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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Prithvi Festival 2019, Review—Ek Natak Aisa Bhi: Beggars can be choosers

Prithvi Festival 2019, Review—Ek Natak Aisa Bhi: Beggars can be choosers

Begging is an art, as has been repeatedly proven by reports of fortunes being discovered after the death of certain beggars and the numerous jokes about begging. In Ek Natak Aisa Bhi (A Play of This Type), by Rangshila Theatre Group, the author chronicles the adventures and mishaps that occur in the lives of two professional beggars, who work in tandem. Largely a string of jokes, many derived from films and film-stars as insider jokes, the play works as a farce, but only partially. If you like tropes and stock situations, you might like the play; otherwise it has little dramatic merit.

Two men have found their calling in begging. It is a choice that they have consciously made. One is a third generation veteran, while the other is a struggling actor who has given thousands of auditions. The first beggar hopes to buy a car if he can save enough money while the other wants to open acting classes. In the course of a single day, they meet a couple on the verge of break-up, an insurance agent, a woman and a man con team, shop-keepers from nearby outlets, a home-delivery boy, a Muslim man and his ‘begum’ (wife), a eunuch and many more such stereo-types. The Muslim man has married again because, in a fit of rage, while visiting a cave with his spouse, he uttered the word ‘talaaq’. The word reverberated twice, and it became a ‘triple talaaq’, the form of divorce that was acceptable till legislation banned it some months ago. That is the level of humour on off

In another longish scene, the actor covers his sleeping associate with a white sheet, and presuming that this was a corpse, many passers-by offer amounts that go into thousands of rupees. Good point, but overdone in the end. Every encounter leads the duo to discuss and philosophise on society, and how to change a tune to match the approaching victim: horses for courses, as the saying goes. In most cases, they are able to filch up to Rs. 2,000, but there are times when even these beggars have to part with their hard-earned money, sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly.

The actor conceals one arm to appear armless while the pro pretends to have his leg in bandages. There is a longish banter about shoes and how wearing shoes puts a wall between the floor and the wearer. Another nice piece is about all men humans being the same without clothes, their professions being defined by the clothes they wear. Written by Lakshmikant Vaishnav and directed by Avneesh Mishra, the première show appeared under-rehearsed and some lines either over-lapped or were forgotten.

Avneesh Mishra

In the cast were Shashi Bhushan Chaturvedi, Yasir Ifitikahar (the programme notes must have got this spelling wrong, I am sure) Khan, Errol Rodrigues, Monika Mishra, Vandana Bhushan, Kush Jobanputra, Kavi Kumar, Anurag Sengupta, Ankit Bakaya and Pankaj Dixit. Production, set design, music, lights, make-up and costumes were all passable.

Rangshila Theatre Group was formed in 2008 and is one of the pioneering acting schools in Mumbai, with more than 200 performances over 100 different venues. Their acting school has successfully trained 500+ theatre enthusiasts, giving theatre groups in Mumbai a much needed boost. Rangshila Theatre Group has performed in many major theatre festivals of India, including the Bharat Rang Mahotsav, organised by National School of Drama. With Mumbai as base, Rangshila has travelled pan India--from Mysore, Delhi, Guwahati, Udaipur to Bareilly, Goa, Udupi, Bengaluru, etc. The school is based in in Mumbai, located in Andheri West.

Two beggar jokes in a top of the mind recall:


Woman: Thank God you are only lame. What if you had been blind?

Beggar: You’re right, Ma-am; when I was blind, all my earning used to be stolen.


Beggar: For God’s sake, give me ten rupees! Just ten rupees is all I want!

Man: I don’t have ten rupees.

Beggar: Well then, come join me, and let’s beg together.

Recommended for persons over ten years of age, this under 70 minutes play was staged on Wednesday, November 6, at Prithvi House, Juhu, Mumbai, as part of the Fringe at the annual Prithvi Festival, 2019. Laughs, yes; laugh riot, no.

Rating: **

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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