The best part of theatre is that it is much more politically freer than TV and cinema. Take the play, The Devil wears Bataa, written and directed by Meherzad Patel, currently running in Mumbai.
Can you imagine a verbose Mahmohan Singh? Well, that is how the silent former prime minister is shown in this 2-hour presentation. The setting is pre-2014 Delhi, where Sonia Gandhi (Dilnaz Irani) is trying to groom dumb beta, Rahul (Siddharth Merchant) as the next PM. But here, Paaji (Danesh Irani as MMS) plays his own game, more about that later.
On a parallel plane, you also have Washington DC, where Donald Trump (Danesh Khambata) is trying to put up a dummy candidate for the Democratic party. The setting is circa 2008, when the GOP was about to lose the presidency after eight years of Bush Junior’s rule (Iraq war). Both Paaji and Trump get outsiders, make them Indian and American natives respectively, in an attempt to grab power. While Kaka (Darius Shroff) aka Narendra Modi is a British actor, Trump chooses South Indian Balakrishna as Obama (African American). Trumps chief trouble shooter is also an Indian American, Bobby (Sajeel Parekh), an ode to the rising power of the overseas Indian diaspora.
This in a nut shell is the broad storyline.
All the actors are par excellence. Danesh is apt as Paaji. He brought forward the personality of the former PM, while adding the nuances and quirks of a loud North Indian, complete with all the funny jokes (resume and toilet paper).
Dilnaz is again spot on as Sonia Gandhi, down to her mannerisms and accent. The body language is also just right.
Young kurta clad lad, Siddhartha, is too good as the completely at sea Rahul. He was so natural on stage with all those self-depreciating dialogues. The constant reference to potato turning into gold line kept the audi in splits.
Darias was also quite impressive as a British actor turned Indian PM. Reference to demonetization and monogrammed coat took good digs at the ruling dispensation in New Delhi as well.
Cut to Washington, Danesh could not have been closer to the totally moronic businessman who has no clue about India or another place on the globe outside the US. His casting was spot on, right down to body frame and height. Meherzad did not forget to add the you are fired line, synonymous with Mr Trump.
But Jigar took the cake with the bakery, moving from the south Indian accent to a Yankee one with ease. The joke about boxers vs lungi was also funny.
But should the makers have spared Osama Bin Laden as the architect of 9/11? Having said that, the reference to the yanks burying his body at sea was right. They also seemed to be soft on Obama. He was praised for Obamacare, but not pilloried for his other acts of omission and commission i.e. not cracking down on Pakistan.
The director also admitted that the play did come late, i.e. after BJP and Trump taking office, though they did try to make it contemporary by giving reference to the recent second straight Congress Lokh Sabha defeat. Also, the dig at Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma cold war.
The biggest joke was having a TV anchor, Mihir, who resembles Arnab Goswami (nation wants to know) and here he hardly spoke. We would all love to see a silent Arnab in real life.
The play took a dig at a large number of contemporary political realities in a fun way, just how a satire should be.
All in all, a good effort. We returned home with the line that politicians should indeed be kept in check.
we would rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars.