When Mahesh Dattani moved to Mumbai several years ago and started staying at Lokhandwala, he was intrigued by this locality at Andheri that was home to aspiring actors, television artistes and mid-career professionals. Their constant endeavour to achieve success as well as their rocky personal lives proved to be the fodder for The Big Fat City, Dattani’s latest play, which will premiere at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) on June 22.
The play starts off with a young couple throwing a party at their flat in Lokhandwala. Over the course of the evening, a mysterious ‘sister’, a long lost friend found on Facebook, the ageing diva from the penthouse upstairs, a jealous lover and a surprise visitor join the party that turns more bizarre with every passing minute.
Dattani, who has also penned the piece, says, “The Big Fat City has three stories interwoven around one incident. It’s a black comedy about life in Mumbai. My stay at Lokhandwala helped me reflect the milieu of the people who live in that vicinity.”
The playwright was prompted to helm the piece after Ashvin Gidwani, who has produced his earlier plays such as Mad About Money, The Alchemist and Double Deal, encouraged him to work on a new project. The director says, “Ashvin asked me to think of a new idea. I narrated to him The Big Fat City’s story and we decided to work on it immediately.” Gidwani, on his part, says, “Our earlier collaborations have been received well by the audience. It always helps to work with a writer-director, as they are clear about the story that they have penned. Also Mahesh’s plays give actors enough scope to explore their characters on stage.”
The Big Fat City, which premiered at NCPA’s Centrestage Festival last year, has had private viewings in Mumbai and Bangalore but it will open for public viewing for the first time next week. Dattani says, “I have tightened the script by 10-15 minutes on the basis of the audience’s reaction. Also, in the play, there are some sequences where the characters are interacting with people, who are not on stage, through text messages. We had to show their exchange of SMSes on a huge screen for the viewers. So the actors had to ensure that they time their dialogues and the messages on screen perfectly without one superseding the other.”
Dattani, who is now busy penning another script for his future project, is hopeful that Mumbaiites will receive The Big Fat City well. He intends to take it to Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Pune soon.