Conflict and the cosmopolitan

Updated: Feb 11, 2020, 09:42 IST | Prachi Sibal | Mumbai

What happens when a bone falls inside the premises of a corporate housing society? A play reveals the inside story

Scene form the play
Scene form the play

Faezeh Jalali, actor and director, spent her early years living in a bungalow in Mazagaon. Somewhere along the way, a corporate housing came up next door. The society was vegetarian and was flanked by bungalows on either side that belonged to those with non-vegetarian food habits. While there may have been the occasional case of a bone being dropped by a bird, it did not lead to confrontation. It wasn't something Jalali thought about until she was reminded of it during a family conversation. It was a small incident, but she knew it could trigger a series of events. It's the premise for her new play, Bone of Contention in Cosmopolitan CHS.

Clever farce and humour are Jalali's chosen forms and it reflects in the name of the society, Cosmopolitan. It is also how she prefers to address issues of critical importance. "I want people to laugh, reflect, not be offended and get on the back foot," she says.

She began work on the script early last year, initially for a single-act school production. It was in September last year that work on the full-fledged play began, and it subsequently premiered at the Prithvi Festival in November. It has an 18-member ensemble cast and they appear on stage together in a scene where the society's general body meeting is in progress.

Scene from the playScene from the play

The central characters belong to four unconventional families from different religions — a Hindu family comprising men from three generations, a Christian family with a single mother and two children, two old Parsi women who may have been a couple and a Muslim family with a father, mother and a rebellious daughter. Kalpana, the house-help is the voice of reason and the one who speaks to the audience directly.

"The housing society has more people but we tell the story through these four families. There's also an unmarried Punjabi couple that appears in between.

Basically, each [familial] structure is non-traditional," says Jalali.

When the incident occurs, it exposes deep-seated prejudices the residents have against each other. "The characters are fighting over traditional values and religion while none of them conform to it. We all want to live traditional lives but are breaking tradition in some way," Jalali says about the choice of these unconventional setups.

On the other hand, the play uses its share of familiar stereotypes to keep to its intended farcical tone. "People identify stereotypes. It is where the familiarity and farce come from," says Jalali. How did she choose to deal with the sensitive subject especially in the current political climate? Jalali is quick in saying, "While working with such material, you know that there is a line which if you cross, it can get unpleasant.

Faezeh JalaliFaezeh Jalali

It was something that we took into account with every improvisation; the entire group would weigh in and take a call," she says also admitting that the show has seen constant evolution based on audience reactions since its premiere.

On February 16, 4.30 pm and 7.30 pm
At Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call 66223724
Log on to bookmyshow.com
Cost Rs 600 onwards

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