Required to watch Shadi@Barbadi.Com and review it, there arose frivolous thoughts along the lines, "A comedy! A simple task this will be. Watch the strenuous attempts at humor, and for every stinker, put in some barbs in the write-up." The play is over and I laughed till I was positively dehydrated, and now I find myself sans barbs. Oops!
Let's start off with the cast. Paresh Rawal. Director of this wonderful piéce de théatre, plus enactor of the admirable role of Manoj Doodhwalla, a troubled Gujju, from whose perspective we are shown the wonderful phenomenon of marriage. Well, this guy was so nit-less, he drove me witless, and never did he falter with a smart one. He kept at it, staring owlishly as he was slowly but surely driven up the wall by a couple of formidable women. With similes that covered politics and movies alike, he waxed eloquent on such complicated topics as Vajpayee's knee and the improbability of a BJP-Congress coalition. What heights women inspire men to!
Then there is Swaroop Sampath, playing the role of Monica (shush! how presumptuous people are!) Dhaandwalla, who ends up as poor Manoj's wife by the time of the interval. A name many recognize (I meant the Swaroop part, not the Monica part), but with Paresh Rawal to contend with, she could only be second best. Good voice she has, though. If only the Operatic Society weren't gender-biased she would have been an international tenor by now! (Essential Opera trivia: the male singers are called tenors and baritones, and the female singers are called divas).
The rest of the cast does the filling in part, and the play goes on and on. With a ten-minute break allowed to let the audience catch their breath and re-hydrate themselves, the play follows the life and dea… er… marriage of Manoj Doodhwalla. A convoluted courtship, a suhaag-raat with a '101 tips' book to contend with, and that's it! Manoj has smiled his last smile. As marital changes to martial, the wife and the mother start off with tae-kwon-do and finally run out off moves, so come down to saucepans. And in the line of cutlery fall Manoj and his harassed father.
The ending is slightly contrived because a comedy is supposed to have a happy ending and the prospects of happiness in the aforesaid family can be compared to something with really, really, really bad prospects. So with a few adjustments and a liberal application of creator's license, happiness reigns on-stage as the curtains fall.
And life is not without irony, as parallel to the play, below the same auditorium where dire warnings against marriage were being given, a man and woman were being joined in holy wedlock. The groom garnered quite a few sympathetic looks when the men trooped out after the play.
And to conclude this summary of a hilarious experience, I quote Paresh Rawal. That guy deserves the last word!
"If you liked this play, please tell your friends about it. And if you did not, please get your mothers-in-law to see it!"