Theatre - Fest

Detective 9-2-11: A cocktail of a play... or a ‘khichdi’?

Atul Kumar   | Photo Credit: Neville Sukhia

Curtains up. Lights on. Get ready for high voltage drama. Atul Kumar’s Detective 9-2-11 promises a movement-packed gangster thriller tale. It’s a hark back to good old Bollywood, with dainty heroines who point revolvers at men and sly fraudsters with no scruples. The narrative might sound familiar, but wait before you jump to a conclusion. The director has amazed us with his post-modern, absurd take on William Shakespeare and nautanki before, and his new bag of tricks includes Chaplinsque humour, Hitchcock references and jazz notes that will keep us entertained and engaged. The founder of Mumbai-based The Company Theatre will present the second play of The Hindu Theatre Fest 2018. Excerpts from an email interview with Kumar:

How did you arrive at ‘Gangster Physical Comedy’ as a genre for this play?

We have not followed any particular genre. ‘Gangster Physical Comedy’ is just an invention of our minds. Our repertoire includes a play based on memories called The Blue Mug, Hamlet-The Clown Prince, re-imagining Shakespeare with contemporary dance and, before that, we dabbled with the nautanki style in Piya Behrupiya. And, a while back, we did something called This is All There Is When There is All This — featuring a series of bodies, engaged in activities in a loop for an hour-and-half. In this too, we don’t stick to any genre. With live jazz music, literature and physical comedy, the play blends different influences.

It sounds like a cocktail of pop culture, cinema references and comic narratives; how did all these distinct forms segue in your performance?

We do not really decide what influences enter our works; the rehearsal process defines it. The pop culture elements found their way into the form of this play while we were doing a theatrical exercise for the students of the National School of Drama, New Delhi. We had created a 40-minute piece; we were watching films, reading pulp fiction, bringing in new influences.

When we put forth gangster comedy as a genre, the students began imitating Bollywood film stars of yesteryears. That became something of value to us: the Hindi cinema of the 1940s and 50s. Also, my own personal journey in performance arts has shaped this play; like my training in Kathakali and Kalari, visual theatre, clown journey, conscious efforts to explore new form to challenge oneself, and so on. We also decided that the set will not be static. These concepts can only emerge out of rehearsals; as you put it, the play is indeed a delectable cocktail or as I would call it a khichdi.

The work involves actors changing their costumes on stage and transforming into characters. Are you toying with the idea of a meta narrative here, where you make the audience aware that this is stage, where you cannot willingly suspend your disbelief like you do with cinema?

It will be communicated to the audience that this is a group of actors putting up a show in front of you, and they will also find the performers hiding behind the cloth racks. These 11 people are hanging around all the time; some operating lights on stage, others moving around little cubes on wheels. There is no deeper thought behind this.

We are not trying to tell the audience anything in particular. This is a device set right in the beginning and audience buy into it. In theatre, you can create the world of make-believe without music, lights, or sound. You can stand in the front of an audience and say ‘I am a fish’, they will still believe you.

(@Ravindra Bharati, August 25, 7.30 pm)

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 8:56:33 AM |

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