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Such Is Life

Tuesday, May 14, 2019
By Deepa Ghalot

In the midst of the glut of plays in the city, there are always some that aim to get audiences by casting familiar faces from films and television. Which is fine, but just ‘star’ attractions are not enough to make a play worthwhile, at least not for a section of the audience that is looking for real theatre, and not just an evening out.

Hello Zindagi has a few points in its favour—it is the first play written by actress Smita Bansal. It has five actresses playing interesting characters, and a unique take on the saas-bahu relationship. The mother-in-law Bakula (Delnaaz Irani) and daughter-in-law Pammi (Minissha Lamba) in this play, are friends, who go out partying and drinking together. In fact, when Pammi and her husband, Amit, got divorced, Bakula chose to have the daughter-in-law stay with her and kicked the son out. Pammi is willing to give Amit a second chance but Bakula knows that the drinking-gambling cheat is beyond redemption. As a character comments, if all saas-bahus were like these two, Ekta Kapoor (who made a fortune out of television serials about household politics) would be out of business.

The character of Bakula is quite unique—she is a self-made businesswoman, and always willing to help women. One of them is Shivani (Chitrashi Rawat—with that stereotyped Haryanvi accent) who was rendered homeless by a cheating builder and given a roof over her head; when Sheena (Kishwar Merchant—overdoing the frightened stammer), Pammi’s childhood friend and a victim of domestic violence lands up, she is given unconditional support and shelter. The fifth female character is the outspoken domestic help, Bijoya (Guddi Maruti—annoying Bengali accent), who has her own sad backstory. Not surprisingly, it is a man (Rahul Singh) who steps into the house, bringing with him, greed and deception.

The play, directed by Raman Kumar, is well-intentioned and hearteningly sympathetic towards women, but the loud acting grates, and too many pointless or overextended scenes stretch the running time (I had to leave when it seemed to go on and on) till it snaps. It needs to be ruthlessly edited and toned down. (With all theatres in cities having efficient sounds systems, why should the actors have to shout?) From this lot, only Guddi Maruti seemed to know how to modulate her performance, and also play to the gallery to get most of the laughs.

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