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Simon Says

Wednesday, May 02, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There is something about so many of Neil Simon's plays that gives them a universal, timeless appeal. Several of his plays have been adapted on the Mumbai stage because they work in a different setting with very little tweaking.

His three-hander, I Ought To Be In Pictures is one of his most popular plays, along with The Prisoner Of Second Avenue, Barefoot In The Park, The Odd Couple.

Bharat Dabholkar has directed a new version called That's My Girl, about a father and daughter, set against showbiz in Mumbai.

Anil Desai (Ananth Narayan Mahadevan) is a Bollywood scriptwriter with a severe case of writer's block. Into his shabby apartment, which is kept in livable condition by his girlfriend Anuradha (Ananya Dutta) arrives a teenaged hurricane, Aishwarya AKA Ashu (Shweta Rohira).

Years ago, Anil had abruptly walked out on his wife and two kids in Surat and left for Mumbai

Now Ashu lands up without warning and wants his help to become an actress. According to her, he owes it to her for abandoning her and his son. She is talkative, rebellious and nutty enough to chat with her dead grandmother.

As she puts It, " It was bad enough you were gone, but you could have left my mother there for me.  She used to hug me so hard sometimes. Like she was trying to squeeze all the love out of me that she wasn’t getting anywhere else. So instead of growing up to be me, I grew up to be a substitute— I know Grandma’s dead. I know she probably can’t hear me. But I speak to her everyday anyway because I’m not so sure anyone else is listening."

These lines succinctly explain what her feelings are towards her absentee father, and how their relationship will pan out when Anil has no idea how to be a dad. Anuradha, a fulm stylist, is around to soothe ruffled feathers, and negotiate her place in the changed equation.

The writing is warm and funny, so in spite of the tacky set and make-do costumes, the play is watchable for Shweta Rohira's confident performance in her very first play.

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