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Review: THE DEVIL WEARS BATAA at NCPA

Review: THE DEVIL WEARS BATAA at NCPA

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Written and Directed by Meherzad Patel

A few days ago, I had the chance of watching a production of 'The Devil Wears Bataa' at the NCPA. I had previously seen listings of the show and stopped myself from watching same. Comedy and politics in the Indian context? The state of political leadership in the country made me doubt the sincerity of such an attempt. However, one Sunday evening I happened to be at Nariman Point with a charming friend and a wish to show her something new of the city. I decided we should try watching a play together - an act that I had previously maintained as a lonesome practice in order to make these reviews as tiringly singular as possible.

What an evening it turned out to be! 'The Devil Wears Bataa' is an absurdist take on the recent political history of the country. Just when you start making the connections and predict the outcome of the show's cold opening - it throws a "googly" at you unlike any other. It is a light-hearted take on Indian and world politics from the perspective of a tired middle-class citizen. It is the story of a political dynasty in trouble, seeking the help of their favourite political ally to get a new PM for India. Meanwhile, there is also another absurd situation where an Indian in the US is given the responsibility of grooming the next President of the USA. Despite its simple disguise, the play attempts to bring out the inherent malice of political leadership. It uses satire to humiliate every character - all of them are exaggerated versions of real-time Indian leaders. I feared this would be an attempt to equate politics of life-threatening hate with everyday grievances of the "common man" (obviously the common man here is none other than the salaryman of South Mumbai - prosperous and distraught). However, the play refused to acknowledge these differences and stuck to its slapstick nature.

I enjoyed the physical humour of the play. The audience relished the extroverted cacophony of Paaji, (played by Danesh Irani) as he essays the role of a Sikh PM who helps a British actor become a tea-selling PM of India. Of course, the allusions are obvious throughout the play but no names were taken. Steadily the play built its form, making it clear that everything is to be taken with a pinch of salt. Of course, Meherzad Patel has stayed true to the name of his production house - 'Silly Point Productions' and put together another astute slapstick that always works for Mumbai's theatre-going audiences.

It also helps that the ensemble is brimming with established theatre actors - Jigar Mehta, Danesh Khambata, Dilnaz Irani, Siddharth Merchant and Danesh Irani put together incredible performances. It was evident that their experience as actors as well as the multiple performances of the production had sharpened every edge of their delivery - making sure every joke it home. Despite its essentially farcical themes, some moments of satire stood out. Whether it be a casual suggestion of Nathuram as a name for the British actor-cum-Indian PM who would eventually be called "NM" or the reference to Barack Obama's foreign policy for the Arab world, the play squeezed in deliberate moments of political commentary in between long stretches of living room banter. In conclusion, this play was truly an instance where sincerity championed cleverness, a reminder that politicians will continue to make a joke of us if we forget to make a joke or two about them.



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From This Author - Richa Das

Hi, I am Richa, join me as I show you the world of theatre performers and creators, here in Delhi and Mumbai.

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