Adulterous husbands, two-timing wives, familial bickering and idiosyncratic individuals are the irresistible ingredients for a group of directors who like to dish out 'mature' or 'hot' comedies to theatregoers. And the audience, it appears, is lapping it all up.
Director and playwright Aamir Raza Husain, one of the best known exponents of the genre in Delhi, says intelligent writing, satire and repartee can never go out of vogue, even in times of YouTube laughter channels and stand-up comedy. "I don't think you need vulgarity to induce humour. I like to keep my humour sophisticated. What's essential to create laughter for sure, are clever lines and an ability to act," says the director of such adult-themed laugh riots as The Urge, No Sex Please, We Are British, When Did You Last See Your Trousers? and A Bit On The Side.
For the theatre-going audience of 2014, particularly those who've become accustomed to the brand of humour popular on British and American television, a punch line every few minutes is a prerequisite. Therefore, if spontaneous applause is an indicator, theatre lovers cracked up every few minutes on the saucy lines delivered by the cast of Ashvin Gidwani's Scent of a Man, staged recently at Mumbai's Sophia Bhabha Auditorium. The play, a story of two couples, an advertising executive and his neurotic marriage counsellor wife and a Tupperware saleswoman and her professor husband, is one of the most successful productions in Mumbai's theatre circles.
It's the situation, stupid!
Many a hot comedy hinges upon the circumstances the protagonists get entangled in. So, in that sense, adult comedies are nothing else but grown-up sitcoms, says Delhi-based theatre director Renu Chopra of Dramatech. Chopra, the brain behind a recent successful adaptation of Ray Cooney's Run for Your Wife, and one of the few women directors in the adult space, says the laughter often lies in the frequency of the gags. "In Run for Your Wife, for instance, a man is trying to do a balancing act between two wives. Once he meets with an accident, he blurts out the address of the other wife to the police. This leads to a comedy of errors. To adapt it to a Delhi audience, we decided to keep his families at Kalkaji and Malviya Nagar, well-known resettlement colonies that would have a resonance with the viewers," says Chopra.
A tale of two cities
Even as Hosi Vasunia and Adi Marzban, two iconic Mumbai directors, helped popularise the genre in Maximum City - Delhi, too, has had a thriving tradition of adult comedies, recalls Aamir Raza Husain. "If one were to chart a graph of adult comedies in the Capital, the late '60s and the decade that followed saw the advent of risqué Punjabi plays such as Soti Garam Voti Naram and Chadhi Jawani Buddhe Nu, which played at the Sapru House auditorium. It also hosted Hindi-Urdu situational comedies such as Adrak Ke Panje which travelled all over the world," says Husain.
Husain's group Stage-Door, formed in 1974 by Marcus Murch, began with doing literary comedies such as those penned by Oliver Goldsmith, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. "At the end of the 1970s, we evolved into American comedies by writers like Neil Simon. It was only in the 1980s that we got into mature comedies and sitcoms such as No Sex Please, We Are British. But there never was any nudity or any crudity in our plays," says Hussain. "Our entire ethos in Delhi is a little more conservative than Mumbai. So, we never cross a line. We used innuendo and wordplay. Wordplay can either be of the Dada Kondke variety or the Angoor, Sanjeev Kumar kind. Even a 12-year-old can watch our productions with his parents and neither would feel embarrassed," claims Husain.
"Interpersonal relationships. If you do a script involving a battle of the sexes, particularly one where the woman is taking her better half apart, most people can relate to it. It never fails!"
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From HT Brunch, July 13
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