(The following is a review of a play I saw approximately a year and a half back. An old piece, it is a play that should not be missed. )
There is an urban legend that talks about how the concoction of butter and mashed bananas is used to tighten a noose before a hanging. When it comes to strangling, be it criminals or innocent voices, the Indian democracy does a really good job. This is what the three actors on stage prove meticulously in the play- Butter and Mashed Bananas.
The play essentially follows the trajectory of one boy, born – upside down, after exaggerated coercing – out of an accidental night of passion, to parents of opposing political loyalties. The boy’s mother is a Leftist-feminist while the father is right wing. Their views are projected on the child where, they attempt to, literally, teach him the importance of putting the ‘left’ or the ‘right’ foot forward first. This leads to such utter confusion that the boy learns to make his way by hopping from one place to another.
Beyond this muddle caused to the one stuck in the middle, there is also the issue of censorship that is society’s answer to the constitutional right to freedom of speech. As the narrator sits on the pink bucket and tells the audience the tale of Karisma Kapoor’s ‘sexy’ sorrow, and its remedial through omission in the right places of the song, one can’t help but laugh and shake their head at the same time.
There is always someone who will get up and say: “how dare you say that??!” The boy, having been thrown out of his home for yelling ‘Papa!’ in retort to bullies who call him ‘chicken’, now writes the biggest, best-selling book for which he even gets awards and fellowships. He becomes world famous; only, India does not belong to that world. No one has read his book because it hasn’t gotten past the censor board. It dies just like the man who is shut up in a room with a huge poster of a woman’s breasts, as an experiment and isn’t given any food or water for a week. The experiment is successful: the man dies due to overexposure. Pitiful justification.
When, finally, the boy decides to take the plunge into politics, and form his own party based on his own ideals- “the truth shall be told” and “the guilty shall be punished”- he is accused of defamation by both the Prime Minister and the leader of Opposition. These two, though successful in suppressing the voice of this over-ambitious-new-age butterfly, fail miserably at quelling their pangs of burning desire for each other. More than hands are joined, as their combined party emerges stronger than ever before.
This is a 70 minute production by the Harami Theatre, directed by Ajay Krishnan who, in this season, plays the role akin to a narrator. He sits in one corner of the stage with his guitar, giving the background score and lending his voice to the prologue and the epilogue. The stage is minimally attired, as are the actors, who wear only vests and lungis. The supporting actors have ghungroos tied on one leg each. They use only one white sheet and a pink plastic bucket as props. Much goes on behind the screen and yet it does not hide the truly shameful tenets of the Indian administrative set up. The men dance to fill up the uncomfortable silences that come up when they make their points.
The play is not to be missed. From lewd jokes to serious slaughter, the play eases itself into the conscience of the audience. It makes you squirm in your seat, and not only because you’re laughing your ass off. In the end, you too might end up wishing you’d never left the comfort of your first home- the womb- all those years ago.