A comedy of errors - The New Indian Express

A comedy of errors

Published: 27th September 2013 09:29 AM

Last Updated: 27th September 2013 09:29 AM

In an economy that’s struggling, a job market that’s bursting at the seams and a change in value system that places materialistic needs above all else, how far are you willing to go to survive?

The Big Fat City, which was staged in Hyderabad on Thursday at the Park Hyatt, borrows from our lives to present to us a comedy borne of tragedy, an ironical adaptation of your worst nightmare.

Starring Achint Kaur, Nasir Khan, Pooja Ruparel, Ivan Rodrigues, Sonal Joshi, Aadar Malik, Vinay Sharma and Shashi Bhushan, the play is an interesting crossroads of sorts where eight lives get tied together by a murder. Set in the premise of an apartment complex which houses our eight protagonists, the tempo is set by the poignance of each individual’s predicament in life.

While one is a starlet who’s past her heyday and is struggling to recapture her former glory besides being burdened by an alcoholic husband, the other is a man who has lost his job and is being hen-pecked by his wife. If having to make ends meet in the big new city you’ve just moved to isn’t bad enough, being kept on a leash by a possessive boyfriend makes things worse. The parallels are many for the audience to draw from, and The Big Fat City alludes to just that.

Speaking ahead of the performance, the eight stars of the play got chatting with City Express and they tell us why the act isn’t just your average drama. “I play Lalitha aka Lolly, a starlet who’s trying to get back into the game. She’s been successful, but it’s a struggle now,” begins noted thespian and actress, Achint. Shashi plays her alcoholic husband. “I'm the guy who couldn’t survive in this big world. I become a drunk, dependent on my wife for literally every drop of alcohol.” Achint is quick to joke, “You can see, it is a struggle, in every form,” referring to her character, adding, “The play is about how people land up at the same place at the same time, while all the time trying to survive in a city like Mumbai.”

Agreeing, Sonal says, “When I first read the script, I identified with a lot aspects. How single women are refused a house lease, so on and so forth. My character Anu is new to the city and she’s having a tough time, much like how it was for me.” Aadar, who plays her obsessive boyfriend, on the other hand admits that he was light years away from his character. “My character watches Anu like a hawk. He’s possessive and can’t imagine life without her. It’s his character that sets the domino effect in the play.”

Vinay also shares his discomfiture with a character that is unlike him. “There were certain things about him I didn’t agree to. But the character is a catalyst of sorts; he’s a very mysterious chap from Haryana and comes in only at the end.”

Nasir, who plays a Gujarati banker, says wryly, “I couldn’t relate to my character at all. That’s when the real actor comes out. You go out of your body and comfort zone, and immerse yourself into this new personality.”

As the banter between the cast goes on (they’re meeting each other for the first time since their last performance in August), they tell us the play is a black comedy. We ask the actors what the concept means to them.

Nasir, the quick wit, responds, “There are a lot of blackouts in the play. At the end of every scene, the hall goes dark,” leaving the rest of his team in splits. Sonal takes a more poetic approach and answers, “The comedy is in the coincidence. It’s actually a serious play. But the situation lends the humour.”

Agreeing Vinay, who cites Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro as one of the best black comedies, says, “It’s the case where you’re not sure whether to laugh or cry at someone’s predicament. It’s a long-shot tragedy, if I may call it so. The audience are a part of the story but from a distance.”

Aadar, also a stand up comedian when not acting, explains, “It’s black because the humor is at the point where you are breaking a taboo.” Achint however sums it up when she says, “The characters are just puppets in situational errors. That renders the comedy.”

The play which has been on stage since December last year, has travelled to Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai, besides Mumbai. Having spent considerable time with their characters, we ask them if they’ve found common ground. Ivan, who plays Murali, the IT employee who loses his job, says, “In real life, I think I’d have taken fewer risks. I would have financially barricaded myself 10 times better. I am a lot more conservative. But if I were really in the same situation as him and push came to shove, I don’t know how far I’d be willing to go.” Shashi says that his character embodies his fear of him turning into a dependent alcoholic. As for the others, the association remains in bits and pieces.

The Big Fat City, which is written and directed by Mahesh Dattani, is being brought to stage by Ashvin Gidwani Productions (AGP) and the cast is all praise for their team. “The people are so much nicer and well mannered, and as someone who’s extensively worked in theatre and has seen the good, bad and ugly, I have to commend Ashvin on creating such a team,” says Nasir, getting serious for once. Agreeing, Achint says, “AGP has given us a comfort zone that makes working much easier. They know our strengths and faults, as do we know their’s.”

The play will continue its tour in Kolkata next.

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