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‘Muavze’ is a non-preachy laugh riot

‘Muavze’ is a non-preachy laugh riot
March 07
06:56 2018

PALO ALTO, CA: The word “riot” stirs up different meanings, thoughts and ideas, depending upon its circumstantial usage. However, there was no confusion that what “Muavze” a play directed by Naatak veteran director, Harish Agastya in Palo Alto was referring to was the anticipated riotous uprising in a city in modern India. It instilled fear, anxiety and unrest in people, requiring the powers that be to take control, to quieten the situation, unless, those very same powers and their attendant agencies seek to profit in some way from these activities.

Presented as a farcical satire, “Muavze” offers a peek into the inner workings of a city about to become riotous. The reasons are unclear, but the planning is perfect! The entire population of the city is engaged – from the politicians and their speech writers wishing to gain ground, the police force tasked with safety of the people and the distribution of compensation (muavze) in case of loss of life or limb;the merchants wishing to capture land for profit in the ensuing mayhem; the community seva enthusiast turned weapons dealer who has no qualms selling to the rival communities; and even contract killers are in demand to bump off family and community members to lay claim for the ‘muavze’.
Pleasantly predictable, the play runs the gamut of slapstick, physical humor and witty dialogues as a constant source of hilarity for the audience, well executed by the large cast against a bright backdrop of slums. Directorial twists such as the use of lively musical interludes set to parodies of familiar songs, complete with dance sequences used as scene transitions proved a big hit, and made it just short of a musical, but extended the staging as one entertaining megascene.

The ridiculous roll out of lyrics and action on stage was stellar when the contract killer, Jagga (Ritwik Verma) threatens the slimy “gumashta”, the middleman (Anush Moorthy) in a parody version of Shah Rukh Khan’s “Gerua” in a side splitting act. In this reimagined version of the original play by Bhisham Sahni, other stories musically told include the “sui” (needle) merchant’s feigned alliance with the button manufacturer and a display of his amorous side wooing the rotary club member, or the slum dwellers daydreaming about the riches that’ll make their dreams a reality, in a “phoren” tune.

The buildup of the fervor leading to the anticipated riots is deliberate and requires all communities and stakeholders to lay bare their cards, with interesting outcomes. In an unexpected and interesting ending, the tables are turned….the cops are defrauded, the assassin turned politician commands glory with his “selfless” actions, love ignites between the married couple when the groom survives his intended murder during the rioting, the politician unintentionally stirs up more chaos when the wrong speech is broadcast. All in all, this non preachy laugh riot reveals the underbelly of the city’s dark side – the corruption and confusion brimming just under the surface, needing only the subtlest of triggers to set the course to a riot.

Archana Asthana

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