"Everybody wants a comedy play to be subtle,” declares writer and director Paritosh Painter, “But when we are subtle, nobody laughs.” Painter, in association with Ashwin Gidwani, is launching his new play, Get Rid of My Wife, a comedy centered around three friends who kidnap a rich industrialist’s wife. “We’d been planning to tie up for years, but because of my films, we somehow didn’t get the time to do it,” Painter explains. “Now we decided to break the jinx.”
Get Rid of My Wife incorporates the lead characters from Painter’s previous play See No evil Hear No evil, which introduced three characters who were deaf, mute and blind. The popularity of the trio encouraged Painter to incorporate them into this new plot, which makes it almost a sequel.“Initially, Ashwin felt that the play was too subtle. Introducing these characters lent the loud quality to the comedy, so it became better.” Painter explains. Loud comedy, he believes, is what audiences look for and after many years in theatre, he’s made his peace with it.
There are also certain demographics that Painter’s actors keep in mind when performing. “We always warn our actors that if they’re in South Mumbai, don’t expect the audience to laugh at the silly jokes. But if we are performing those same jokes at Rang Sharda, Bandra, the audience will roar with laughter,” he explains. “We also try and incorporate as many local references as possible so that the audience is not alienated. If they do not understand what’s going on, they start thinking. And that is very dangerous. I don’t want my audience to think, they should just enjoy the play,” he reasons.
Painter also acknowledges the obstacles faced by making community references in comedies: “Some communities have a self-deprecating tradition and so they don’t mind jokes being cracked on them. But we’ve had instances of people climbing up onto stage and demanding to know why a character has been slapped because he’s from a certain community. They don’t realise that the slap is not aimed at the entire community, but only at what that character has done.”
He’s also been careful to avoid stereotyping the physical shortcomings of his lead characters. “They never go to anyone to ask for help, the characters are determined to prove that they can live normally,” he says. And having worked with both film (Paying Guest and Dhamaal), TV and theatre, Painter doffs his hat to his ‘hardworking’ colleagues. Because of the hours of rehearsals and because every time they get on stage, they have to get it right.