Meet the new dramatic gangsters

Jan 02, 2014, 10:46 IST | Kanika Sharma

The Drama School will be showcasing two of their student productions for the very first time, this week. Kanika Sharma peeps between the curtains to find out the cackles and schemes that brew in the play, The Climb of Cutter Chee

As we walk into Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh Mandir, in Girgaum, several actors dressed in montage, bearing sticks, beat the table. We watch as rehearsals of The Drama School’s premiering play, The Climb of Cutter Chee begin to take shape and form before us.

Rehearsal of The Climb of Cutter Chee. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Rehearsal of The Climb of Cutter Chee. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Though we can’t admit to suppress questions like ‘what or who is cutter chee’ pop into our heads time and again. Ben Samuels, a London International School of Performing Arts graduate is a director who is judiciously observing several aspects of a few seconds of the play, again and again, in an almost play-pause-rewind mode.

Rehearsal of The Climb of Cutter Chee. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

The play is supposed to be an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. As India wakes up to the might of common man, we asked Samuels what about the German playwright’s works spurred him on. “I’ve re-worked Brecht before, and it’s a great joy. Brecht’s practice re-shaped the language of theatre in the 20th century. He invites us to play with theatricality. Brecht reminds us that our obligations as artistes are intimately linked to our political reality. Practically, this meant embracing Brecht’s satire, anger, playfulness, and audacious storytelling… we just wanted to do something different,” he reasons.

Decoding the mystery behind the name Cutter Chee, Samuels leads us on, “Brecht’s Arturo simply means meaningless nonsense. I asked the students to look for a similar wordplay with an Indian word / name: they came up with Chee. Then we had to pick a first name. We went through many options, but settled on Cutter as it has a faux-gangster-like quality.”

Ben Samuels. Pics/Datta Kumbhar.
Ben Samuels. Pics/Datta Kumbhar.

The Drama School (DSM) was founded by Jehan Manekshaw and Tasneem Fatehi’s Theatre Professionals, in July 2013. This play on land acquisition in Mumbai, corrupt officials and gangsters, is the first student production from DSM, and looks like an entertaining spectacle. Witnessing a climax, we see a government official delivering a monologue that speaks of his ‘sins’ that led to Mumbai becoming an imbalanced megalopolis, Bollywood, the soul of the city emerges. Samuels shares, “I’ve lost count of how many of the Bollywood tropes we’ve worked in: there are several widows, a blind daughter, a kidnapping, unconvincing bullet sounds, rogue cops, corrupt business practices, and overzealous use of the flashback.”

The young director admits that he lets his students guide him when it comes to Indian references while he honed their creative process as artistes. An entertaining watch of blooming talent, perhaps, we saw a promising chapter being added to Mumbai’s theatre-scape.

On: Saturday, January 4, 2014, 8 pm onwards
On: Sunday January 5, 2014, 4 pm onwards
At: Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Girgaum (for both shows).

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