“Marry Go Round” Play Review

Language: English + Hyderabadi Hindi | Running Time: 90 Minutes | Director: Ashish Sen

If you are in your mid to late 20s, chances are your parents are talking to you about getting married, settling down with a nice lady from a good family,granting you the license to make babies and at the same time making it a an affair to rejoice that family line is perpetuating. An Indian male is more of than not pulled into this web by an indefatigable mother and lovingly clobbered into the union of marriage before he comprehends what’s being taken away from him. When you aren’t the person being pulled into this mockery, the charade is entirely hilarious. Ashish Sen’s “Marry Go Round”, based on the book by Sadiqa Peerbhoy, depicts the events that lead to the marriage of a man, Riaz(Rohn Malhotra), who is cornered by a steadfast mother, Sartaj Jehan Begum(a fantastic Rubi Chakravarti).

Marry Go Round Poster 2The instigator of the farce is the ghost of the grandfather, the late Nawab(Kumar Iyengar). He introduces us to his family, a professor son(Manosh Sengupta) who quotes Shakespeare, hilariously misquoting to be correct, a disappointing couch potato who eats samosas and watches television. He then introduces us to Sartaj Jehan Begum and Riaz’ cousin, Dilawar (Ameet Bhuvan), a man who is Raiz’ sidekick and a pawn in Sartaj’s plans.

The first act focuses on the antics of the trio in scheming and bringing back Riaz from New York, showing him off to women of agreeable lineage,  introducing us to the fears and desires of Riaz. The brilliant Rubi Chakravarti makes the first act hers and she continues to be the shining light throughout the play.

The play elicits a lot of laughter and appreciation when it moves the story through Sartaj’s histrionics, her complaints and admonishment of the Professor, her manipulation of Dilawar and later their manipulation of Riaz. It builds a fantastic atmosphere, which is fun and also an interesting commentary on what mothers look for in a marriage and the way sons are caught in a web. It is the loudest commentary but there are interesting scenes where we see how a woman is auditioned to become a bride, the way neighbours and relatives descend at your doorstep to offer their approval or pass “information”. Even though you see the play move by using a woman’s position as central to the story, the patriarchal outlook of how caste, familial position is important to a society and the women in them is the focus of the farce.

Post interval, yes there is a 10 minute break, the play starts to sag. It plays to the gallery, easy contrivances where Riaz falls in love with a woman he hardly knows, a nonsensical past to their relationship which all but makes love seem less and less a necessity to a strong marriage. The love depicted here one could argue is a farce like everything else but after the terrific build up to this part and the equally compelling finale, despite a corny and unnecessary epilogue, the second act is silly and not well developed. Kumar Iyengar’s Ghost and Dilawar with their breaking the fourth wall narration lift the proceedings and make up for the otherwise total lack of dramatic impact in this period of the play. There is a situation where a father, a thug like man himself with his shady real estate dealings, is threatened by a goon into approving his daughter’s marriage to a man of another religion. It is the kind of scene which with the kind of actors the play has, makes for good watching but like the second act it feels misplaced, totally out of tone and overboard.

The problem is that it puts too many “messages” in the 90 minutes it has and not necessarily in the most developed plots. The second act is prey to this attitude. But the first and third acts are a joy to watch and the reason why people are bound to applaud for a long time at the end. In the book, there’s an element of nostalgia in setting the tale in Hyderabad. The nostalgia element is brought out in the play by a terrific Kumar Iyengar and a wonderful selection of Hindi film songs which form part of this Playpen production. Niranjan Gokhale’s lighting adds to the wonderful stage management.

I am reminded of the beautiful scene where  Sartaj and the Professor are waiting for Riaz to arrive. The Professor is eating his samosa, Sartaj is fussing about telling us about bribing Dilawar and his uselessness, she talks about her “khaleja ka tukda” and when she hears that Dilawar and Riaz are on their way, fusses about to look ill and tensed. It is rooted in simplicity, a wonderful homeliness and comic masquerade which makes you fall in love with the play. You get all the undercurrents of the society that it depicts and there is an absolutely delightful cast you root for. It’s a story about the little things we go through after reaching a certain age, the things we end up sacrificing and gaining and the ulterior motive behind every action that scoiety forces us to do. It is enjoyable and memorable, also rushed and less satisfying due to its little blemishes making it an incomplete beauty.

 

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