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The cutthroat corporate world

The Interview is a play that pushes the border of realism, with witty dialogues and deft acting

Published: 12th June 2013 10:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th June 2013 10:49 AM   |  A+A-

Cutthroat

‘The Interview’ opens with a nervous young man (Karan Pandit), clutching a resume,  and sitting on a bench outside an office. A secretary (Prerna Chawla), in a tight black skirt and white top and stiletto heels sits behind a table at one side. Soon, the young man is called in. And what should have been a straight-forward interview becomes a bizarre experience for Karan, thanks to the questions posed by the boss (Kashin Shetty).

 Asked what he would like to drink, Kashin induces Karan to have a glass of whisky, instead of the usual tea or coffee. “Won’t you have some?” says Karan. And Kashin says, with a straight face, “Not before an interview. I need to stay sharp and precise.”

When he looks at the resume, Kashin says, “Very impressive. Born in June, excellent.” And he proceeds to say how Geminis are honest people and good for the company. “In fact, there are a lot of Twins [symbol of Gemini] in management,” says Kashin. “It looks favourable to you.”

Next, Karan is forced to sign a confidentiality agreement, regarding the interview, and made to put on headphones for a lie detector test. And a series of one-line questions are hurled at him, like his age and preferred colour. Asked about his favourite number, Karan says, “4308.” Which provokes guffaws from the audience at the JT Pac, Kochi.

To curry favour, Karan says, “This company has a lot of vision.”

Kashin says, “What kind? Myopic?”

And so it went, with many unusual twists and turns. Kashin is having an affair with his secretary, and wants Karan to ask Prerna to quit and move on, so that the relationship can come to an end. If he convinces her, assures Kashin, Karan will get the job.

But Prerna is not willing to quit. “The fear of his wife has caught up with the boss,” she says. “And he sends you to tell me the news. That’s middle management for you. I could file for sexual abuse and inform his wife.”

Meanwhile, Kashin’s hysterical and uptight subordinate Keith (Adhir Bhat), is called in to do some additional questioning of Karan. During the few times when nobody is present in the office, Karan calls up his girlfriend on the mobile and appraises her of the situation. Later, amazingly, a murder takes place.

The 80-minute long play has been a success since its launch three years ago. “This is our 84th performance,” says director Akarsh Khurana, of the Mumbai-based Akvarious Productions. The group has performed in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Coimbatore and in Muscat, Oman. Clearly the play has struck a chord. “Everybody can relate to the characters, because it is set in the corporate world,” says Akarsh.

Incidentally, playwright Siddharth Kumar and Akarsh have a corporate background. “We used to attend meetings at a Mumbai-based company,” says Akarsh. “The boss would not speak a word till the dictaphone was switched on. Because everything he said had to be recorded. It was put into a data base, so that people could access whatever he had said. There were a lot of strange rules and diktats.”

Siddharth then got the idea to do something with an interview. “He wanted to push the boundaries of realism,” says Akarsh. “So, a straight-forward job interview enters into a bizarre space.”

And the audience have had varied reactions. During a question and answer session, after a recent theatre festival, some members said that people in the corporate world do not use bad language. “Immediately, other audience members disagreed,” says Akarsh. “A woman said, ‘You are showing a lady as an object.’ Then another woman stood up, and said, ‘Secretaries are objectified in work places. We should accept the truth.’”

Akarsh was not upset by the salvos and rejoinders. “If the play leads to a certain amount of argument, that means it is succeeding,” he says.

The Interview’ is a gripping play, that deals with human emotions, and the steps, moral or otherwise, people will take to advance their careers. Following the conclusion, in the lobby, a bespectacled man told one of the organisers, “I have come to see a play, after ten long years. I am glad I came for this one.”



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