Beddha’s First Evening On The Stage

  

Part 3

 

My heart sank as the curtains lifted to no music. Just as I feared on the stage were smugly seated the committee members of FAA in full strength and more and the guests for the evening, pointing to a welter of tiresome speeches to follow.

 

Right away garlands and bouquets were called for and the guests were duly honored.  The first one was evidently the chief guest (CG) gracing the evening. As usual, it was some senior manager from one of those refineries polluting the eastern suburbs for ages; facing an audience was for him like attending a department meeting at his office. Next to be honored was a guy termed as the sponsor (S) of the evening, whatever it meant. All this attention was new to him. He squirmed as the chief taster of a single-malt Scotch brewery would, straying into an AA meeting. And finally the big honcho at ‘Amateur Dramatists’ (ADH), already dressed for his role as a superannuated ex-manager now at home.      

 

The secretary took charge of the mike and, for the next ten minutes that seemed interminably longer, in a self-congratulatory tone, updated the guests and the audience on services rendered by FAA in promoting fine-arts by way of reeling out a catalog of the shows held over the last twelve months. He talked about how FAA had presented upcoming artists (Read: how they saved on artist fees). Also on how the facilities at the auditorium were revamped at considerable expense – something that we had failed to notice until he mentioned and even thereafter. He drew particular attention to upgrading of the in-house living quarters for the comfort of artists performing at FAA.

 

The CG uttered some inanities on role of fine-arts in life of a Mumbaikar. And how his organization supported efforts of institutions like FAA in promoting fine-arts that left me as ill-informed on this point as I was before his speech. The sponsor was my favorite guy – he got up and sat down in a wink muttering a few words of thanks or apology, I couldn’t make out which, for his appearance on the dais.

 

It was ADH’s turn. He showed himself right away to be a seasoned guy at this sort of a thing. He thanked all his benefactors: the FAA for the opportunity, Mumbaikar’s sense of appreciation as audience (was he referring tongue-in-cheek to Mumbaikar’s proclivity to applaud at unexpected moments?), the ushers, the guys at the gate, the clerks at the counter, etc. etc.

 

May be my views on the proceedings were colored by my impatience for seeing Beddha on the stage.

 

ADH then moved on to outline the theme of the play of the evening: It is about the post-retirement blues of the superannuated ex-manager. His elder son is doing his PhD in Delhi. His second son has taken up a job after graduation; constantly on tour, he sells household plumbing accessories for a company. The only daughter of the house, working in a BPO setup, has finally consented for marriage. The head of the family expects his writ to run in the house as it did in his office and it doesn’t. His wife keeps peace in the house. The contemporary plot now thickens with troubles and travails of life. The pulls and the counter-pulls unfold, portrayed with sensitivity and sympathy. ‘Thavaru Enge’ provokes and ponders on where did they all go wrong?

 

He proceeded to inform us that the play was being staged despite a couple of special challenges faced by his troupe that evening. He paused for an understanding burst of applause that was not forthcoming from the appreciative audience. He furnished the details on the first challenge of the evening: changes had to be made in the cast at the twelfth hour – two of his senior actors were stranded in a powerless lift while coming down from their living quarters. His team would fill in for them and carry on (A thought occurred – does it mean a bigger role for Beddha?). FAA was doing all it can to trace the technician though Sunday posed a problem. If these guys were rescued before the end of the play, he would switch them back seamlessly in their original roles at a point so that the audience does not miss out on the display of their histrionic talents. The audience, unclear about the possible outcomes of this well-intended proposal, was silent on its approval. For instance, the father in one scene could now become his son in the following scene after the switch!

 

Without waiting for a response that wasn’t coming forth, ADH moved on to the second challenge. A couple of scene-backdrops were no longer available to him because the pulley-sets lifting or dropping them were not doing their job. Unless the FAA wizards can quickly get the pulley-sets to behave, there could be certain disconnect between some scenes and the dialogues therein. He sought our forbearance in the matter. The dead silence showed the audience was still not done grappling with the casting switch.

 

Prudently he didn’t tell them about the third son he had left out from the play. The poor guy got severely scalded turning the ‘cold’ tap and getting burning hot water on his back while taking morning shower – he had to be rushed to the hospital. ADH was not one to shortchange the audience – the onlookers in the street-scene would now swell up by one more head. Besides the mixed-up taps they had not yet uncovered any more booby-traps in their living quarters.

 

ADH ended his address heroically assuring us of an undiluted experience for the evening notwithstanding the glitches. And with it the curtains came down cutting out the lights and the orchestra came to life for the first time. Good signs! It meant the play was about to begin.

 

With the lights out, cheeky voices shot out from where a bunch of college-going youngsters sat disturbing the silence all around:

‘Darned lucky the committee members didn’t make a speech each.’

‘If they had left all things mechanical out of the revamp – like pulleys and lifts – the air-con is sure to go down any time. Get ready, guys, with hand-fans.’

‘Let’s announce a ‘spot-a-blooper’ contest.’

‘Hope they don’t turn a father into his daughter.’

‘We may see a doctor practicing in a living room if the clinic prop doesn’t roll down.’

 

(To be contd.)

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