Review

BARFF

Direction : Saurabh Shukla
Writer : Saurabh Shukla
Cast : Sadia Siddiqui, Sunil Palwal and Saurabh Shukla

BARFF Play Review


Deepa Karmalkar



 BARFF Review
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On a melting hot evening in Mumbai, the curtain raises tantalizingly to snowfall in Kashmir. The esoteric set of a wooden house with a loft bathed in a pronounced blue lighting enhances the intrigue. In that dimly lit snowy night, the torch light appears to lead the way as two silhouettes trudge up. A Kashmiri taxi driver, Ghulam Rasool, is guiding a senior doctor to his house, ensconced in a far flung Kashmiri village, to have his ailing son treated. The road leading up to his house is not motorable in that harsh weather, so the trek is inevitable.


When writer-director-actor Saurabh Shukla moves from mid-life crisis farce - 2 TO TANGO, 3 TO JIVE to Kashmir with his second play BARFF - he's resolutely out to confound and yet entertain the audience. After the extra-marital comedy, Shukla opts for another popular genre - that of a thriller. The setting of Kashmir is cleverly chosen for its political topicality. The cast is compact, made up of three flawless actors. Indeed, the formula is right, and so is the premise. This makes for a producer's dream proposal.

The night-long play unfolds gently as the doctor and the cabbie share their diverse lives enroute. While the doctor is a high-profile Oncologist visiting Srinagar for a medical conference, the cabbie is at the mercy of his employer who hires his services occasionally when tourists are around. The village where the cabbie lives is often caught in cross border fire; consequently all the residents have been relocated to a safer location. The doctor suddenly realises that he's walking into a deserted village whose sole occupants are the cabbie and his family!

Finally when they reach the ghost village, they are greeted by the cabbie's fussy wife Nafisa, whose world revolves around her three-year-old tot, Jigara. The plot thickens when Nafisa turns out to be a psychotic, possessive mother while the cabbie, a doting husband. Her wish is his command. The story takes a startling turn and the doctor finds himself bound up in ropes! The three characters get engaged in quarrelling, bantering, arguing, soliciting and then pleading with one another. The plot begins to wither though. What could have been a crisp, crackling one-act short play has been spread thin over two acts and that is where its thrill peters out.

The performances by the three players come across as sparklingly spontaneous. A special mention must be made for Sadia Siddiqui who even incorporates the Kashmiri accent effortlessly. The set, lighting and the sound are technically perfect and creatively vibrant. Intermittently, the dialogue has depth. Shukla has got the formula right but misses out on what may have been a more deeper and essential inquiry into Kashmir's condition.

*Deepa Karmalkar is a film and theatre reviewer. She has been an entertainment journalist for over fifteen years.


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