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Noir As Can Be

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

A bit about the venue first, The Jeff Goldberg Studio is a compact but well designed and equipped space in Khar, one of the many venues now functioning in the suburbs (about a dozen in Andheri alone), that work very well for small experimental plays. The audience is presumably from the neighbourhood, which means people around the venue can get their theatre fix without traveling traffic-clogged distances in Mumbai on a weekend.
Goldberg has an additional advantage; he runs a method acting school on the premises; the actors he trains work in the play he produces. He occasionally writes and directs them too.

His latest, The Altamount Road Murders belongs to the noir genre, and before the first show, Goldberg gave a quick intro on how Hollywood embraced the dark thriller, and continues to use its style and plot devices in occasional forays into the genre, now called neo noir. Two of the standard characters of classic noir were the cynical detective and the femme fatale, Goldberg’s play has both. Then, there has to be a crime, most often a murder, which has to be as lurid as can be and the dialogue has to be peppered with wit.

Goldberg writes an off stage murder of a Mumbai based politician, who is reportedly found shot to death and handcuffed to a prostitute in the trunk of his car. The politician has a much-younger trophy wife, Sonali (Aneesha Shah), who, when asked about her lover, nonchalantly asked, “which one?”

A CBI detective, Sunny Agarwal (Mayukh) starts to investigate and since he is as corrupt as smart, he knows there is more to the murder than meets the eye. Definitely involved is the rich Tandon family, now in caught in some kind of financial scandal. Abhishek Tandon (Vikas Mandaliya), his sister Lara (Nimisha Mehta) and their adopted brother Ibrahim (Vishal Handa) are at loggerheads, something which the canny detective uses to his advantage to get pieces of the story so that he can put the jigsaw puzzle together.

Sonali, the femme fatale, is the most completely-written character, the kind who has men wrapped around her little finger, who curls her lip at the detective and calls him her husband’s sheepdog.

The play needs more detailing, plus also a lot more action and glamour than the tiny stage can provide. The actors tended to mumble and their footwear made a racket on the wooden stage, still one can imagine the fun a filmmaker would have with this content. Bollywood has had its share of noir films in the past, but there hasn’t been one in a while.

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