Thrill Bill

Can a stage play combine the genres of horror and humour? The cast of the English drama,Anathema,think so.

Written by Shruti Nambiar | Published: January 6, 2012 2:26 am

Funnily enough,Pune-based second-year BCom student Suraj Parasnis doesn’t watch horror movies too often. But that didn’t stop him from co-directing Anathema,an English play that attempts to bring a queer mix of horror and humour on the stage. “We took it up as a challenge to make a horror play,” he says. “Making a horror movie is easier than making a scary play.” Parasnis is a part of an amateur theatre group called TheatreOn,which conceptualised the play and has already showcased it thrice in Mumbai. Among the four productions they have staged so far,Anathema is the first English drama,and will be showcased at Sudarshan Rangmanch tonight.

The play is a complicated narrative that traces the experiences of three friends – Jai,played by Parasnis; Shekhar and Sameer. The trio is shown to be up in arms against certain supernatural activities in the apartment they share,and are forced to seek the services of a tantrik to deal with them. The concept of ‘anathema’,something hated or negative,is symbolised through a beam of light in the play. “The idea is to show that there is a ghost,and that the problem is how to deal with it,” says Parasnis convolutely,so as to not reveal the plot fully.

Mumbai-based student Virajas Kulkarni is the writer and co-director of the play. The seemingly difficult task of directing the drama across two cities was achieved through Skype and frequent weekend visits. “I got the idea for the play last summer when a few friends of mine got together and were discussing ghost stories. The response in Mumbai has been surprisingly good; in Pune it will be easier to scare people because of the smaller hall,” laughs Virajas.

Indeed,the more intimate setting at Sudarshan Rangmanch renders the scope for props limited. So the scary bits of Anathema will be emphasised through lights and sounds. The background score will be a mix of pre-recorded samples as well as original bits. “We try to show the presence of the ghost through gimmicks,like with a flickering light of a table lamp. I wanted to include effects similar to those shown in The Exorcist,and I have tried to innovate with every show,” says Mihir Kulkarni,who is in-charge of the lighting.

While the central idea remains that of mysterious happenings,the treatment here includes humour,mainly to up the “entertainment factor”. “It is something like the concept of poltergeist. Virajas especially has watched a lot of horror movies,and understood the genre. He forced me to watch The Grudge,” laughs Parasnis.

(The play begins at 7pm at Sudarshan Rangmanch,Shaniwar Peth)

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