Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The daaeth of European drama

So I finally did it. The 4000 mile schlep across the seven seas to the haven of Bangalore theatre. Not just once but twice over.My motivation? Free tickets kindly supplied by a cousin to watch her play: An adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Cherry Orchard, called "City of Gardens". Well it was fun alright. The seating was on mattresses arranged amphitheatre-style, close to the stage. The acting was great and so was the Bangalorification of the play, though I think deeper character sketches might have made them a tad more convincing

The second play was - yawn - a done-to-death adaptation of Woyzeck: one of those dreary European plays where everyone dies. The acting was stodgy and faw-faw, and the original storyline, bleh as it was, was drawn out over 2 agonizing hours. Every so often, the hero would tumble dramatically off a cardboard box and play dead, much to the relief of the audience, only to spring back to life moments later and set off on another mind numbing monologue. My life hit rock bottom when one of the side actors (in a Vishnuvardhan style moustache and beret) climbed up on a box and talked about "daaeth". The background music was an unnervingly Indian sounding hodge-podge of various European classical composers, painstakingly named in the playbill. A vaguely admirable part of the play, however, was the set: a bizarrely painted backdrop with lots of doors and windows, that was reused as a rowhouse, a tavern and a wall for the hero to pee on.

All in all - fbbthbbp. I don't know what they were aiming at. If it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it worked somewhat. But if not, did they really expect to be taken seriously when the gloriously tanned hero was accused of looking "white as a sheet", or when they played chutneyed Dvorak at a tavern in small-town Germany??!! Tsk.

All said and done though, I think the overall Rangashankara experience was worth the monster schlep across town. For one, it was amazing to see so many identically dressed people in there. The collection of terra-cota jewellery, mat chappals and handloom prints in the audience could make Fab India look like Laxmi blouse-piece junction in comparison. The kid at the door gave me a "you don't deserve a playbill" look as I walked in. Luckily the sabudana vadas and the coffee at the cafe had put me in a good mood by then, so he barely escaped being strangled with his own jhola bag.

So yeah, I'll go again, But togged in my artsy-fartsy best this time, so I can look all intense and theatre-circuity. I'll atleast be guaranteed a playbill that way.

Honourable mentions: J for going gaaahahahaha during the most serious parts of the play, and A for being official shusher of the group: they'd better pay you for doing that the next time :)

Cartoon: "Go and adjust yourself at the back, girlie." - Line from Premaloka (kannada) starring Ravichandran Vishnuvardhan and Juhi Chawla.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sexy Bach

See boss, there's no point in being indignant about some things. Like what you're not supposed to do at western classical concerts for example. We're Indian, I agree, naturally effusive, demonstratively appreciative and all that sort of thing. But sorry, no go during Bachtime. So for your own protection and that of those around you, here is a comprehensive list of don'ts at a Western Classical concert.

Suspend all activity when the music starts. If you have your finger up your nose, leave it there. If a mosquito buzzes annoyingly around you, too bad. Try and bargain with it telepathically to leave you alone in exchange for the address of a carnatic concert in the same neighbourhood.

Don't clap. You'll get into trouble. Western classical musicians lose their mojo if there's applause between movements. Mimic a 1970s concrete water-maiden until the music stops. Look around for someone who seems knowledgeable. Rub your palms non-committally when this person applauds. If the artist acknowledges the applause, clap 3 times and smile wanly.

Athough unthinkable before, it is now considered polite and modern to whistle and hoot while applauding at a classical concert. However, be warned that it is not you that should be doing it. YOU - are supposed to continue resembling a frozen coelacanth. The polite whistles should emerge from experienced polite whistlers.

Do not say Sabhash, Aaaaan and Bhale in the middle of a complex aria. Do not waggle your head and say mchxl-mchxl when the soprano hits a high C.

Do not say silly things like "Actually all weshtran musics are in Shankarabharana raaga only." Multiple carnatic music buffs in the audience will jump up immediately and say "Yes yes". They will then proceed to bore everyone senseless with comparisons to Yedhukula Kambhoji and Kiravani and there will be no end to it.

If you're bored, do not make things worse by looking at the artist's music score to see how many pages they have left to play. Chances are that the artist will play till the last page, flip the music over and play it all over again from the top. These classical musicians I tell you.

Try not to focus on the conductor's bottom, though it is the most visible part of the concert. The music does not come from there, though the rhythm does.

Your babies are cute. Leave them AT HOME. Do not inflict a stuffy adult concert on them. They are not interested. The rest of the audience isn't interested in listening to them wail through one either.

If your cell phone rings in the middle of the concert, commit hara-kiri immediately. Yes I realize it takes two people to do it. Don't worry, I will help you.

You are not allowed to arrive or leave in the middle of a piece unless you're dying. Even if you are, you'll probably live through the piece anyway, thanks to the preservative effect of your state of suspended animation.

Do not request an old hindi number at a Bach concert. Well I suppose you could, actually. Go ahead, enjoy ma.

However, do not, at the end of the request, say, "Oh what is there, anybody can play piano ting ting ping ping." I realize Shammi Kapoor has convinced you that you can produce excellent western classical by kneading imaginary chappati dough over a Baby Grand. What you don't realize is that this technique will not work unless there is a heavily mascaraed weeping woman with a bun as big as her head, a disapproving father in a dressing gown AND a grand staircase for him to hobble down.

Linger around after the concert with a polite smile on your face. Chances are you'll be photographed and captioned: "All smiles - Syamanthakamani and Selvaganapathy" on page 3 the next day.

And finally, do remember to take the program list home. You can mug up the names of the pieces and rattle them off at the unsuspecting people you have incarcerated in your basement for this purpose.