In spite of the incessant showers that brought traffic to a halt at Kothrud on Tuesday night,theatre enthusiasts managed to make their way to Yashwantrao Chavhan Auditorium to catch the performance of the silent comedy Im not Chaplin. The plays appeal was apparent from the fact that the seats were nearly sold out on the first performance.
As the lights went off and the stage lit up,the auditorium was filled with the whistles of schoolchildren. The play opened with a cine awards function in which the actor who bags the Best Actor trophy refuses to acknowledge the films director,which causes a rift between the two. After a silent verbal duel,where the audience only read lips,the actor pulled up a clumsy spot boy and challenged the director to make a hit movie with him.
Based on slapstick comedy,much like Charlie Chaplins classics,the play then showcased the experiences that the clumsy spot boy undergoes while the director tries to make him a star.
Written and directed by Rustom Irani,whose career in theatre spans over two decades,the basic idea of the play was a result of his frustration over managing fresh actors during his Parsi production. The language for Parsi plays is Gujarati but I often have to translate the dialogues for fresh actors from Gujarati to Hindi to English and get frustrated in the process. A few months ago,I told my crew that I would write a silent play so that I get relief from all this translation work. It was then that I started to think about it on a more serious note, said Irani,who also played the role of the vengeful director in the play.
Irani shared that though the play was meant to be silent,dialogues were written for each character,which had to be lip synced. The silence,however,is broken from time to time with background scores,which help bring emotions to the scene.
The play is co-directed by Milind Kulkarni who helped train the actors to mouth their dialogues perfectly. When I came up with the script for this play,I texted all my contacts to come for a meeting if they were interested in taking part. The actor who plays the lead role of Charlie,the spot boy,is Aashay Kulkarni. I met him at a theatre workshop a few months ago, said Irani,who has also acted in films such as Gandhi My Father,Dhol and Marathi film Harishchandrachi Factory.