In Delhi’s Mandi House, as in New York’s Broadway theatre district, tickling the funny bone ensures ticket sales. No wonder a quartet of comedy plays to be staged this month has generated a big buzz.
Fifty-something television comic Rakesh Bedi (he refuses to divulge his age), best remembered for playing Shafi Inamdar’s goofy brother-in-law in Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, takes a dig at wannabe actors in Massage on April 18.
Written by Vijay Tendulkar, Massage is about a teenager who lands in Mumbai to try his luck in Bollywood but ends up as a masseur in a women’s gym instead. The play could have been about any struggling actor, says Bedi.
"But the script has autobiographical elements. I, too, tried to barge into a movie studio by hiring a cab and fooling the doorman."
Pierrot’s, known for popularising the commercial comedy genre, stage 1947, a satirical take on a serious topic, the Partition, next weekend.
Director M. Sayeed Alam, who has earlier regaled theatre lovers with Ghalib in New Delhi, says his group keeps away from the slapstick routine many city playwrights followed till the 90s.
"We create humour through people caught in funny situations. Ghalib returning to live in the Delhi of 2010 was one such," he says.
Alam can poke fun at himself, too. Asked about the bad cellphone reception at his residence, he says: "The Airtelwallahs seems to think I stay in the basement."
Among the comedies running this weekend is Mayor@Risk.com by Anil Sharma. It revolves around the antics of a corrupt small-town mayor to garner brownie points with an investigator sent from the Capital.
Sharma says comedy plays keep theatrepersons afloat in Delhi.
"Nothing else works. Perhaps it is the pressure of urban living, but Delhi audiences want the tone of the play to be light."
Ek Jaam Aantiyon Ke Naam director Ravi Raj Sagar says Delhi has a proclivity for rip-roaring plays.
"Ranjit Kapoor’s Janpath Kiss and Rajinder Nath’s Jaat Hi Poocho Sadhu Ki drew full houses for years together."
Sagar says even in Broadway, most popular plays have been comedies.
"Comedies like You Can’t Take It With You, Harvey and Life With Father have been adapted thousands of times."
Making people double up in laughter in a darkened auditorium is a challenge that actors such as Bedi relish. "Since 1971, when I began acting, I have looked at the glass half-full. Comedy is a difficult emotion to evoke but the satisfaction is tremendous."
Saturday night features the English adult comedy Run for Your Wife.
"The tale of a South Delhi taxi operator caught between his wives in Malviya Nagar and Kalkaji has some side-splitting sequences," says director Renu S. Chopra.
When the protagonist meets with an accident, in a disoriented state, he gives addresses of both his wives to the cops… and the fun times begin.