Kishan V/S Kanhaiya, Kathgodam Express And Shakespeare

By Sunil Kumar

Tis’ the season to be colorful and jolly!

So; here’s my review of the plays I’ve seen recently;

Kishan V/S Kanhaiya: The best of the lot goes first. Paresh Rawal; impressive in his comic timing and flawless acting; kept the audience engaged in a laugh riot. This is not your usual inane comedy; but a deeply intelligent play that was probably the inspiration for “PK”; the Rajkumar Hirani film that was an interesting achievement in itself.

Paresh Rawal at Manoj Joshi's play Chanakya

Paresh Rawal at Manoj Joshi’s play Chanakya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had seen “Chanakya” at the same place a few years back; an extremely boring piece; and precious little had changed. The Vidiadhar Gokhale auditorium was badly maintained; the play started a bit late; but Rawal’s acting was reason enough to watch a fine actor pull of a stellar performance. Playing a Gujarati businessman whose faith in God is very minimal; Rawal’s one-liners and witty repartee meant that the place did not feel like the manic-depressive; introspective play I watched on my birthday. More on that later!

Akshay Kumar as Shri Krishna in the filmi version meant a more dramatic; intense presence. The play; with its minimal props and limited sets; managed to hold its own against the movie; and even surpassed it at times; only in terms of comedy.

Kathgodam Express: It was cold in Delhi as I made my way inside a semi-dark auditorium not knowing what to expect from something apparently based on Alfred Hitchcock’s “39 Steps”.

It was a very pleasant surprise; as the acting from the ensemble cast was superlative.

Cleverly altered to suit contemporary Indian reality; “Kathgodam Express” tried to paint a surreal version not very far removed from the Hitchcockian version of life; although sans his preachy British morality. I remember poring through old dusty books with Alfred Hitchock apparently staring at me on the front cover; and cannot deny that many of his films were fascinating.

Alfred Hitchcock

Cover of Alfred Hitchcock

Delhi’s theatre organizers could learn a thing or two from Mumbai when it comes to refreshments around the venue; as there was precious little on offer. The only consolation was a funny play; that kept me riveted until the end.

ShakespeareWallah: Not the Shashi Kapoor film; but a collage of the bard’s speeches that was the most insipid and boring of the plays I’ve seen recently. Although Salim Ghouse‘s acting was not terrible; but the whole thing felt like a college lecture with a professor moaning about his own life.

Gentle suggestion; change the whole thing. Having been to the bard’s birthplace myself; Stratford-on-Avon; I was expecting a more inspired play on my birthday. The actor in question resonated in my mind through some Abhimanyu and “chakravyuha” dialogue I had heard in the early 90s. Expecting something better than the concoction I was served; ShakespeareWallah was frankly a waste of time.

To sum up; Kishan V/S Kanhaiya takes the crown; and Kathgodam Express a delightfully worthy runner-up. More play reviews later; as and when I see them!


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