Bharat Dhabolkar 'Blames it on Yashraj'
Back after a long hiatus, adman, playwright and director Bharat Dhabolkar speaks to Tunali Mukherjee about his comeback play, a musical comedy based on the Big Fat Indian wedding, aptly named, Blame it on Yashraj
What’s Blame it on Yashraj about?
Some time ago, I read about a research conducted across India, which concluded that most communities want a Bollywood style wedding. It’s not like the old days anymore, where Maharashtrian weddings would be done in a day, and weddings in Kerala would take five minutes. Now, everyone wants choreographed sangeets and cocktails. So the play is about weddings getting bigger.
What are you blaming on Yashraj? Have you drawn inspiration from any film of his?
The play is about a Hindu-Muslim marriage. The girl’s father suggests a quiet court-marriage, but then realises how everyone wants a bigger, Bollywood wedding. There’s no reference to any film here. We’ve just mentioned Yashraj as a prominent filmmaker.
Are you commenting on society and its beliefs through a Hindu-Muslim marriage?
Not consciously. We do have a long scene in the play which reflects on how we stereotype or generalise communities and how diverse and in many cases, forward thinking, any community could be. It’s not a social comment, but just something that’s part of a scene.
What are your expectations?
When I was doing the Bottom’s Up series, there was great acting and humour. Artistes like Shiamak and Arshad Warsi were part of it. Now comedy and stand-up comedy, etc have taken over and producers don’t want to do musicals anymore. The humour, glamour and song routine that Bottom’s Up was famous for is missing. This is where Ashvin (Gidwani, producer of ‘Blame it on Yashraj’) and I come in. Starting with the guest list to cost-cutting, it
What were the challenges you faced while directing the play?
The last 15 minutes of the play is a sangeet, where the actors and dancers perform together. They are doing the same steps as well. The songs are by Louis Banks, and we’ve done take-offs on the usual Bollywood songs. Usually, while rehearsing, the actors and dancers have rehearsed separately, and while performing, they’ll be together, so the two coming together has been a bit of a challenge.
How has the audience changed in the years you’ve been directing?
I had once directed a play called Purush, which was an adaptation from a Marathi play by the same name, written by Jaiwal Dalvi. It’s about a schoolteacher who was raped by a politician. I had people coming and telling me, “We have had enough of stress, rapes and politicians.They wanted something entertaining. Blame it on Yashraj is a play that mirrors you. We want our audience to say, “Hey, this is what happened in our house during the wedding.” This kind of empathy with the audience works. The kind that makes you say, “My dad/daughter/sister is just like this!”
What are your future projects?
Ashvin and I are working on a thriller-comedy for our next play. Blame it on Yashraj, produced by Ashvin Gidwani Productions, will be staged at the NCPA on January 25 at 7 pm and at St Andrews on February 3 at 7.30 pm