Vantage point

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bali aur Shambhu

This post will mark my debut on

Bali aur Shambhu is a play that evokes the cliched description -'bitter-sweet', but there is nothing cliched about the play itself. It is not very easy to write and direct a story that can make you laugh even while tugging at your heart. Manav Kaul though, manages to pull it off with refreshing ease, assisted by a talented line-up of actors.

On the face of it, the story has a 'been-done-before' feel to it. The story of two geriatrics who are forced to share a room in an old age home. One surly, another cheerful. Sudhir Pandey plays the surly Shambhu who keeps losing his temper at every little thing that the gregarious and zestful Bali (Kumud Mishra) does. A bulk of the play concentrates on the interaction between the two of them, as Shambhu goes from threatening to murder Bali to becoming his friend.

What makes the play different is the fact that this is just one part of the story. There is another aspect - that of Shambhu's dead daughter Titlee who keeps making 'dream-appearances' right from the first scene. As Bali and Shambhu's friendship progresses, we are also gradually revealed the story of Titlee. Kaul has managed to weave the 'Shubhankar' factor into the script very cleverly, and keeps giving the audience clues about it/him at regular intervals.

Kaul's story mainly deals with two very diverse factors. One, how old age is one's second childhood. This is put across beautifully through the almost child-like fights that Bali and Shambhu have, right from arguing over the positioning of the bed to jocularly blackmailing each other. Secondly, how parents are often childishly stubborn about not accepting the reality of their little children having grown up. This is amply underlined by the fact that even after Titlee's death, Shambhu still dreams of her and converses with her as if she is a little kid who wants to listen to fairy tales. It is by deftly mixing these two factors that a play is created which can alternately make you laugh and cry.

The play's music clearly reflects a lot of thought and effort having gone in. From Beethoven to Bhimsen to Subbalakshmi(I think) to Kaykay(not KK), it covers a very wide spectrum. Kaykay Menon, he of Sarkar-Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi-etc fame, not to be confused with KK, makes his playback singing debut with a very snappy song. That he does so at Prithvi Theatre, a place where he honed his acting skills, is sheer poetic justice.

I would recommend Bali aur Shambhu to everyone who lives in Mumbai, and even outside Mumbai, if the play ever goes on tour.