Direction : Sunil Shanbag
Writer : Pundalik Naik
Cast : Rozzlin Pereira, Sattvic, Danish Hussain, Abhijit Bhor, Asif Ali Beg, Shilpa Sane, Kailash Waghmare and Shailesh Hejmadi

LORETTA Play Review

Deepa Punjani

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The musical form of drama known as the Tiatr, is a peculiar form of Konkani theatre with a long history. Sunil Shanbag turns to it for his new play LORETTA in collaboration with Aadyam. In it, he has found the device to voice his dissent with the ruling political class, backed by the Hindu Right. On more than one occasion it appears that the main play in the background is merely an excuse for Shanbag to vent his ire using humour and satire in equal measure. The foreground is a curious mix of agitprop and stand-up theatre lampooning the Modi government. Tiatr, in fact, is known for its politically-driven 'side' shows that need not have any connection with the unfolding main drama.

The main play in LORETTA refers to the titular character who has arrived on an island in Goa with her boyfriend. His father is among the last bastions to urge the preservation of Konkani and the cultural uniqueness of the island. This makes him isolated, even from his own son. But Loretta, impressed by the serene beauty of the island, prevails upon the old man to let her stay. He sets a condition. Loretta can stay if she learns Konkani and familiarises herself with the island. To that end, she has the support of the island's 'natives', who have taken a great liking towards her. Eventually, all's well that ends well, albeit in a manner that is simplistic and fairy-tale like. This is verily a musical with no acute deliberations even as it purports to address the complex issues of language and identity. These remain largely superficial.

In the meanwhile, the play in front of the curtain so to speak, becomes a series of jabs and songs. The little acts, clever as they are, are already too familiar. There is nothing trenchant about them and they risk over-stating and simplification. They also makes core issues reductive. Besides this is not Tiatr in its traditional sense. It has been thoroughly gentrified.

Asif Ali Beg and Danish Hussain command the show in the foreground even as they double as the politician and the manservant-cook in Loretta's spirited tale. Shanbag also makes an appearance. Rozzlin Pereira's Loretta is almost irritatingly mannered but is compensated by her singing. The rest of the cast includes Sattvic (Loretta's boyfriend Rafael), Abhijit Bhor (Rafael's father- the landlord), Kailash Waghmare (the pao man), Shilpa Sane (the fisher-woman) and Shailesh Hejmadi (the toddy man). Their characterisation is cardboard but they stay true to their brief of enlivening the proceedings.

With its Goan picture-book scenery in the background and a live music band to support it, LORETTA is a pretty yet gross approximation of its original form. Its aspirations for a politically motivated and socially conscious theatre are worthy in principle but wear thin and tired. Like some earlier productions by Aadyam, including Rajat Kapoor's production, which launched this year's edition, theatre has been reduced to a deft ''show''. It generates titters and unfailingly, standing ovations. It has substituted cleverness for rigour and has traded its messy soul for neat predictability.

*Deepa Punjani is the Editor of this website.

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