It’s Friday, the thirteenth. You walk into a dark auditorium. The smell of tincture blended with something that’s rotten assails you. As you continue to walk ahead, trying to locate your seat, you often turn your head, wondering if you’re imagining the sound of footsteps.
Prakasam’s #13, Margosa Mahal’ which is only staged on Fridays, dated the 13th of any month, promises tingling horrors, and not just through visual and auditory cues.
“This is a 5D play - we stimulate all the five senses,” says director P D Sathish Chandra, who also runs K H Kala Soudha, an auditorium that’s the venue for the play.
The production, which premiered in 2011, has completed seven or eight shows so far. “It works out well for us that we don’t have performances too often,” says Chandra. “It’s a very expensive production. We use a lot of latex, PoP and even rotten eggs,” he says hesitantly, unwilling to give away the suspense. “When blood splashes across the stage, the audience can feel the wetness on their faces.” Well, this is as far as he will go.
The central characters of a play are three techies, who on availing their leave allowances, decide to go to a hill station to drink and binge. To cut costs, they find themselves in a ‘strange hotel with a strange butler, a receptionist and one other client, the leading lady’.
All three friends make advances to her, take her to their room, the ominous room number 13, when strange things begin to happen.
Discussing the script, Chandra says, “I co-authored with an American woman named Amanda. I have always been a sucker for the paranormal and supernatural. The genre of horror fascinates me. Later, in 2010, it was adapted into Kannada by Chandan Shankar and titled after a beautiful, supposedly haunted bungalow on Margosa Road, Malleswaram, which has been replaced by an apartment block now.”
A collage of spooky stories he heard on campfire nights when at farmhouses and during treks, Chandra says he finds thrill in coincidences that take place during rehearsals or the period before a performance. “Once, we were rehearsing in the basement of Kala Soudha at night and we thought we heard someone walking outside on the dried leaves. When we went and checked, there was no one,” he laughs amused.
He adds that he’s often badgered by his technicians and actors with ‘a stone that fell out of nowhere or the like, but they too are as thrilled as me’,
Those who are really scared are some among the audience. “You’ll know if you hear them scream with fear. Also, in the feedback forms - we hand them out after every performance - many admit their fears,” shares Chandra.
Apart from helping them improvise, the feedback forms have also given the troupe ‘new 5D ideas’ that it doesn’t want to give away yet. As performances are spread out evenly over time, the presentation has to be perfected during rehearsals. “We have about 15 rehearsals spanning two weeks. For #13, Margosa Mahal, timing is more crucial than for any of the comedies that Prakasam usually stages. Missing one dialogue could mess up 10 or the 80 minutes of the play. That’s why I haven’t even changed the cast for this production so far,” he says.
It sure sounds like the play, whose music has been scored by Raghu Dixit, will give you goosebumps or rob you of a night’s sleep at the very least if you decide to buy the tickets for the upcoming performance on the evening of December 13.