Direction : Atul Kumar
Writer : Ajay Krishnan
Cast : Kalki Koechlin, Richa Chadda, Purab Kohli and Cyrus Sahukar



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TRIVIAL DISASTERS strings together nine short performances, each centred around, well, trivial disasters. The agenda is to bring on the laughs, while twisting everyday scenarios to invoke a slightly bizarre effect. Director Atul Kumar and playwright Ajay Krishnan succeed, more or less, with each piece. After all with a team of actors that includes Kalki Koechlin, Richa Chaddha, Cyrus Sahukar and Purab Kohli, it's difficult to not succeed on stage.


The stage design deserves applause. It is just fantastic! Corrugated boxes are moved around to create space for each performance. And even if Cyrus might have got a bit caught in the maze in one of the performances, for the audience, it was still a treat. The music of the play also fits beautifully with the moods it portrays in every piece. The dialogues though tend to get too wordy for regular conversations. A chat isn't usually as structured as Ajay has penned it and the actors' discomfort with long winding dialogues is obvious in some bits of the play.

The evening starts off with a pretty intense and intimate dance set up. Kalki and Purab wow the audience with their moves. The dance moves continue for long enough to let the latecomers settle in. Once the house lights dim, the actors play young lovers, with the shy man finding it difficult to propose marriage. The energy is great, and the moves are brilliant but when the actors speak the words they fall short and the piece does not manage to take on a character worth remembering, despite the laughs it elicits.

Next, the stage sees Richha plays a la-di-da wife of a moneyed husband. The wife is at a beauty parlour, getting ready for the prestigious kitty party (hasn't this kitty party business been done to death? Hasn't the crowd moved on to air kissing at brunches?) when she receives a call demanding ransom for her kidnapped husband. What follows is an obvious twist in the plot. There might have been a chance of the piece turning redundant but Richa knows how to hold her audience and she earns laughs with every dialogue, building into a constant applause as negotiations with the kidnapper continue.

Cyrus plays a north Indian government officer called Bhalla, who is meeting a visually-challenged poetess (Kalki) to help compose slogans on road safety in the following piece. The piece plays on the language divide between the English-speaking 'elite' and the desi babu in the government office. Cyrus and Kalki play the contrast really well, building the divide stronger with each dialogue and eliciting louder laughs as they go along. This one is the longest piece of the evening and tends to make you wonder if the interval is around the corner. It isn't. There isn't an interval.

Then, all four actors take on the stage as two couples. Cyrus and Kalki play the couple hosting friends Purab and Richa. This piece is interesting in terms of the amount of knowledge Purab and Richa manage to cram into their heads but the laughter peters down as the audience tries to catch up with the words. In the fifth piece, Cyrus plays an elderly gentleman trying to replace an electronic kettle that isn't working properly. Richa, as the enthusiastic salesperson, is his partner. The contrast between the senior citizen and the salesperson is exploited for every laugh it has to offer. Cyrus clearly grabs attention as the performer of the evening, while Richa steadily slips into predictable mode.

As the next short plays out, a tinge of morbidity takes over the writing. Kalki plays a disturbingly enthusiastic Nikki, who is interviewing two serial killer brothers - Murugesh (Purab) and Srikumar (Cyrus) - on her TV show. The piece, thankfully, does not get queasy, which is great because the laughs then flow much easier.

The piece where Purab, playing a young boy, walks into confession is sweet to begin with. The Jesuit priest (Cyrus) insists on extracting a confession from the young boy but it seems to be a rather difficult task. The piece takes on a bizarre, morbid mood as it ends but even if it fails to pick up applause at the end it is worth remembering. Another piece between Cyrus and Purab follows. This one also has Richa in it. Cyrus and Richa play an enthusiastic, supportive couple egging their 'straight' son to come out of the closet. The piece works beautifully, especially when a subject like homosexuality, that's rarely discussed in public, is laid bare before a house full audience. Kudos to the team for the effort.

With the final piece, Kalki smoothly steals the 'best performer of the evening' title from Cyrus. She plays a French salesperson at a suicide assistance store. Purab's character is named after the playwright, Ajay Krishnan... hmmm. Ajay is the prospective client, i.e., he intends to commit suicide in the near future. The morbidity continues in the ten-minute piece as the various options to commit suicide are discussed. Kalki is simply gorgeous as she pitches the various products. Her energy lifts up the entire auditorium even though it is over 80-minutes now of the play. Purab, meanwhile, helps Kalki build up the tempo in his best performance of the evening.

*Charulata enjoys watching theatre and writing about it.

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