Direction : Suketu Shah
Writer : Abhishek Pattnaik
Cast : Rakesh Bedi, Ananth Mahadevan, Gunjan Malhotra, Abhishek Pattnaik, Zachary Coffin and Abhishek Krishnan

LAST OVER Play Review

Farida Khanzada

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Belying its title, Coconut Theatre's Hindi comedy LAST OVER, is not all about cricket. Cricket is more of a metaphor, and writer-actor Abhishek Patnaik, is clearly not the first person to employ it for a popular, oft-repeated story - of jingoism, insecurities, and hypocrisy. Yet what works in favour of the play are its strong dialogues and witty repartee.

The play sets up as its premise the recently concluded World Cup finals between perceived archrivals, India and Pakistan at Lords, London, but its plot centres on the emotional drama that unfolds in the life of a young married couple, Zubaina Kazmi and Sunny Arora. Their inter-faith marriage has taken place without the knowledge of their respective families.

Love overcomes the initial guilt that Zubaina faces by breaking the two guiding principles-trust and honesty-that her father, Nazir Kazmi has ingrained in her since childhood. Even as the couple copes with the daunting task of keeping their marriage a secret from their boss-restaurateur ''Ivan of Cool Cats'' - a tyrant who does not approve of employees dating each other, let alone being married -- their elysian world is shattered when Kazmi saab and Sunny's father, Jasjit Arora decide to visit their children on the pretext of missing them. Their hidden agenda though, is the cricket match and Jasjit would do anything to get a ticket.

Although the fathers love their children dearly, their extreme obsession and love for cricket blinds them to the exclusion of everything else. The young couple has to tolerate their parents' rancour towards each other and their irrational demands.

As the story unfolds, the layers of righteousness, pride, and insecurities peel off. The upright Kazmi has many a skeleton hidden behind his polished veneer. Parents normally preach what they themselves never practice, and several flaws in the characters of the elderly gents are revealed. So while Kazmi waxes eloquent about trust and honesty, in reality, he is the biggest transgressor of these virtues. A teetotaler to the world, Kazmi loves his bottle of whisky in the solitude of his room!

Jasjit, on the other hand is a heartbroken, lonely man behind his brouhaha. A divorcee, he walks a thin ground where his relationship with his only son is concerned. When Sunny confronts him with harsh reality, Jasjit breaks down, admitting that his obsession with cricket has been his undoing.

The drama also brings to the fore societal pressures and the fear of being ostracised. It is this fear that stops Nazir and Jasjit from revealing their children's marriage to their family and friends.

Veterans Rakesh Bedi and Ananth Mahadevan do full justice to their characters. Bedi, as the magnanimous Punjabi Jat, is hilarious as he tries to speak chaste Urdu and fails miserably. His misnomers-''Beti ne aapko Barkha Dutt kar diya'' ; ''Vatanukool (read: namaqool) kar diya'' evoke quite a few laughs. Ananth Mahadevan as the upright Pakistani professor, with his strong command over the Urdu language, offsets the earthy demeanour of his Indian counterpart. Gunjan Malhotra and Abhishek Patnaik as the young, much in love couple look earnest, amply proving the point that love is supreme.

Director Suketu Shah has seamlessly weaved in various aspects of human relationships even as the play's themes are altogether familiar.

*Farida Khanzada is a senior writer in the entertainment industry. She has previously worked with Screen and has handled their theatre page.

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