Imagine being seated alone in a cafe or a bar and bumping into God. Most of us would have questions we would want to ask God. When God Said Cheers, a play written by Anurag Kashyap, brings alive this scenario in a funny, yet poignant way. The play that casts Cyrus Dastur as the common man and Tom Alter as God, received rave reviews since its debut in 2003. After a five-year hiatus, it returns to Mumbai stage, this weekend.
We asked Dastur whether returning to the stage after a long gap warranted for changes in the play: “The play is constantly evolving but the basic structure is the same, like wine that gets better with time,” says Dastur. “If you watch it on Saturday, and again on Sunday, you will see a difference. There are people who watch as many shows as possible and many have come up and told me they have watched 25 or 30 shows of this play, till date,” he adds.
While there haven’t been many structural changes, the two major changes since its release are that God changed from Anurag Kashyap to Tom Alter, and that the play became a musical. The play started as a play reading based on an American play, which soon took the form of a full-fledged play. “My cousin shared the script of this American play titled God, Man and a Pint of Beer that I showed Anurag.
I thought it would be apt for a play reading, but we decided it could be done as a play in Hindi,” shares Dastur. “We first did two shows at cafés that were very successful; and we continued to stage it,” he adds. Kashyap played God in the first 12 shows and when he got busy with other work, he put Tom Alter in touch with Dastur, who has been playing God in the play since 2004.
Talking about his ‘Godly’ experience, Alter says, “It’s been great because firstly, I’m playing a part that is super-exciting and also, because the team is terrific.” Did playing God give him answers too, “When you see the play, you’ll know God is as clueless as any of us! I think I am still looking for answers,” says Alter.
The play is set in a pub, where a common man bumps into God and they talk about his problems and complaints, but in a lighter vein. “It is about everything we would like to blame God for. We have gotten into the habit of blaming someone else for everything instead of taking responsibility for things.
The play is profound but it presents it in a humorous way,” explains Dastur. Since the play is enacted in a pub, it was converted into a musical a year after its release. “It has a few covers sung by singer Auxilia Sequeira,” he adds.
The play has been staged across India and beyond, and response has always been great. “I remember this man in Chennai who touched my feet after watching it. He had lost his mother so when he saw the play, he got emotional. I often joke with Cyrus — this is not a play, it’s magic!” says Alter.