Welcome Zindagi

Direction : Saumya Joshi
Writer : Saumya Joshi
Cast : Jigna Vyas, Abhinay Banker, Saumya Joshi

Welcome Zindagi play review

Jyoti Vyas

A top class play about middle class people. WELCOME ZINDAGI, which opened at Tejpal auditorium on 16th May 2010 is one of the few meaningful, honest plays with all the prerequisites of a professional (also read commercial) production. Credit for the excellent creative work goes to Saumya Joshi, a writer, director, actor from Ahmedabad, while the management of the shows rests with Mumbai producers, Umesh Shukla and Bharat N. Thakkar. The play is presented under Kiran Bhatt and Kiran Sampat's prestigious banner 'Khelaiya', which is also known for productions like KANJEE VIRUDDH KANJEE.
The play deals with ordinary real people. Therefore neither designer clothes, nor branded shoes, funky spectacles, a magnificent set, or famous artistes now popular on television are relied upon. The play scores full points because of its subject- a genuine story- of life around us, or may be of life anywhere. The story is a dramatic depiction of relationships between father, son, and the mother. Playwright Saumya Joshi although no stranger to Mumbai audiences (his ADHAMA TAARA NU AAKASH was performed at festivals in Mumbai and was critically well-received) makes a foray on the commercial stage with this play.

An ordinary head clerk Arun Ganatra (Saumya Joshi) is on the verge of retirement. His wife Bhanu Ganatra (Jigna Vyas) is a simple but a sensible woman. Their son Vivek Ganatra (Abhinay Ganatra) has completed his Masters in Business Administration. The family is originally from Kathiawad but has been residing in Mumbai for long. The Kathiawadi dialect is hence apt. The crux of the matter is that father and son, who while secretly caring for each other deeply, cannot communicate owing to different mindsets. But this is not just tokenism about generation gaps. The play delves into the myriad emotions and psychological interplay that prevents people from accepting another's point of view.

In all of this the mother is the bridging factor, doing her best to set things right. She in fact is also a tounge-in-cheek sutradhar (narrator) with the keenest sense of humour. The writer Saumya knows where he needs words and the director in him knows where silent actions would speak louder. Playwright Saumya Joshi's characterization is life-like. This is dramatic treatment of the mundane, using some simple props in an interesting manner. The set design is utilitarian, but deeper meanings are conveyed through the props, be they a telephone, a belt, a glass of water or the malfunctioning. The background music is inventive and underscores the dramatic conflict.

The actors, including Saumya Joshi do a very good job. Jigna Vyas' mother is superb. Abhinay Banker's Vivek is picture perfect of a modern, middle-class but enterprising young man, while Saumya Joshi's father is equally brilliant in his clarity of dialogue-delivery, his drooping posture, his quivering high-pitch voice, and ultimately in the speech he makes towards the end of the play.

Like any average Gujarati play WELCOME ZINDAGI could be termed as a light comedy- if one likes that tag- but at the same time one can not miss the finer nuances. The action of the play unfolds well with mechanical precision. While the opening is stylized and humourous, the end is poignant. WELCOME ZINDAGI might as well be the high point in the present Gujarati theatre scenario. If the play succeeds, it will prove that Gujarati audiences indeed crave good theatre, and that an excuse for only banal comedies being successful on the commercial stage is just a myth.

*Jyoti Vyas is a senior theatre and television person who has trained under Ebrahim Alkazi at the National School of Drama (NSD). She has written for publications such as 'The Asian Age' and the Prithvi Theatre Newsletter (PT Notes). She has also trained students in the Theatre, and is an important critical voice for Gujarati Theatre.

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