Common Man – Theatre in “complete the story format”
For more reasons than one, this was a play I wanted to watch since long time – probably few months. And it was an evening well spent and memorable.
The common man is the central character of the play, as is obvious from the title of the play. The play is an attempt to see the world through the eyes of a normal person ..who is born and brought up in typical middle class family….follows a conventional path..attends an engg college…
He joins a workplace … is not the kind of person to resort to leg pulling or showing off ..or”chamcha” kind.. gets dominated and works extra time..he toils while others steal limelight and awards…
He marries in a conventional arranged marriage set up…is silent even when he is cheated..
He attends a self-help guru class…ends up failing even applying the lessons learnt…
And so on and so forth..just the common activities.. But what makes this story different is that, it simultaneously explores the insecurities and failings of the common man while at the same time, exposes the atrocities (if I can use the word) performed by other members around him. If colour could help theater, am sure the group would have put the common man in a black and white frame while other characters in colour. The very intent to downplay the character and the story, takes limelight. There lies the beauty of the this play.
At some juncture…when common man meets failures and dejection at every road..helplessness at every attempt..failure at every opportunity..despite his honest efforts…I was so moved…it was the point at which I became connected with the play..also to mention the stirring song “rasta kya chahe tujse…” And a scene where the umbrellas just suck the common man into them…there was no pre or post scene for this and it stand-alone stood perfect and complete.
The common man, as a cue from the common man of R K Laxman, here too never speaks. He is the silent spectator in every scene. Even when the scene is about him; about things affecting him – even then, he is the silent observer. And yet he leaps – he wishes to leap into a colorful world – beautifully portrayed at many places but at one particular scene of the movie shooting. The yearnings of the common man; the dreams of a common man – to somehow jump into the other side .. to somehow hog the limelight, to earn fame, money etc…the wishes of most common men .. was quite nicely – metaphorically captured in this scene remains unscathed in the memory.
So in an event that, he does manage to become famous…what happens next ? Do all his problems get solved..? after few scenes, the play stops and the audience is made responsible to suggest the continuation and ending.
The “identification” with the characters on screen assures the connectivity – or the striking the chord thing – which was evident in this play aplenty. Almost everyone said they identified with the common man – I was quite unhappy to see so many unsatisfied people. Haha, jokes apart, I did not “like/wish” to be identified with him. But for the aspirations, which find a commonality, I really do not want to dwell upon my life – am quite aware that it is very common, but I would like to leave it at it.
[As an aside -Also it is quite not-surprising how every one feels he is deprived of proper rewards for his efforts – for eg I see everyone being unsatisfied with their appraisals and read somewhere that every employee feels he is undervalued. Haha.]
Since I didn’t quite appreciate the audience’s thoughts, I will not go into detail but, the common man is given, after a suggestion from an elderly man, a moment of triumph. Didn’t I say, the yearning of common man was obvious in the common man of the audience too
Ps: A child remarked, on asked what might happen to common man, said, “He would be shot by Kasab”. That thought, even now manages to send shivers down the spine. That one sentence speaks a lot to the fears and insecurities of the common man, the collective failure of the system, the role of media/society and not to forget – the unfortunate era we are living in.
Coming to the other aspects of the play other than the story, in no order of importance :
Singing and music : If one thing that made us keep going back to the play and think about it, even after a day of watching it , it was the soulful singing and music. It was just out of this world, refreshing and deliriously hummable. The silent guy sitting at the corner of the stage packed such energy and soul (have to use this word alone!), that whole auditorium was reverberating with his frequency. Not to forget the wonderful background music too – especially it came alive even during the audience suggested part of the play. It was a display of unbelievable synchronization between the team and backstage artists.
Acting: Acting varied from good to excellent .. some of the acts were a real hit with the audience. The acting by the common man – who remained off colour when the entire other cast was hyperactive, was a superb act. Even though what I wrote about story was gloomy, the play was lot of fun. The parody, the satire, the sarcasm – and contributions from other characters in the play was quite funny. Leave aside all philosophical thoughts, all thought provoking ideas, this play is worth watching just for its gags.
