Youth was the theme of the night. Chilsag Chillies, a non-profit theatre company, staged four short plays recently at the Shri Ram Centre. It was not a full house but it was a tickled house. The audience appreciated the humour of the first three plays and responded to the social message of the last. "The four play format," says director of Chilsag Chillies Sachin Gupta, "is an experiment to create a new audience." It gives both working people and freshers to theatre more flexibility to enter and leave. It is also "a meal with spice that I give to the audience." The first play, "No cheating today" is about the gallant yet foolhardy attempts of Professor Banerjee against the clever cheating techniques of his students. The desperation of the judges and Mansukh Chaturvedi's ardent desire to become the Indian Idol were the subject of "Next Indian Idol". The last night crunch before an exam was the subject of "Great Mind at Work". Being overcome by situations and overcoming situations was brought out in "Suicide is painless".
Classifying the plays, Gupta says, "The first three are light comedies about college life, the last one has a message." The play Gupta talks about with greatest fervour and fondness is "Suicide is painless". In his own words, "The play is about a person who has dreams, ambitions, but negative elements try to dominate." The play doesn't end with the suicide of a young achiever. Instead it uses the suicide to inform and motivate. The other three students of the play use the suicide as a starting point. "Srikanth mar gaya par mara nahin. Main hun Srikanth." The audience actually rose to their feet, when the student actors said, "Agar kisi ko lagta hai ki kuch galat hua hai to hamare saath chaliye." The acting in the plays was of a high standard. Ashish Bhandari, Nitin Tiwari and Prateek Batta require special mention. They were very versatile. The lighting however was flat and monotonous. The sets seemed more lazy than minimalist. The choice of music was entertaining. The acting often became exaggerated but this gave rise to many laughs, and Gupta feels he was just being honest to a normal classroom. The aspiring Indian Idol played by Prateek Batta satirised the "Indian Idol" show. The judges were adorned in skirts and crazy colourful wigs. Gupta explains the choice of costumes. "These days to make fashion statements people act a bit gay. They are desperate to make their style different!" He says the play shows the desperation of judges to increase TRP ratings. Last year Gupta also started "Theatre Pasta", a monthly online webzine, www.theatrepasta.com, to recognise theatre talent and to highlight achievements. He also hopes to use it as a vehicle "to put Indian theatre on the global platform and to increase awareness." NANDINI NAIR