Musical satire on the politics of today

POLITICAL DRAMA

PM-designate Narendra Modi’s emotional speech has been the talk of town since Tuesday,  but then one cannot ignore the issue of ‘politics’ in our everyday lives, especially when elections are around the corner.

 The impact of ‘politics’ on Delhi’s theatre scene was very visible when veteran director Gopal Sharman decided to revive his play – Lets Laugh Again. 

Originally written and performed in 1972, the play is a straight political satire that starts on one note, changes route midway and ends on an entirely different note. The plot is based on a party that a so-called political heavyweight ‘Danveer Singh’ (enacted by Gopal Sharman) throws at his house. The sequence of events that follow are interrupted with long blackouts in Akshara Theatre, with a dramatic voice making announcements in the background. 

It is rather unusual to face such long blackouts, but the director uses them craftily to introduce the next scene and thus uninterruptedly present the course of events. The play  gets going with a knocking sound as an old woman pops out of a box. One learns that the old lady, a Rajya Sabha member was put in the cargo on a flight to Mars!

Weird as it may sound, the play does goes to far-fetched limits to evoke laughter. But thespian Jalabala Vaidya pulls it off with grace and infectious elan when she takes to the stage and holds the play credibly. 

It is surprising to see both the senior actors perform even today. Indeed their presence is the USP of the play but one feels disheartened as Jalabala isn’t ably supported by her partner Gopal, whose dialogues fail to reach the audience even in pindrop silence. Whatever one hears from Gopal, comes across as the portrayal of a typical politician who is quite uninformed about the changed times and is hell bent on delivering his speech, even in the face of lack of support from other political leaders.

In a certain section where the scenes at the party offices of Congress, BJP and AAP are depicted, it gets quite hilarious. But more rib-tickling is the representation of TV news coverage of politics. Nothing short of a dig on the channel ‘Times Now’ and its lead anchor, the scene takes away all the limelight and presents the able acting skills of all the supporting actors by arousing laughter among the audience.

Adding gusto to the performance is the Indian instrumental music played with lyrics ‘Chalo chalo lets laugh again’ sung by the actors at dedicated intervals. “We now have recorded music, but earlier musicians used to be present during the play and played live music on the sarod, tabla and flute,” says Gopal ruing the high cost of employing live musicians today.

The times have certainly changed, but the enthusiasm of Akshara Theatre’s repertory doesn’t seem to dwindle even after decades of witnessing the daily political drama. The play is still on, but be prepared to find a new script this weekend as news of Narendra Modi taking oath as the nation’s 15th Prime Minister is set to make waves.       

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