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Bathroom Farce

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Watching a play during an arts festival, when the auditorium is packed to bursting and the audience is made up of people who are not necessarily regular theatergoers is quite a different experience from sitting in a regular theatre with a ticket-buying public. For one, the audience does not mind sitting in cramped conditions, on the floor if need be, or on the feet of someone behind them; they come with the idea of enjoying themselves, and don’t get irritated if a baby bawls intermittently, or if the laughter and applause drowns out half the lines. This sense of fun infects the actors too, and they add more energy to their performances.

Santosh Tiwari’s 'Naha Le Re Bhai', directed by Chitransh Pawar, with a bunch of young actors (Santosh Tiwari, Vedika Singh, Asif Hussain, Reet Kour, Jitender Singh, Naveen Sandhu, Gaurav Singh, Shalini Hirani, Neeraj Singh and Surabhi Darji) – the group called 'The Back Benchers' – is just the kind of play meant for small venues, with its crazy humour.

Supposedly based on real-life incidents, the play is set in a court in a small town somewhere in North India, where everyone knows everyone; the prosecution and defense lawyers are a married couple, and the cases they get laughably petty. The court clerk’s wife pops in to tell him that she has got a job as a happiness volunteer, that involves hugging unhappy people to make them feel better, which, obviously, irks the husband.

The main case is about a woman who wants a divorce because her husband has not taken a bath for over a year. Everyone who goes within a few feet of him faints due to the stink – all but the wife, who has somehow managed to bear it for so many months. But to pad the running time of the play are two hilarious cases – one in which the garishly-dressed motor-mouth Munni Mobile has dragged a man to court because he called her “chhammak chhallo.” The genial judge (Santosh Tiwari) has to decide if that amounts to harassment. The woman, however, extracts her own revenge by beating up her harasser.

Then there’s the man brought to court – without being allowed to wash his hands, he complains – because he was relieving himself on the train tracks. And finally the unwashed man and his over-the-top wife. The story of the couple then hinges on the reason why he won’t bathe – and that brings some stark, dark realism into the otherwise boisterously comic play. The actors carry off the absurdity of 'Naha Le Re Bhai' with remarkable ease and make it an entertaining watch… more so, when people around are laughing their heads off!

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