"Sexy," I said to Neha Dubey, commenting on her (performance, silly!), using a
word borrowed from my Mumbai-based-ad-film-making-son, who uses it to describe
anything from a foot stool to an upgraded computer. Dubey plays Tuktuk Roy, the
cute and curvy girl friend of Tony Gidwaney (some spelling!), the fast-talking
deal-maker of Mumbai's tinsel world, in "Siren City", a thought provoking play
adapted by Sandhya Divecha from the original award-winning Australian version
Lillete Dubey, of Zubeida fame, directs the play brilliantly, telling a global truth that professionalism, creativity and talent go hand in hand with materialism, craftiness and insidiousness in one's quest for power and recognition, especially in show-biz. And in this case, the story should do most of the critiquing.
Vikram Mehta (Jayant Kripalani), an award winning (Toronto, nothing less!) screenwriter, comes to sin city Mumbai from Delhi to make it big in the film world. Malathi Menon (Vani Tripathi) is the promoter who admires his creative abilities, but prefers more saleable commodities like a shapely VJ turned (dumb) actress.
Vikram is uncompromising about his stuff - that is, until he comes across the hot hustler Tony, who, despite his semi-literacy of the written word, is quite well versed in reading the popularity pulse. Both damn each other initially, but grudgingly (and with a shade of reverence at that) accept the other's point of view, trying to fit in a working pattern.
Vikram's long suffering wife Anu (Kitu Gidwani) resents the whole arrangement as she has her own lofty ideals that her publisher boss does not share. Along with these codes of ethics, there is also an underlying current of greed, for putting the kids in the best schools, for wanting to be 'awesomely powerful and disgustingly rich', etc.
Tony's girl Tuktuk makes no bones about what she really cares about - a penthouse with a stunning sea-view. The couples exchange external courtesies, the inner thoughts (artfully woven as "asides" into the play) giving out their well-camouflaged intentions. Vikram is smitten by Tuktuk's 'fantastic form' and guile(ful)less chatter and makes a consummate move - which is thwarted in the last moment by the insightful Tuktuk. He faces reality and retreats with some guilt and some trepidity. Tuktuk dismisses the whole 'affair' as 'mishti doi (sweet curd) turned sour'.
Tuktuk's honesty is directly in contrast with Anu's covertness about her 'fling' with her boss. Later, she returns to her long enduring marriage, less trapped and more liberated, a reward of its own kind. A state-of-the-art solution to many a wobbling marriage?
The value clashes, value compromises and value victories are well depicted by excellent skills in acting by the cast. Among the cast, Mohan Kapoor's timing was perfect. Kitu Gidwani and Vani Tripathi had their moments of self-expression. Neha Dubey, the sexy siren (why can't I find another word?), showed remarkable talent and a fab body in those sexy (here we go again!) dresses.
The Taj Krishna provided the right ambience for the play, the right names were there (Azhar, Sangeeta, Tejdeep, etc.), and the English-theater-starved socialites enjoyed the cocktails, picking the right toothpicks and holding their own. Only I was the misfit, my toothpick refusing even to hold the (marble-sized) heavy kababs. But I didn't go to meet the cocktail crowd, you see! My day was made when Lillete Dubey acknowledged my compliment with a gracious comment, "You must have enjoyed the play, being a writer yourself." I did, ma'am, I did. I hope I win an award (in Toronto, too!) for being the best critique of your play!