Cast: Jaimini Pathak, Anurashee Shetty, Romi Jaspal, Nikhil Porwal
Dir: Jaimini Pathak
Written by: Ramu Ramnathan
Day 2, play 2. And most of the audience present for Curfew appeared for this one too. Some of the theater crowd however was conspicuous by its absence. Mebbe this brand of theater did not go down very well with them. Sigh! Looks like Hyderabadis are fated to Neil Simon adaptations for a few more years at least.
Combat however was a different brand of theater. Still experimental, still hilarious, still tongue-in-cheek. But different experiments, different brand of hilarity and different tongue in respectively different cheek. It's a mite longer, and Ramnathan seemed to have read Nietschze before penning down the last sequence. A li'l losing the way there.
The play is all about a statue. The statue is a simpleton once upon a time, hounded out of his house by a shrewish wife in search of the symbolic pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. What he does find is a regiment called "The Combatants, Compatriots and Numbskulls of the Pacifist regime". You get to see some amazing caricatures here. The gung-ho nut, the puking scared misfit and a patriotic general. The simpleton is mistaken for a spy and is shot, and then later on is made a martyr. The statue is put up after much ceremony.
What we have in between is a hilarious roundup of history and the great wars. The ghost of the man, before the statue stage, meets Babar, who blames a faulty compass for bringing him into India instead of Russia, and Raja Raja, the first of the Cholas, is a Rajnikanth look-alike. The imitations are downright whacky, and every diggable dig is taken.
Towards the end, after the wife convinces the ghost to agree to the 'statue-tory' clause, she conceives an atom bomb. Er... kinda confusing. A very Nietschze-like monologue from the wife took the audience by surprise as they couldn't quite digest such morbidity right on the heels of some high quality humor.
Social commentary that does not devolve into a dreary monologue is rare, and the Jaimini Pathak - Ramu Ramnathan duo must be congratulated. The timing especially is to be congratulated as Navjot Singh Siddhu has drilled into all our brains - the sheer importance of timing. Some of the lines are not as funny as those in the previous play, and certain stretches of dialogue are mysteriously devoid of punchlines, where many could have been inserted. But then the quality of humor in the funny parts is certainly of a very high level.
Plays have come and plays have gone. Some of the so-called top theater groups of our city have tried and tried to make us laugh. But after these two plays, we understand how whacky 'whacky' really is and what depths we have left unplumbed in Hyderabad.