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Smoking Hurts!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

Audiences in cinema halls cluck with exasperation every time the anti-smoking public interest ads are screened ('Is Shahar Ko Yeh Hua Kya…', intones a doomsday voice), but  smoking zones are full of people puffing away. Cigarette packets have health warnings and scary pictures of cancer patients, but does that deter anyone?

The only difference this anti-tobacco wave has made is that people are not allowed to smoke indoors; they have to either go to designated smoking areas or step out of the building altogether. It is one such smoking room in a corporate office that D For Drama’s Hindi-English play 'Dhumrapaan' is set. Written by Adhir Bhat and directed by Akarsh Khurana, the play is all about stress at the workplace and how the smoking room becomes a refuge, as well as a war zone for the executives, ruled over by a nasty boss Rastogi (Kumud Mishra), also a smoker.

The set is a simple, soulless glass cage where the jittery bunch of smokers (wearing red ties with the day of the week printed on them) congregate—Eknath (Shubhrajyoti Barat) is a senior, who is a few months from retirement, and like so many others his age, he makes do with a basic phone, and cannot keep up with the new lingo. Owen (Siddharth Kumar) has given up smoking but keeps gravitating towards the bunch of smokers to cadge drags. He is in charge of the company’s computer systems and is a jittery type. Mitesh (Ghanshyam Lalsa) and Saurabh (Sarthak Kakar) are making their shaky way up the fiercely competitive corporate ladder—the former is a family man, who hates his trapped existence and aspires to be a poet; the latter is the typical small town boy, with an inferiority complex. Into the group steps in the brash Kunal (Taaruk Raina), who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world, and says he is just trying things out. Inadvertently, Eknath and the only female smoker (Priyanka Verma), trigger a crisis.

Adhir Bhat has a flair for the language and an understanding of what plagues the young. 'Dhumrapaan' can be compared to Siddharth Kumar’s award-winning 'The Interview' (also directed by Akarsh Khurana), also set in the brutal corporate world, which was much funnier and darker. Bhat has created more sympathetic characters—the audience can relate to everyday traumas like losing a job or, suffocating in a dreary job, trying to stay ahead of the pack. There is another story in there, waiting for a playwright to put into words—that of the young woman, who has to survive among the wolves.

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