Laughter is the best medicine

Updated: Sep 10, 2019, 07:38 IST | Snigdha Hasan

...even in grief. A dark comedy with an ensemble cast comes to stage as friends gather to offer their condolences to a bereaved buddy

Laughter is the best medicine
The cast includes several well-known names from television and theatre including (from left) Rytasha Rathore, Anuradha Menon, Aseem Hattangady and Sohrab Ardeshir

Dressed in stark whites with a grim look on their faces, the ensemble cast of Good Mourning certainly look the part in the opening scene of the play, as they gather in a friend's living room to mourn her husband's death and help her come to terms with it. But it's a bunch of friends, after all, and cases of extreme happiness and sorrow tend to make room for some alcohol. A few drinks down, the true emotions of the characters come tumbling out and the sombre atmosphere descends into acrimony, turning into a complete farce — until a clinical psychologist from the group steps in.

The dark comedy is AGP World's newest production, which revolves around bereaved Laila, played by Anuradha Menon, and her pals portrayed by Sohrab Ardeshir, Zafar Karachiwala, Rytasha Rathore, Aseem Hattangady, Omkar Kulkarni and Danny Sura. The play marks the mainstream directorial debut of Deven Khote, a theatre veteran, and founding director of UTV.

Zafar Karachiwala, Omkar Kulkarni along with Danny Sura
Zafar Karachiwala, Omkar Kulkarni along with Danny Sura

The genesis of the play, Khote shares, lies in producer Ashvin Gidwani roping in Kavi Shastri, who heads content development at Vir Das's Weirdass Comedy, to write a play for the company. "When I came on board, I recounted something that had happened to me years ago at a friend's place, who had lost his father. And that became the germ for the play," says Khote, adding, "Though it features people who have just returned from the crematorium, the play is not morbid. Both Kavi and I firmly believe that humour is a terrific human emotion. It has the ability to conquer everything, including grief."

About the cast, the director says that for an ensemble, it isn't just one character that one chases to cast first. "Half the fun of theatre is in the bonding. I have known most of the actors for a really long time, and they have also worked together in the past," Khote says, explaining how the ensemble came together.

Deven Khote
Deven Khote

Menon, who plays the bereaved wife, tells us that though live performances have been the focus of her career, theatre is vastly different from stand-up comedy. "Stand-up is pretty lonely in nature, and it is about making a direct point. Here, you are amidst a motley group of people, feeding off other characters. There has to be a semblance of believability, which comes from the chemistry on stage," she shares, adding that she likes being on the stage for one more reason. "Being on television or in films gives you a certain image, which then comes in the way [of everything else you want to do]. So, if they need a Malayalee or a funny character, they'll think of me. What I love about theatre is that it helps me do serious roles."

Despite being associated with the world of theatre since the 1990s, television and films became the mainstay of his work in the later decades. How much has the city's theatre scene changed in all these years? "Phenomenally!" Khote answers. "In the 90s, theatre — English theatre in particular — was something you did purely because of enjoyed it. Today, that same joy exists, but today's artistes have also managed to make it a vibrant business. The generation after mine deserves a huge thanks for turning this around.".

On September 14, 8 pm to 9.30 pm
At Royal Opera House, Mama Parmanand Marg, Opera House, Girgaum.
On September 21, 7.30 pm to 9 pm
At St Andrew's Auditorium, Bandra West.
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Entry Rs 400 onwards

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