The first funda of success forget the funda,enjoy the fun! The formula must work,otherwise Crazy Spotlight Productions,a theatre group made of students,would not still be around. There is no sign of the group for most of the year,but in summer when various freshmen,sophomores,juniors,seniors and graduates fly home to Delhi from their American colleges,with an itch to act,Crazy Spotlight kicks into action. And for the last three years,theyve pulled a rare breed in to theatres the hip Delhi college student who generally avoids plays.
This year,it is Fasten Your Seatbelts,a semi-musical adaptation of a French play called Boeing! Boeing! written 55 years ago by Marc Camoletti. If the story reminds you of Garam Masala,it is not Camolettis fault. Fasten Your Seatbelts is about high-flying Adit,who has been juggling his three flight attendant girlfriends much to his maid Parvatis distress. Things get messy when flights are delayed,schedules changed and an old school friend Raj joins them. Nothing cerebral. Its our own age group we make plays for 16 to 25-year-olds who otherwise go for movies,not theatre, says Madhav Mehta,19,from Pomona College,California,who has been with the troupe for three years.
Theres Bachna ae haseeno playing at top volume and actors gyrating to very filmy dance moves. Elsewhere,director and troupe leader Nikhil Mehta,20,a theatre student from NYU,is turning jokes into edgy dialogue. I watched the Broadway production of Boeing! Boeing! and thought of Indianising it. From January to April,I worked on the script and now it is a Delhi play,set in a DLF flat. The air hostesses are no longer German,French and American,they are south Indian,Mumbaikar and Punjabi, he says.
The cast of six was chosen after an audition of 60 hopefuls when Mehta came home for holidays in May. I had heard they do plays with a difference,so I turned up and got a part, says Pallavi Sharma from Miranda House,who plays Parvati. The students spend the better part of their summer break poring over script,brushing up dialogue and brainstorming until nothing makes sense any more,says Tara Bedi,a fourth-year student from NYU. In Fasten Your Seatbelts,the airline is called Mirch Masala International (Desh Mein Nice,Videsh Mein Spice) and Jat Airways (Take Punjab Places). The language is Hinglish like it is spoken by people like us and characters talk about DLF Malls,Mumbai vs Delhi and Shiney Ahuja. I genuinely dont know why our plays work,but they do, says Mehta.
Assistant director Nayantara Parikh,20,who studies cinema at NYU,adds that Crazy Spotlight works differently. In the US,theres a lot of theatre by youngsters for youngsters. Thats what were doing here. Though the group takes plays of Neil Simon and Michael Frayn,these are always transformed into Delhi plays. Sanjana Batra,who recently graduated from Lady Shri Ram College and hopes to enrol in Warwick College,UK,says Crazy Spotlight,with its irreverent outlook may be antithetical to how the theatre functions in India. Sometimes you should leave your brain at home if this helps you laugh. It is a good thing to challenge the intellect of the audience,but abstract plays,social commentaries and age-old stories often dont work with the urban youngster. Dhruv Sachdeva from Sri Venkateswara College,who plays Adit,adds that part of our pull is that we have fun. If actors have fun on stage,the audience will join in. Fuzzy logic or trade secret?
Fasten Your Seatbelts will be staged at Shri Ram Centre on July 4 at 2.30 pm and 7 pm. Tickets available at venue.