BWW Review: MY HEART GOES THADAK THADAK at Silo Theatre
Reviewed by Glenda Pearce
Written and directed by Ahi Karunaharan
"It's as if a thousand horses are beating in your heart - thadak thadak"
Want to see a heart-warming, unexpectedly clever spoof? The world premiere of "My Heart Goes Thadak Thadak" is definitely worth seeing. Commissioned and developed by Silo Theatre with funding assistance of Creative New Zealand and Silo Theatre's Patron Donors, the "Bollywood" spaghetti western is a superb mix of light and breezy, with an undercurrent of serious political and media commentary. This is a very funny show with cleverly shaped one-liners, unexpected plot twists, a range of different levels of types and levels of humour, and a range of well-delivered comedic lines and techniques. The script itself is a masterpiece incorporating movie magic, peopled by characters you love, blending lightness of mood and its subtext of more serious themes.The play opens with an effective and confident break of the fourth wall - with the entrance of storyteller Manjit (Mustaq Missouri) as the rather hapless and (as it turns out broke) associate producer of the western "Dust of the Delhi Plains". We are expertly and immediately drawn in. We are now "the extras" for the imminent shoot. We are part of the action and we want to be involved. The superb one-liners begin: "Lies are tastier", "silence is only frightening to those who are always talking." We know that Manjit wants to respect his dead partner's wishes, (metaphorically portrayed by the interspersed smoke machine) and complete the film that they were working on when he unexpectedly died. We also know that it's like the company is cursed and well, "we don't talk about the last time." Shankar (Shaan Kesha), the inept but wanting-to-please "do everything" assistant, ultimately confesses that he had hoped for a part in the film. His dance moves, physicality and slapstick humour are a delight in the first half, and he becomes a "thoroughly western" actor in the film shooting sequence. And now we begin to meet the other people in this film Bollywood production company, beginning with the "forgotten" former award-winning actress, Ranikumari (Rashmi Pilapitiya) - "You know what people love - a comeback story", who has been "not in hibernation - but in preparation for this moment." As the plot unfolds, we hear her truth, and a sad indictment on the film industry. Once she was relevant, but now she's irrelevant. She's forced to play a mother at 48, to a son who is 47! She needs makeup not to feel excluded. Rashmi Pilapitiya conveys Rani's motivational truth whilst balancing this sensitivity against moments of well-timed comic action. The credibly conflicting siblings, Roshan (Mayen Mehta) and Kamala (Sanaya Doctor) present opposing cinematic viewpoints (past and present) and effectively propel the storyline forward into the second act. The plot action has been quietly building. Having decided that they must honour their father's wishes, they decide to re-write and cast the film from the people available. "What will we pay the extras with now? Exposure."
What happens hereafter is a delight. Hilarious slapstick action superbly emphasized script and accented dialogue, unexpected character angles, all within the very well-acted spaghetti western film shoot.
The 1975 "film set" design (Daniel Williams) and its props (Magdalena Hoult) is colourfully eclectic and vibrant in appearance: facades of cactus, sand hills, film posters, a potential background of the golden desert, an aqua wooden-planked saloon front, complete with unco-operative swinging doors, verandah, hitching post and various set elements, a hobby horse, as well as the trestle table with chapatti for the tea breaks, old fashioned film cameras, and boom mic. The sound and music "living room" is inhabited by the skillful team (Leon Radojkovic, Finn Scholes) who embellish the onstage action and dialogue with theatrical and musical clarity. Appearing suitably haphazard in the opening, it is not until the action explodes in the real "shooting" of "Dust of the Delhi Plains" that we see just how cleverly the whole set has been conceived. It's now a very authentic film set, its action well-staged, capturing the truth of Majit's opening lines that " the world is an illusion."
This is a superbly constructed production with clear cut characters portrayed with authentic voices, motivational credibility, truthful action, and vivid facial expression that capture the underlying angles and depths of their roles. Its immersing buoyancy is a well-orchestrated vehicle for bringing a story to Aotearoa previously not told. Don't miss it.
Q Theatre, 22 November - 14 December 2019