To be nice, we would like to start by saying that it's wonderful to have the DCH
back in business after five long and virtually theaterless years in Hyderabad.
To be nicer, we will also say that the latest effort was a tremendous one and
all the work that went into creating "Who's Got My Trousers?" did pay off some.
It is a pity, then, that to get down to some real work, niceties will have to
go right out of the window.
What remains? The fact that the play did not hit too many marks and did not get too many laughs. And that says it all, doesn't it?
English theater in Hyderabad - the players and the audiences, that is - is elitist, and that's almost an axiom around here. A small, rather tight-knit group of theater-goers, many of whom are amateur theater-wallahs themselves, watch their friends/acquaintances perform on stage. The same faces watching the same faces. It makes you wonder if the purpose of theater isn't undermined, the effort just a little slack 'coz the audience is, after all, a friend.
Anyway, here's the tale. "Who's Got My Trousers" (originally called "When Did You Last See Your Trousers?") is a British sex comedy scripted by Ray Galton and John Antrobus. British is the script, British are the jokes, British is the accent (at least that's what it is supposed to be) and British are the clothes - but the cast is Indian. This brings us to the vital question - is it such a crime to modify a play to suit its audience? Is "Indianize" a dirty word? Would it have been sacrilege to give the play a more Indian feel so the audience could connect and identify with the characters?
Well, lets get done with the story first. The play begins at Penny's (Zainulvara Zaheer) London apartment. Both Penny and Howard (Arun Masilamoni) are sleeping when a burglar walks in through the window and robs them (rather unconvincingly, I might add). Howard wakes up in a vest and shorts to find his suit and trousers missing. We then find out that Penny is Howard's mistress - and to get home to his wife, Howard needs his clothes.
The rest of the play revolves entirely around how Howard tries relentlessly to get a pair of trousers and a suit so he can get home. He calls up a certain Captain Webber (Akhila Singhal), gets Penny to get her ex-boyfriend Jimmy (Arif Alladin) to get him some clothes (Jimmy arrives with a pair of leather pants that rip when Howard wears them), tries to steal from the people next door, and even dresses like a woman to avoid trouble.
But trouble seems to follow him around, what with the Spanish Juanita (Padma Damodaran with an accent she must have really, really worked at!) falling in love with him, a constable mistaking him to be a lady of the evening, the neighbor trying to steal the few clothes he manages to acquire, a Home Secretary who's lost his memory and, to top it all, a bomb scare.
The comedy is in the sequence of events more than in the dialogues, though there are some funny lines. Technically DCH does a pretty good job, though at times their amateur status is starkly evident. The props are really good (they even have a TV that works), with apt lighting (the sound is a little unclear, though). The performances, while not earth-shattering, are not bad either. But the polite laughter and the tepid response told you there was something missing. A connection, probably. And what's with the Tuesday night?
"Who's Got My Trousers" is a serious effort at comedy that, while does not fall flat on its face, isn't hilarious either. But the effort, as we said, is appreciated. The choice of subject, the little stumbles here and there that matter, and the sheer alienness made viewing the play a little tedious, but that's okay for a (re)start. Here's wishing DCH a successful run in this theater-starved city.
Cast: Arun Masilamoni, Zainulvara Zaheer, Padma Damodaran, B S Prakash,
Arif Alladin, Viajy Marur, Dhiraj Ahuja, Akhila Singhal, Jayant Dwarkanath, Payal
Director: Pranava Singhal