Bringing together the grandeur and glamour of Bollywood and the trials and tribulations of the rural towns, Aadyam’s latest offering Mosambi Narangi is a social commentary-of-sorts with a highly gifted cast (Rajat Kapur and Ajeet Singh Palawat). A sensitive portrayal, it has the ability to make the audience laugh and cry. Adapted from Irish playright Marie Jones’ Stones in a Pocket, Mosambi Narangi is set in rural Varanasi.
Mohit Takalkar of Asakta Kala Manch, a Pune-based theatre group, helms the play and has been part of the annual Aadyam festival. “It is the first play of mine where I have not chosen the script. I walked in when the script and team were in place,” says the director who is known for experimental works such as Gajab Kahani, Main Hun Yusuf Aur Yeh Hai Mera Bhai and Chaheta—the last two written by Palestinian playwright Aamir Nizar Zoabi. Talking about the play, Takalkar says, “Mosambi Narangi is an out-and-out comedy and has been adapted to Hindi by Ashok Mishra. For me it has come as a breath of fresh air since my theatre group (Asakta Kala Manch) is mostly known for doing serious plays.”
The two central characters, Mosambi and Narangi, dream of making it big in Bollywood but are quick to realise their dreams may not achieve fruition. As they struggle to understand the functioning of the Hindi film business, the make-believe glamour of Bollywood quickly fades away and the reality of being extras hits them. “While Narangi has just closed down his video shop and aspires to get his own script made into a film, Mosambi has recently returned from Bombay and is enthralled by the beauty of the movie’s leading lady,” says Takalkar about the protagonists’ motivations.
Ever since its first production, the original play—Stones in the Pocket—was revered in the West and went on to be a bestseller at Broadway. Takalkar admits that adapting it to the Indian stage was not easy. “When a play is so popular there are bound to be comparisons. However, the Indian film industry created a similar setting. There are strugglers and people want to join the industry and often think of it as the ultimate haven of glamour and money. That’s why the play fits in so well with the Indian backdrop,” explains the director.
Keeping it in sync with the original theme of the script, Mosambi Narangi examines the plight of the working class Indian community, albeit in a humorous tone. “The working class often feels ignored and disrespected by the elites. The play tries to focus on how they feel about the lack of access to jobs and class through the lens of cinema, which everyone considers a medium of glitz and glamour. There might be a lot of laughter but there’s also a lot of seriousness in what we are trying to portray. It is extremely reflective of real life,” highlights Takalkar.
On working with just two actors in a production, the director who also runs a restaurant in Pune called Barometer, says, “An entire two-hour-long play with two actors is extremely difficult to produce. Most of the plays require an ensemble cast. When there are many members it’s like dealing with an orchestra. Everything seems harmonious. However, two-handers can be rewarding in their own ways.”
Most of Takalkar’s works such as Kashmir Kashmir, Yayati and Mathemagician comment on socio-economic issues and Mosambi Narangi also delves into similar areas, though in a lighter vein. “I am very impulsive and instinctive. I make decisions at the spur of a moment, but my plays resonate with the world. I believe, like Mosambi Narangi, we as a society need to look at not just the extras in movies, but in our everyday lives as well,” he concludes.