Direction : Kshitish Date
Writer : Siddhesh Purkar
Cast : Sainath Ganuwad, Siddhesh Purkar, Akshay Joshi, Siddharth Mahashabde, Akshay Khaire, Spruha Kulkarni, Kshitish Date, Dipti Kachare, Ravi Choudhary

ITEM Play Review

Deepa Punjani

 ITEM Review
No upcoming shows.


ITEM shared the best play award with NONA at the Mahindra Excellence In Theatre Awards (META) this year. NCPA staged the play recently in Mumbai and what a seriously disappointing experience it was. The Pune-based Natak company that has produced the play has put up some good work in the past, so this feels like a complete let down. Had it not been for the unassuming, matter-of-fact performance by actor-narrator Sainath Ganuwad (he won the Best Actor in a lead role at META), the play would have been exhausting. Ganuwad's performance is the only redeeming factor of this otherwise hackneyed exercise that hangs by a thread and at a pace that never takes off. This was enough to set off warning bells and very unlike Natak Company's earlier work. Something was obviously not right.

The play, directed by Kshitish Date, basically revolves around Sapna Shetty (Dipti Kachare), an actress from the B-grade Hindi film industry. This is a subject of some fascination, and while it has been previously dealt with; a popular reference would be the Hindi film Silk, there is always room for exploration. But almost uncannily this production settles for the predictable, and how.

It's a pity because there are remote flashes of aiming higher and there is a palpable, almost vivid sense of the ecosystem that sustained this once sleazy yet profitable business. So the studio set-up that runs throughout with its garish lights, and the centerpiece of a double bed brought in and taken out every now and then, has a resonance. It is physical and symbolic at once but it also a cumbersome piece of set to handle frequently.

The stark reality that emerges between the provocative "item" numbers, the erotic bed scenes (mostly alluded to), and Sapna's rapid dissolution, punctuated by L. Rakesh's (Sainath Ganuwad) distant yet involved narration, would have perhaps redefined the pace that such a story can pull off, had it been consciously done. There is only grit and no glamour eventually, much like Kshitish Date's absentee film director in the play whom we only know by voice instructing his crew, while Chinmay Deo's cameraman underlines the mundane nature of the job in an industry that thrives on providing voyeuristic excitement.

Here is also why L.Rakesk, the "everyman" of this shadowy world wearing multiple hats from light man to Sapna "madam's" PA, has an endearing honesty and simplicity about him. The resultant humour of some of his lines borders on a tragicomedy. Unfortunately, just not enough to salvage the waddling banality of the production as a whole.

Deepa Punjani is the editor of this website.

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