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From The Fringe

Wednesday, November 14, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

At the recently concluded Prithvi Theatre Festival, a bunch of small plays were performed as part of a Fringe section, at the Prithvi House opposite the main theatre (and some at G5A), where seating is on the floor and on benches along the wall, but the audience is mostly young and enthusiastic and the performances engaging, even with rudimentary props, because the focus is on the text and performances.

Ajay Kamble had the audience amused and sympathetic in writer-director Amogh Phadke’s Marathi play, The Number You Are Calling. He played a man who returns home one day to find that his wife has left him, without any prior warning, and no immediate provocation that he can think of.

As he desperately keeps trying her number, he gets the annoying recorded message informing him that the number he is trying to reach is unavailable. Then he gets a message from her asking him to look for a letter in the flat; that leads to another, till the mystery of her disappearance is solved. In the tiny space, a set of a shabby Mumbai flat was created, which was remarkable, but the hour-long performance rested on the shoulders of Kamble, and he did not let the attention wander for a minute in the bitter-sweet play. It was good to see Makrand Deshpande’s Ansh group encouraging new work by emerging playwrights.

Jam, produced by Harkat Studios, written by Annie Zaidi, and directed by Shivani Tanksale, who also acted in it with Ishita Sharma and Ajitesh Gupta, is straight out of an urban traffic nightmare, when two friends Bina (Ishita Sharma) and Surekha meet after a long time, and are caught in a never-ending jam. For Surekha, it is a daily harrowing commute from home to work and back, to which has resigned herself, but with Bina sitting next to her, there is conversation which is not very pleasant — about family, expectations, disappointments, and memories of their school days in Darjeeling, which invariably brings to the surface a secret that lays buried in the minds of the two women, that has, over the years, affected them in different ways. The scratching of an old wound is caused by an incident of road rage that they face, when a big SUV hits them in ‘revenge’ for Surekha’s car grazing his.

The only one who interrupts the tense dialogue between the two is a radio jockey (Ajitesh Gupta), which the usual inane chatter that comes out of car radios, and there is projection, sand art, and the two performers seated behind a car’s windshield throughout the play — so, there may be not much physical movement, but the play packs in a lot in its one hour or so running time.

And, of course, anyone who has encountered road-hogging bullies in their swanky cars, would feel a chill go up their spine.

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