Monday, January 25, 2010

Basheer Plays - The Prithvi Experience - 21 Dec 2009

Am in the bus that will take me to Jet Airways flight 481 to Chennai. Feeling tired and sleepy and somewhat empty after the intense excitement and the challenge and the tension of the previous week - one of the most memorable in my life.

The last 2 days went off brilliantly well. Great performance space, wonderfully responsive audiences, resounding applause, and great feedback.

One of the highlights was a master stroke by Jagan. He comes on stage as 'Mandan Muthappa' - the pickpocket. In character he always spends a few minutes interacting with the audience. His genius is such that backstage we hear peals of surprised, delighted laughter. Group members who sit in the audience later recount to those who were backstage about what happened - what Jagan did and how the audience responded.

During the last show of Moonshine on 19th, Jagan noticed one person in the 3rd row, actually sleeping. The poor man must have been really tired. This was a particularly exciting part of the play and everyone else seemed to be wide awake.

Jagan went up to him and gently tapped him awake.

"Good Morning, saar", he said when the man woke up. "Mandan Muthappa, PGDPP. Post Graduate Diploma in pick-pocketing. What is your degree, saar?"

Caught unawares and probably embarrassed with the entire audience watching him and laughing, he tried to salvage some of his dignity. In a precise, clipped accent, emphasizing each word he said,

" I - have - no - degree "

"How can you get a degree, saar?", replied Jagan promptly, "you must have been sleeping in class".

The crowd broke into resounding laughter and deafening applause. The man's friend sitting next to him was clapping and laughing, jumping up and down on the seat in absolute delight. The laughter went on and on and it was quite some time before Jagan could take the next line.

This was one of my most memorable theatre experiences and a brilliant example of an actor's ability to improvise and respond to the impulse of the moment. Takes a great deal of freedom, presence of mind, and sheer guts.

As for our sleepy friend, he was wide awake through the rest of the show.

Other highlights were first time lighting by Sridhar, which was very good, and the excellence with which Anushka and KiKi handled the sound. It was a delight to watch KiKi coming down from the sound booth to walk around the auditorium to listen to each track, again and again, asking for feedback on sound levels. Absolute commitment. I have raved and raved about KiKi's perfect synchronisation of the soundtrack with the gramophone. Can't get over the sheer delight of hearing the crackle of the old gramophone record exactly as I take my fingers off the improvised 'stylus'.

The last day was very exciting. With no more shows to go, actors put in all their energy and performances and audience response was deeply rewarding.

The cast party went on till around 5 this morning. I slept at 3 as I had to catch the morning flight.

With the Prithvi series Perch becomes more bonded, more confident, and more committed to doing and enjoying good theatre.

Waiting for the Feb show to work with the group again.

What a week !!

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