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Romance On The Rocks

Tuesday, June 04, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

The young couple in Shrirang Godbole’s play Idiots, believes that those who live by convention are “idiots” and they will not fall into that trap. The play, reminiscent of the 2005 film Salaam Namaste, has a song that makes fun of a girl who is “marriage material” which means she is outwardly modern, but actually traditional. That pretty much describes the play too; it could have examined the lives of the urban young trying to balance work and life in a highly competitive environment, but after some contrived comedy, goes for clichéd melodrama.

Pritam (Sagar Karande) and Ruchi (Smita Tambe) have moved to Mumbai from smaller towns—so no family hovering around-- have well-paid jobs and an independent lifestyle that they enjoy. Ruchi, who prefers not to use her surname, is the conservative’s idea of a modern woman—which means she smokes, drinks and wears western clothes (she has a wardrobe of particularly unflattering dungarees), and has an aggressive manner of speaking (Tambe plays it too shrill).

They meet at a party thrown by common friends, and slowly get attracted to each other. Ruchi makes the first move, by landing up at his place unannounced, and also suggests they live together, because only “idiots” marry—like the constantly squabbling neigbours upstairs, heard but never seen.

The early scenes are funny, the songs say something about the mindset of the two (the dancing needs some more grace), but Godbole coasts along so comfortably on the performances of the two actors—Karande is quite hilarious—that he forgets to give his plot even a modicum of freshness.

Pritam and Ruchi have decided that they will never quarrel, and if they do, the third fight will signal a break-up, but the two seemingly intelligent individuals squabble over incredibly trivial issues, like his giving a lift to a female neigbour, her wearing a strappy dress and that old chestnut—a forgotten anniversary.

They fall into the typical gender roles they were trying to avoid, but apart from a deliberately overacted scene done in the manner of old movies, the play gives no indication of even trying to be a satire on contemporary relationships. It actually bats for traditional gender roles--he is never seen fixing a meal, for instance, and she rather quickly turns into a shrew. What Idiots does succeed in doing—hence its popularity—is entertain audiences, make them laugh, and send them back reassured that Indian society remains unchanged, in spite of a few tremors of modernity.

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