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Mistaken identity and thereafter…

Diwan Singh Bajeli
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THEATRE Pierrot’s Troupe’s “A Private Affair”, staged in New Delhi recently, gives enough occasions to the audience to have lighter moments. Diwan Singh Bajeli

SIMPLE AND SUITEA still from “A Private Affair”
SIMPLE AND SUITEA still from “A Private Affair”

Pierrot’s Troupe is one of the few professional theatre companies in the Capital offering plays of different genres regularly. Formed in 1989, its productions range from musicals to historical plays and from comedy to tragedy. Its actors perform plays in Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and English with equal felicity. Because of these distinct features, it has been able to win over a considerable number of audiences who love to listen to chaste Urdu delivered in impeccable accent. It is no wonder if its ticketed shows are presented to a capacity hall.

Its more recent production of “Lal Qile Ka Aakhiri Mushaira” depicts the old world charm of Urdu mushaira against the backdrop of a decaying Mughal empire. It gives beautiful expression to a time when the emperor himself presided over poetic symposiums and recited his own couplets to the delight of participating poets drawn from various social strata and highly articulated lovers of Urdu poetry, in contrast to the royal elegance and the richness of the Urdu poetry.

The group’s “A Private Affair” in Hindi, which was staged at Shri Ram Centre in New Delhi this past week, is a light-hearted comedy with no pretension of exposing social and political malaise. Its aim is to evoke a pleasant sense of amusement, exploiting comic devices like mistaken identity, one-liners and funny situations created by confrontations between characters.

The comedy has been adapted by M. Sayeed Alam from Charles Emery’s comedy of the same title. The Hindi version is directed by Alam himself. The action is set in a suite of a hotel. A lady psychiatrist keeps on prodding her secretary to do her personal trivial work. The clumsy and harassed male secretary is confused and whatever he does he creates things messy and makes himself an object of ridicule. The simple task of informing the management that they have decided to extend their stay at the suite for another day appears to him an uphill task.

Meanwhile, a mental patient accompanied by his grandfather who claims to be Maharaja of Darbanga, lands up in the suite and pesters the doctor to attend the grandson who is suffering from the delusion of being a monkey. He walks like a monkey and eats a lot of bananas.

Under the impression that the suite has been vacated by the psychiatrist and her secretary, it is allotted to a colonel who makes lamp from old wine bottles and wants to do it in the privacy of a hotel room. He is suddenly taken aback to see a skirt of a lady on a chair. A furious colonel summons the waiter. With more confrontations between the waiter and the colonel, the chaotic situation becomes all the more complicated. What adds more fun to the situation is that the colonel claims that he had been ordered court-martial and the waiter prides in the fact that he was expelled from the army for his misconduct.

Meanwhile, another patient comes for consultation with a lady doctor. Instead, he confronts the colonel. The patient is a bhai (criminal) from Mumbai suffering from the illusion that electric bulbs are burning all the time at different places. The colonel, the lady doctor and her secretary finally come face to face, creating ridiculous situations that evoke laughter.

Director Alam has used minimal properties in his production, suggestively creating the right ambience for the action. He has provided the performers with enough space to confront each other, moving with a pace that is nearly farcical.

He has manipulated a series of situations which are funny but he has desisted from transforming these fast paced movements into physical knockabout. The last scene, which depicts the strange behaviour of the two patients — the grandson of the Maharaja and the bhai — is hilarious.

The entire cast imparts vital comic rhythm to the production. However, Harish Chhabra as colonel, Ahmad Omair as the waiter, Manish Singh as the Raja of Darbanga, Vijay Gupta as bhai and Mohammad as the patient under the delusion of being a monkey, deserve special mention for proving themselves eminently comic performers.


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