As if the Indian-English sex comedies starring Pooja Bedi are not bad enough, we now have the fantastic prospect of ersatz Tamasha entertainments rendered in English by a grande dame of the stature of the National Centre for Performing Arts, Bombay (Tempt Me Not!, sponsored by Sangit Kala Mandir, July 25). Has the NCPA lost all sense of proportion?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for the creative use of Indian English, but everything must have a reason. An Indian director in English must know what he’s doing and for whom he’s doing it. Why does Waman Kendre choose a traditional mode like Tamasha (unlike urban theatre, folk theatre across the world loses its authenticity the moment it is performed in another language), and who is his audience? He could perhaps justify Englishing Tamasha for the benefit of foreign viewers, but which self-respecting Indian would want to watch a Tamasha not in Marathi? Or have English-speaking Bombayites lost all touch with their native roots?

Then there’s the question of the translation itself. While one may pass Rajendra Mehra and Ramesh Rajhans’s dialogue, Pratima Kulkarni’s lyrics can only be described as transmogrification of the worst order. Sample from the gaulan song of the gopis: “Pitchers on the pots and pots on the pots/And potful we carry with lot of pleasure”. It’s enough to drive you potty, as Kendre clearly can’t distinguish between bad English and Indian English. As for the show, Vasant Sabnis’s unremarkable play becomes a vehicle for stars like Hosi Vasunia and Anjan Srivastava to prance around with the crudest and cheapest slapstick imaginable—an embarrassingly unfunny spectacle.

So, what next? Ramlila acted in Indian English for Delhites by the National School of Drama?


About the most one can say for The Torn Curtains’ Love, Divorce & Carrot Juice (presented by Spandan, Birla Sabhagar, August 15) is that Tony Mirrchandani bases his adaptation on the most popular Broadway hit of the 1960s, Jean Kerr’s Mary, Mary. Other than that, this “deliberately wicked comedy in Indian English” is not particularly delicious, wicked or even Indian—unless Hyderabad has different standards than we have.

Despite its record-breaking run three decades ago, Mary, Mary never made it into dramatic history as it really has nothing special to say. And in our days of sexual correctness, its ending is quite disgraceful: not only does the hero physically drag his ex-wife away from her lover and lock her up, but in the concluding scene (as if vindicating his sudden uncharacteristic machismo), she coos and cuddles up to him and subserviently “starts to take off his shoes … as the curtain falls”. Surely Mirrchandani and his codirector Rao Ramann could have excised this offending detail?

Mirrchandani’s perpetually puzzled demeanour (in the lead) makes him the best actor by default because Gitanjali Chugani, whose play it should have been, cannot sufficiently capture Mary/Mallika’s charming garrulity to carry the production. The others are pretty hopeless histrionically—except Lalit Sharma as the Bengali man Friday, the only new character added to Kerr’s original cast.

(From The Telegraph, 25 September 1993)