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Histrionics lift the show

MINIMALIST AND ordinary sets, run-of-the-mill storyline (saas-bahu feud), simple script with words drawn from `Bambaiya' Hindi... yet "shaadi@barbaadi.com" was engrossing. Exotic perfumes filled the air and women in shimmering silks provided a feast for the eyes as the play started almost 30 minutes behind schedule. But once the curtains went up, the packed Music Academy hall echoed with laughter throughout the two-and-half hour duration.

"The show is about to begin, clap. The play has completed 150 shows in Hindi and 500 shows in Marathi, clap... " Thus went Paresh Rawal's opening commentary (in Hindi) from backstage, in his inimitable comic style. A tactful way of winning applause and drawing audience attention. Even though all the actors did their best to add to the fun that unfolded on the stage, the play belonged to Paresh Rawal. His perfect timing and tonal variations gave punch to the easy-on-the-ear dialogue.

The story revolved round Manu (Paresh), a shy, middle class Gujarati boy who woos and marries Mani, a modern Sindi girl (Swaroop Sampat). Paresh's endearing ways and innocent expression struck an instant rapport with the audience, comprising mostly Gujaratis, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the rib-tickling comments about the community, particularly about Gujarati men being mama's boys.

The second half depicted the initial cordial relations between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, which predictably turn sour. The son and father-in-law remain mute spectators to the bitter fights between the two women, which were truly funny and sent the audience into splits. While the father-in-law spends most of his time standing outside the house, the son starts doing overtime in office to be in the company of his new female boss. All ends well with the announcement of Mani's pregnancy.

The amazing stage presence and flawless histrionics of the four main artistes made an ordinary fare look different. But the two sutradhars could have been avoided. When they appeared on stage with their clichéd views on marital bliss, the otherwise peppy pace slackened and dullness crept in.

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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