Let's play Taboo
What makes you uncomfortable? Sex and sexuality, or politics? A play that gets you to pay to squirm in your seat
When the curtains rise at Andheri Base next Sunday, the audience will find itself being spoken to by a pornstar. And then, through the next 90 minutes, comprising five monologues, it will have to question the stereotypes surrounding what society doesn’t consider 'normal'. A bisexual takes stage, then a single mother and then a stripper. And then you come face to face with a Naxalite PR agent.
Actors Akash Prabhakar (above) and Aditi Oberoi (right) will perform monologues at Taboo Talks
Uncomfortable? You are exactly where Dream Stage co-founder and co-director of the play Taboo Talks, Baljeet Randhawa wants you to be. The 27-year-old says his next production “is all about talking about things we don’t want to talk about.” And, opening up perceptions. “we are not living in the ’90s anymore, where one should be judged for it,” he adds.
The porn star story is a familiar one — of a girl who becomes a porn star in the US and then comes to India to become an actress. Did someone say Sunny Leone? But, says Randhawa, there’s a difference. “This monologue starts with moaning — which are of two kinds. She moans when she has fun during sex, and she also moans because of the rape.” It’s meant to be story of “intention”, he says, about making a choice to live a life a certain way, just because you can.
The stripper, interestingly, is a man. It’s a role that the monologue’s writer and director Rehan Shaurya — Shaurya and Randhawa have written and directed segments of the play — had to spend days researching. “I couldn’t get to meet anyone, but I watched videos, and interviews and read articles. Then, one day, I came across a video of an Indian boy dancing on a bar, as elitist Indians looked on and cheered.”
That, says the 29-year-old, was his inspiration. “I wanted to write about the underbelly. These are the things we don’t talk about, but these are things money can buy,” he says. The actor in this one does strip on stage, though not going the entire way. “Maybe if audience reactions are great, we may push that boundary later. Let’s see,” says Shaurya (we are not sure whether he’s joking or not).
The play was first staged in May, but from eight monologues it’s been cut down to five. The stripper’s is a new monologue. And each actor takes stage for 15 minutes.
How does one ensure complete audience attention when only one person is on stage? The tipping point from interesting to boring is a precarious one.
Nishank Verma, 25, who essays the bisexual, says the key is to believe in everything your character is saying. “Once I memorised the monologue, I started creating memories. That’s how I create my reality and then I live in that reality,” he says. His monologue raises the issue of ‘corrective rape’. “We are asking the audience to practice ‘compassion’.
This boy was gay when he was younger, but was forced to have sex with a girl in a bid to cure him. And now he likes having sex with both. But it’s okay. He likes being this way and it’s not a tragedy. I am telling them, ‘Hey, you can be my buddy’. And, for that, I have to completely believe in this,” Verma says.
Radhika Kadam, 23, who plays the single mother, makes another interesting point. “You have to be self aware. You can’t make a single movement without the audience noticing it — you can’t even move your eyes to a different direction,” she says.
The art of making a show made only of monologues is to treat it like Chapter 1 of a bestseller, says Randhawa — it has to grip you so much that you just can’t wait to finish. “As a writer and director, it’s a challenging job. You can’t put a joke in when it’s not working. You have to have surprise elements to keep the audience guessing, and it can’t look dull and static,” he says, and then adds, “The actor is the main tool for a monologue to succeed. They have to become the character. But I think we will manage that. After the last show, audience members came and asked me whether the actress was a real pornstar. That just made it worth it.”
When: September 6
Where: Andheri Base, Whistling Woods, Andheri West
Time: 6 pm