Delhi Theatre Review: The Revised Kamasutra (Directed by Anasuya Vaidya)

The fourth play performed as a part of Panna Bharat Ram Thatre Festival in S.R.C on 29th December, 2015, The Revised Kamasutra is based on a novel with the same name by Richard Crasta, an Indian-American writer, who was born and raised in India. The Revised Kamasutra is a semi-autobiographical quest for love and acceptance by Crasta, severely afflicted by the miseries of poverty as a child, strict Catholic upbringing and third-world complexes. Crasta’s voice is a valid postcolonial narrative that recounts the cultural and moral sensibilities of people at the time when he was a kid, growing up as a Roman Catholic in Mangalore amidst hateful Fathers, sisters, nannies and Uncles. In the efforts to make it a comedy for teenagers, the adaptation by Ms. Anasuya Vaidya is unable to capture the anguish of a writer who seems to demand his subaltern status rather too vehemently.

Father of St.Stanislaus with his students

A large part of the play is a direct word to word reading with incredible voice-modulations by the protagonist of the play Sunit Tandon playing the part of Vijay Prabhu. It certainly gets odd after a time when you realize that this unnatural protagonist is going to continue sitting in his chair and reciting dialogues from the notes that he has made.

The “seated” narrator having some fun

I got all juiced up when I saw him actually stand from the seat only to sit right back in within half a minute or one line of dialogue, whichever finished earlier. Majority of the other amateur male actors are used to depict the protagonist in different periods of his life.

An army of protagonists

The play starts with the narrator remembering his childhood horrors in a Catholic boarding environment along with his friends depicted by young dilettanti. Dhruv Shetty plays the protagonist as a kid. His portrayal is dull and uncharismatic like the real childhood of Vijay Prabhu; besides the one scene where he’s contemplating a dance with his crush from school and how it really turns out to be with some help from the trained dancer, Himanshi Karol.

Dhruv Shetty and Ankur Anand in action

The only actor who showed some promise in the play was Rakesh Palisetty who played the character of the protagonist as a grown up somewhat seriously. Not much chemistry can be seen between him and his love interest, played somewhat dispassionately by Sarah Jaggi.

As I said, the play is a weak adaptation of the novel, whose several facets (like poverty of the family, absence of biological father and even Catholic values except only the strictness that’s depicted), characters (like Dominica Mary, Sis. Ottila, Lilly-Coehlo- the “bag” lady, the editor) and many other experiences have been lost in the process of converting it into a play, although the play is an hour and a half long. The second-largest portion of the play is constructed by several elaborate and decently choreographed song and dance pieces, which really helped people (not everyone, one I could see fighting personally), including myself, to not doze off as a result of the drab narration by Mr.Tandon. The song and dance sequences were performed by the hottest ladies in town right now. The line-up including the amazingly beautiful Eesha Singh, the gorgeously sensuous Srishti Gautam, and the feisty Himanshi Karol was really a delight to watch and probably the same assurance that the audience would get entertained while these girls are performing allowed the director to include so many breaks in the theatrical acts with these musical performances. Ms. Vaidya must be a die-hard Brechtian to have included singers and dancers to convey sexual innuendoes and numerous songs interspersed between scenes to provide a comment on the actions of the characters/actors.(??)

Beautiful dancers after the show

Although it seemed odd to me at first, being much more of a method-acting aficionado, to see the ease with which Mr.Tandon fidgets between his character as someone involved with a couple of actors in the act and his job as a narrator, but then we get used to the Brechtian sensibilities of the director. Not much regard is shown by the actors to the fourth wall which is disturbing at times. If it is Nisa Shetty who breaks it, it doesn’t really hurt as we get to see the ease with which she can carry herself on stage while still managing to sing beautifully. She certainly is an asset to the play.

Stage setting is makeshift, comprising mostly of chairs, picked up by actors on an ad-hoc basis. Lighting in the play is minimal and is used mostly only to switch scenes and to provide breaks. Music is heavily taken from American pop-culture (even Floyd sounds peculiarly pop in the play) besides a couple of old Hindi songs performed by Nisa.

Lovely Nisa
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