18 October 2010

Miss Meena

Finland was fun…a lot of fun, but one thing I really missed about Bangalore was the theatre scene especially Rangashankara. I returned and was dying to catch a play…it didn't help that Rangashankara was closed for 2 weeks for maintenance and renovation.
Finally, Miss Meena was playing one weekend. I hadn’t heard about the group before but it sounded good. Couldn't find any company to join me, so heights of desperation…I decided to go alone and that also the evening show. It was so worth it.

Miss Meena‘s script is loosely based on ‘The Visit’ by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The tagline was "A Play In English and a Smattering of Other Languages". Only it wasn’t just a smattering. There was some Hindi, wee bit of Kannada and a bit too much Tamil for my liking and understanding.It was a bit irritating, but the play was so brilliantly creative that I would still recommend it to people who don’t speak Hindi, Tamil or Kannada.

The plot revolves around a film star Miss Meena (earlier Asha), who is returning to her native village Pichampuram after two decades. In the meantime Pichampuram has descended into a state of dire poverty. The play opens with the villagers hoping that Meena will rescue her village. The onus is put by the villagers on Ravi to plead their case since they had something going many years back and she must still have some feelings for him.

Ms. Meena arrives …and that was the 1st glimpse of creativity. So we have this group of people singing a song (Miss Meena, Miss Meena, avala pere Miss Meena) and it suddenly they converge into a circle in the centre of the stage. The lights dim a bit, but its not totally dark. The circle opens up to give us our first glimpse of Miss Meena who has apparated in the middle of that from god alone knows where. How the hell she reached there…I still haven't been able to figure out.

Miss Meena agrees to help the village…in totally filmi style she announces that she will make her final film here and that would boost the village as many people will visit it in her remembrance and to pay homage to her. The film will also star the villagers. But in return for that…she wants the life of Ravi. It seems he had dumped her…and as they say - ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’

And suddenly from the sweet Meena….she transforms to the bitter. Throughout the act  effortlessly she reflects the pose-for-the-camera-sweetness and underlying bitterness.

What I liked best about the whole act was the creativity that shone in the usage of the props…simple props like iron bucket, brooms (the big bamboo ones used to sweep fields etc), winnowing baskets and other handicrafts, a roll of bubble wrap were used in such inventive ways.

I was just wondering what they are trying to achieve when the broom handle was used to suddenly lift the bubble wrap to a height…it was a waterfall! Complete with round winnowing baskets placed as stones to walk on!

A bucket and table frame turned into a cow….and believe me it looked really good. During the shooting of the film, a bicycle pump is used as a microphone, a broom and a churner used to create a boom microphone, and a bucket on stick represents a camera.

The bus scene was amazingly hilarious. A winnowing basket became the steering wheel, the brooms the handrails, the table frame the frame of the bus…this complete with the the slow-motion of the people moving backwards and forwards had the audience roaring.

But the most inventive was when right there in front of us, the cast constructed a statue of Ganesha using the brooms for this ears, sun glasses for his eyes, a length of red fabric(which was elsewhere used to represent a garland) his trunk…it was a very recognizable Ganesha!

Another interesting aspect of  the play was the spoof on films and the parodies on movie clichés. So whether it was the rendition of a film climax with the gunfire and screaming or the ‘baaap ki beti’ sequence, they sure were a hit with the crowd. The father in the sequence is a cripple, and the way the actor enacted the crippling walk was hilarious.

And finally, a brilliant cast makes the play a must watch. Not only did they play multiple roles to perfection, but they way the enacted insects and winged moths accompanied with oral percussion was brilliant.

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