhil Mehta, assistant director Nayantara Parikh and stage manager Sunali Bhasin are based. But before splitting up, the group decided they would keep the company alive with at least one major presentation in Delhi every year when eight of its active members are back at home for summer vacations. So far they have lived up to their promise.

In 2006 they gave us a self-scripted one-act comedy play titled “The Script” and in 2007 the group mounted “Is Everyone Here Yet”, an adaptation from Neil Simon’s “Rumours”. Both the plays were directed by the 20-year-old Nikhil Mehta who is doing a double degree in Drama and Economics at New York University.

Dress rehearsal

Last week the group mounted their third presentation “Parde Ke Peeche Kya Hai” directed again by Nikhil Mehta. The play is inspired by Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off”. According to Nikhil, Michael Frayn had once said that what goes into the preparation and dress rehearsal of the plays was much more interesting than what actually is enacted on the stage. Because no matter what play is going on stage, an entirely different drama is always going on back stage. Nikhil was inspired by the concept of dress rehearsals, and so began his search for a play that would fit into the day-of-the-show format.

After a great deal of brain storming the group decided that Ramlila could be the most apt and accessible way of communicating Michael Frayn’s vision in an Indian setting.

As the curtain goes up we are in the midst of confusion of the final dress rehearsal of “Ramlila Ka Pehela Bhaag – Sita Haran Tak”, that is to open the next day. The confusion is well managed or rather choreographed by Nikhil and what is more, it keeps the audience in fits of laughter. As it often happens in amateur theatre, someone has not turned up or someone’s costume is missing or the properties can’t be found. As we go along, Sanjana Batra’s Padmavati, the director of the play that was being rehearsed, was very good and so was Sandhini Aggarwal in Shakuntala’s role.

After the interval the curtain goes up on “Ramlila Ka Pehela Bhaag – Sita Haran Tak” that in a condensed form presents the story of the Ramayan. As compared to the ‘dress rehearsal’ the final copy is delivered in a shorthand format with the result the reader (in this case the audience) misses the luxury of enjoying it at its own pace.

The cast on the whole played well, but the day when this critic saw the play, the script of Ramlila by and large was a little sketchy and the cast needed more rehearsals. But packed houses for four nights mostly in the age group of 17-25 years, the target audience, enjoyed every minute of it.