Usage of props and costumes : the simplicity of props usage and the costumes were very prominent. The ring for the award, the umbrella, dupattas etc.were nicely used!. To convey a message, only message is important, other things can be just formed in the mind – to help that formation the actors put up a brilliant setup. Though I didn’t give extra attention to lighting (there were so many new things to notice this time, unlike earlier times – more about it later), I felt it was apt at all places and very good at few.
The good scenes in no order : the common man getting sucked into umbrella – that was poignantly brilliant. I was quite hit by the scene, got scared that I couldn’t quite immerse myself and started looking away. Life is scary and …err..that word…err …sucks. The other good ones were…the film shooting, the oshome swamy, the monologue of the wife, the high energy acts …
Lastly, I like the spontaneity in which the performers picked up the story from the audience and performed fluently. There was no talk/preparation and somehow it just flowed. I knew this would be a complete the story format, but this continuation was more than I expected. Also, quite impressed by the concept
Audience immaturity. For many reasons, one of the vital parts of “complete the story” format should be audience. But I was disappointed by the continuation the audience suggested. For one, none were bothered about the whole picture, second they were happy to take minor digs. For example I can not approve of the wife eloping – it hardly made any sense or any continuity – it was just for the kicks ! And same with every character saying they were Amol – the name of the common man, which hardly made sense to me – even thinking philosophically. Agreed every man is a common man, yet, we were seeing him being portrayed by a central character ..
Not doing the repeat endings is – though – good for the actors as it would be challenging, but for most of the audience it is the first viewing – so it is nice that they get a good ending being played. There may not be very good different endings after a few runs of the play.
3. The oshome oshome swami act, looked quite detached to the plot – though it was entertaining and it slightly connected back, it could have been short.
4. Some situations come back after common man becomes famous – like the award in office. I wished it happened to many other scenes – like common man visiting a shooting scene after he is a known face and everyone mobs him instead of giving attention to the stars. Or him visiting oshome ashram and people asking him questions by neglecting the swami.
When I cringed about the maturity level of the audience and when I expressed my dissatisfaction about the ending suggested by audience , my friend quietly asked – you were a part of audience too, why didn’t you speak. This, I’ll explain in a bit, but hit me hard. Yes, I am a complaining person at times, just like many common people, pointing fingers at things, but not knowing solution by myself. “Not knowing solution” does not enfore that I “not see the problem” too. Also, some people are of opinion that if you are not able to create, you are not eligible to criticize – which in my opinion untrue – we all know ways even Tendulkar can improve but handed a bat, we may not even score a run. But that’s how we are 🙂
So long story short, coming back to why I did not try completing the story. Basically, I never jump ahead and give my opinions anytime but there was another significant observation I made – I could not get my thoughts together. I was still in the play mode, swallowing and digesting everything and suddenly lights on – audience feedback – people started suggestions and I started following them and I lost my trail.
Thus, when I looked back, I felt 2 minutes silence to the entire audience will help everyone get their thoughts together. It will help them put aside minor plot continuation to the larger picture – because I felt people were caught in developing the play scene by scene but they didn’t know where they were heading finally.
If I look back now, I guess if allowed to myself, I would complete it in no different way than what happened in real to the first KBC winner Harshavardhan Navathe : read long back that he became the victim of jealousy of his neighbors and on-goers who frequently damaged his car and what not. Can’t find such a source, however, found this
Asked out continuously to preside at several functions within and outside college at the behest of the authorities, Harsh was not able to complete the requisite attendance for his last semester – a fact that almost cost him his last term college, leading to severe depression.
By the time, he recovered, say our sources, he has crossed the age limit for taking the IAS exams, something he had set his heart on doing, and a fact he had openly admitted when he occupied the hot seat on KBC. A job in Mumbai later yielded the same problems that had plagued him when in college.
All said, the overall experience was a wonderful evening spent in Rangashankara. The story was moving..The play, the fun itself was entertaining….but also quite impressed with the concept of audience involvement, couldn’t help imagining the plots and endings that might be thrown up in different stories I have come across. I myself have frequently had problems with endings and had often wished, what if this, what if that..and it was so overwhelming (but difficult at the same time) when the power did come to the audience’s hands to continue…
Full disclosure: Yours Truly Theatre is a theatre group which is innovating in the forms and formats of theater – like the complete the story, and ‘yours truly’ (I!) has attended workshop conducted by them and have joined them.
Ps: Wondering if the innovation could be patented 😉