Richa Das

Direction : Mahathi and Yashraj
Cast : Prathamesh Bhat, Atherva Kelkar, Pradnya Motghare, Afshan Khan, Suraj Makhijani, Raghav Maliwal, Nysha Bijlani, Varun Chawala, Sara Merchant, Amol Kapoor, Vijay Dubai, Rahul Raj C., Raghav Kalra, Haider


The Jeff Goldberg Studio presented their production of PEOPLE v. NATASHA MALHOTRA in a brimming studio at Khar (suburban Mumbai). The play tells the story of a night of mystery and murder - Angad Advani is found dead in front of his mistress’s house - who killed him?

Angad Advani was a rich man recovering from a financial setback, married to rich heiress Sania Mehta. The obvious suspect for his sudden death is the mistress, our titular character, Natasha Malhotra, played by Pradnya Motghare. Throughout the play, lawyers from the defence and prosecution bring out the obscurities of the night in front of the audience - who is also the jury! In a fantastic twist, audience members are to decide the fate of Natasha Malhotra at the end of the trial. The showrunners count the ballot in real-time. It won’t be a long shot to imagine multiple endings for the play, on the basis of the vote of the jury for each production.

This innovative courtroom drama stands out for its crisp dialogue and fast pace. The prosecution lawyer (played by Atherva Kelkar) and defence lawyer (played by Prathamesh Bhat) carry the play with their impeccably fast banter, setting the room ablaze with their rising tempers. On some occasions, their rising voices do not match the intensity of the moment whereas, on others, they bring just the right amount of fire to keep the audience engaged. Sara Merchant and Varun Chawala look just the part, playing the uber-rich Mehta family that has filed a case against Natasha Malhotra. Sound design and styling are very much in tune with the melodramatic setting of the play.

The actors look and speak their part, churning out memorable performances in the play.

Mahathi and Yashhraj are at the helm as directors of the production, assisted by Raghav Kalra. Their execution stands out in the flow of the play but lacks certain nuances. The play sticks to a fixed plot with no allusions to the cultural milieu it is set in and hence, one wonders why the detective didn’t just click a picture of Natasha on the terrace! Regardless, for the hours of its duration, the audience's eyes and ears lingered on the characters, eager to find a clue that could help them play the part of the jury.

*Richa Das is a sub-editor by day and an avid theatre enthusiast by night. You may find her lurking in the shadows of a proscenium arch near you!

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