Indian stage, Bollywood, Broadway meet in Saurabh Shukla`s play

Updated: Jan 12, 2012, 18:27 PM IST

New Delhi: The Indian stage, Bollywood and Broadway have never been far away - as popular television and screen actor Saurabh Shukla`s play `Red Hot` brings to light.

"It is said there are only eight stories in the world to tell and you keep retelling them in different ways," says Shukla of his play.

The excitement of racy Mumbai masala, Broadway, mid-life blues, the warm soul of good old Punjabi Delhi, and an elegant stage decor spilled into "Red Hot", an adaptation of Neil Simon`s Broadway drama "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" by Shukla at the Bharat Rang Mahotsav.

"Red Hot" - a comic satire inspired by Broadway and Bollywood - tells the story of 40 something Delhi restaurateur, Parmeet Singh Sethi, who is bored of cooking for his upwardly mobile Delhi diners at his father`s eatery; a job Sethi was entrusted with by his father after completing school.

Sethi wants to be a part of the sexual freedom movement before he is over the hill. And invites three women to his mother`s pad in Sarojini Nagar - in three different episodes - to add colour to his mundane life.

But the dates turn out to be calamitous with the women clashing with him on different wavelengths - and stopping barely inches away from the bedroom.

A distraught Sethi breaks down on telephone, crying about his plight as a middle-aged husband battling with desire and conscience.

It is almost an original play; an adaptation that retains the essence of the original but builds around the life on the `Mumbai-Delhi` showbiz route; a journey that the lead actor-writer and director of the play, Shukla is familiar with.

The play probes the psychology of existentialism and emerges as a reflection of the post-modern angst of human isolation in their cloister-like spaces floating adrift - each man unto an island of his own - in the industrial age.

The characters in the play try to connect across their loneliness leading to uproar, laughter and at times sharp introspections.

The play is carried like a "howdah" by its larger-then-life trio of women who come to Parmeet`s mother`s apartment.

Nigar Khan as a Malayalee-Punjabi with a Bengali mother rises to expectation as a acid housewife-of-the world Shumali Singh who leaves Paramjit in a huff after a boring chat. She runs "to the streets" looking for a cigarette.

Mona Basu as Delhi-born Mumbai model Rinki Chibber is almost brilliant with her Punjabi diction, affectations and anecdotes. She rocks like a Bollywood item girl in a dream sequence that uses showers of confetti and Diwali lights on the stage at Kamani Theatre.

Sethi`s pad done up in panels of wood and odd bric-a-back becomes a work of art.

Preiti Magaim is dark, soul-searching and nagging as the depressed friend of Sethi`s best friend Prem. The dialogues are riveting.

But if there is a low-key and at times a disappointing factor, it is Shukla himself who appears hemmed in by the burden of seeing the play through as a director and acting out the lead.

Neil Simon`s original play, about Barney Cashman and his three lady friends, saw 706 performances and was nominated for a Tony Award.

"This is a lesser known work by Neil Simon but ambitious in scope. I connected it because of the modern life we are leading," Shukla told reporters. He said he took "lot of liberties while adapting it".

"The whole progression of conversation is more Indian, not New York and Hollywood, as the original play referred to. I had to relate it to the people," Shukla said.

He said when one wants to narrate a western play or a story to the Indian audience, the writer has to narrate it with "your own sensibility".

The play had premiered in Mumbai last year.