I remember that afternoon when I and Anush landed up at Rangashankara to watch a play. It was an English adaptation of an Italian play by Dario Fo called “Can’t pay? Won’t pay!”. We were joined there by Indhukka. That place had the usual ‘intellectual’ aura, complete with a middle-aged guy who had stopped shaving or getting his hair cut years back. There was this notion that not many would have turned up and we’d find tickets easily. Mind you, this was the era before Bookmyshow; they only had a mobile number that you could call and reserve tickets on. Needless to say, many people had already done that and we could only hang around for a while there, and go our ways.
Some 8 years later, I booked tickets on Bookmyshow for something based on Girish Karnad’s play ‘The Dreams of Tipu Sultan’. This was my intro to RS and this time too I had Indhukka and Manoj for company. This was some Girish Karnad festival going on at RS and many of his plays were being staged those weeks. The usual fab-india+french beard types hung around everywhere, making animated conversations. As for the play, am yet to, thankfully, see a worse play on a stage. And one hopes, it stays so.
It’s been over 2 years on, and I’ve managed to get more regular with plays. I don’t venture out beyond the usual beats of Rangashankara or KH Kala Soudha. A couple of times, have been to Kalagrama which is located inside the National School of Drama, and is walkable from my place. But the experience varies from play to play.
There are those where at the end, the director wants to do an AMA with the audience. It usually starts awkward, takes off a bit towards nervous laughter, settles down firmly in awkward, before he does the logical thing and lets people go.
English plays tend to veer between pure comedy and trying to ‘transcend the mundane, pass on some subliminal message, hold a mirror to humanity and make a deep observation on the human condition’. Or in other words, between usually rip-roaring laughter, and absolute WTF!-did-I-pay-for-this-juvenile-crap?. The latter ones are usually based in Bangalore and have to make the standard comments about IT companies, corporate culture, blah, blah; you know the drill. The acting itself veers between ham-it-up and decent, but they don’t get much support from the script. (Not to say there are no good ones, but they’re either being staged in Whitefield or you’re too late to get tickets).
The Kannada ones are much safer. They’re usually funny. The acting swings between decent and top-notch, and the script is also strong. They benefit from having a lot of good literature to adapt from. You might have a work of Karantha or Thejaswi as base, or it would be a script that has been doing the rounds by the same group for years. Tickets are easily available. Unless in RS, they never get sold out – if there are more tickets sold than seats available, people can sit on the stairs or stand. Most of the audience will also know someone or the other in the audience – usually friends and extended family – and happily cheer them on when they’re on screen. And unless in RS, you’ll also have people streaming in half an hour into the play.
And this is one of my pettest peeves. This lack of punctuality has already driven me off movie halls. Having to watch people’s backs 30 minutes into the movie and then again 20 minutes after the ‘intermission’, and also having to listen to how someone would like his samosa prepared in between the dialogues is not worth paying 300 bucks for. And on top of this, you also have to endure 40 minutes of ads for a 2hr movie after paying all that money. (Not kidding. Watched Avengers-2, which was 2:20. There were 20 minutes of ads in the start, then 20 minutes of intermision+ads to take the total time to 3 hrs! And am talking ads, not trailers. In the US the movie would start at the time mentioned, but there’d be trailers some 15-20 minutes before that.)
The second peeve is timing. One of the first things I want to know is how long the play is. 2 hrs is out of question, they usually tend to drag along. 1 hr or 1:15 is the best. 1:30 is the limit. And if you’re starting at 7:30 PM, you better finish by 9! The last one I went to had no duration on it. I called up a number on the poster and was told that it won’t last more than 1:30. At the start they said it’s a 100 minutes play. WTF? Needless to say, even at the end of 100 minutes it was still getting into the denouement. And this was at 9:15 PM! And for the second time, for the same reason, I walked out before the finish.
All in all, they make for good fun(and some gloating). Even managed to give Manja an intro to RS this time. Thankfully, he had a better first experience than mine.