Cast : Aahana Kumra, Anu Menon, Gagan Dev Riar, Hussain Dalal, Joy Fernandes, Neil Bhoopalam, Raghav Dutt, Rajit Kapur, Seema Biswas, Veronica Gautam


Deepa Gahlot


After throwing every possible-- and available-kind of content online, with the hope of keeping theatre audiences hooked, it was a matter of time before the more imaginative ones came up with original material. Which is not just recordings of plays put up for ticketed shows, but plays created with the current situation in mind. After all, for how long could Mumbai's theatre folk let their creativity lie rusting?

A few weeks back, director Quasar Thakore Padamsee and actor Vivek Madan performed their interactive play, EVERY BRILLIANT THING, on Zoom, which was a good experiment, since audiences are drawn into the story. Now Rage Productions have got a bunch of playwrights, directors and actors together for a new (third) set in their series of monologues aptly called ONE ON ONE UNLOCKED, and put up a ticketed show online.

The actors performed the fresh material presumably in and around their homes, the directors must have worked with the writers and actors on Zoom (or a similar app) and then shot the monologues. The ‘sets' of real homes and terraces make for diverse and realistic backdrops for the ten short plays. (There is even an intermission so home viewers can take a tea or loo break and check their messages!)

The result of this terrific pool of Mumbai stage talent is a mixed bag of serious, quirky and a couple of flat pieces, but the actors look like they enjoyed the process.

If pieces are set in Mumbai, there has to be one about an out-of-work struggling actresss (Aahana Kumra), a fun piece about a “Bandra bugger” (Joy Fernandes) and a hipster (Neil Bhoopalam), who is slightly guilty about his privilege but still needs his avocado for breakfast. However, since the monologues are about life in lockdown, one missed stories about the travails of working from home, parents having to deal with bored kids cooped up indoors, or migrant workers trying to return to their villages.

The one that captured the times and the city perfectly was Middle Class, written and performed by Hussain Dalal and directed by Akarsh Khurana, in which a “corona warrior”, a compounder in a quarantine centre, finds a way to profit from the pandemic, in the spirit of Mumbai enterprise. Dalal performed on a building terrace and visible behind him was the crowded sprawl of a city mohalla, buildings and places of worship in higgledy-piggedly chaos, invisible people battling the virus.

Also depicting the care-a-damn attitude of the Mumbaikar is Hawaldar Hawa Singh Haazir Hai! written by Ashok Mishra, directed by Rajit Kapur; performed by Gagan Dev Riar, in which a police constable is unable enforce the stay-at-home rule, when citizens could not be bothered about the risks.

Brand New World, written by Adhir Bhat; directed by Quasar Thakore Padamsee, performed by Veronica Gautam is a gently humorous piece (the frame has the actress looking down, with a fan whirring over her head), about a hospital intern trying to explain to a patient who has just emerged from a coma, what the conditions are like outside, and why waking up at this time is not such a good idea.

If anything can describe this pandemic in three words, it is the title of the piece, written and performed by Raghav Dutt, directed by Sukant Goel-- Chamgaadad Ka Inteqaam (Revenge of the Bat), which a hyperactive kid in a madarsa coins.

The monologues are mostly Mumbai-centric (who outside of Mumbai would get Joy Fernandes's Bandra accent?) but Rage has gathered around of actors that theatre lovers are familiar with, and who would be able to draw away audiences from the glut of shows and films streaming online. Also, it an excellent way of keeping the theatre community motivated, active and ready for the time when things go back to normal.

(Deepa Gahlot is a journalist, columnist, author and curator. Some of her writings are on

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