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The Good Doctor

December 15, 2008
Weekends are always reserved for the best of things I suppose! No wonder every week, a new movie or concert happens to be on a weekend. Over the past few weeks, after having grounded myself to the confines my room, I felt a void growing in me. A void of not having done any activity which some of my fellow countrymen would say, “Fun Stuff”. So, there I was, aimlessly going through loads of books at a second hand book sale and ended up picking four books. I came across, a David Mitchell’s book named “Number9Dream” and another book by Pete McCarthy titled “The Road To McCarthy” and both promise to be genuinely fantastic books owing to all the great reviews the respective books have got. Sunday, 14th December has been an unusually short day for me. After having slept till 12 PM, there was little time to do anything else, so I ended up keeping my promise and landed at NIFT, Hyderabad to see, “The Good Doctor” a play performed by “Dramanon”-a theatre group.

The Good Doctor:

Based on a play by Neil Simon of the same name, “The Good Doctor” is an anthology of six stories. The story set in Russia during the 19th century, has a distinct style of Chekhovian comedy. It is composed of a series of scenes in which the only connecting thread is the character of the Writer. The writer while giving his reason behind taking up this profession suddenly comes across an idea which he feels will be a good short story and bingo…we enter that scene. And thereafter six stories are enacted one after the other with only the writer as the narrator. They are about a working class man feeling the pressure being an underdog, a Casanova taking a class on the art of seduction, a liberal father wanting his son to have a stint with a prostitute, banker being harassed by an unknown lady, a tramp willing to entertain for a few rubles and two aged strangers meeting in a park.

Of the six plays, I liked the story of the underdog, father and son’s discussion, banker’s story and the aged strangers meeting in a park for the sheer energy and honesty in engaging the audience. To be honest, I have never been able to understand the Russian writers. Tragedies are more difficult to understand and to interpret them in a way that makes sense, requires a degree of careful thought. Likewise, at the end of first story, the writer mentions a possibility of “Alternative Ending” and the story of the tramp who attempts a drowning act to entertain a gentleman are brain-teasers! Why did the man forget to shout for help? Were the old couple in the park able to express their emotions to one another? Why does the writer choose to cast a spell of gloom on the Casanova when everything was going great for him?! I might turn into yet another Chekov if I knew the answers to all these…:D. But the fact that the play left me and (hopefully) few others like me thinking is in itself a success. If only the movies were engaging as this…a well spent two hours I must say!
The director, R K Shenoy, who I have realised is the soul of the unit, needs special mention. Not only does he bring in a style which is so distinct but also the characters of a veteran stage actor are clearly visible. And how can I forget his rendition on the guitar!!!..Somehow, he reminds me of a senior of mine from college named, Anshuman Bagchi…both have an impeccable aura of bringing a smile onto your face. Of the rest, Madhu (as the lady who harasses the banker) is a gem of an actress! She was brilliant and hopefully we theatre enthusiasts will get to see more of her in future. Utsav, Anshu are well cast in their roles and so are the rest of the cast. After having seen couple of plays by “Dramanon”, I am not surprised that they have been identified by “India Today” amongst the top five emerging threatre groups in India. A well deserved recognition I must add.
But…there is an alternate ending to this post! After having sat there for two hours, I still couldn’t comprehend why was it named “The Good Doctor”. It wasn’t until Varun (also a member of Dramanon) clarified from where the play’s name has been derived, that I realise the slow and ubiquitous undercurrent throughout the play, which made sure that we never stop laughing or smiling. Thanks Varun, if not for your explanation, I would be having the number7Dream even now!. The troupe promises to come back in 6 months and I must say, I am eagerly waiting for their next production. And thanks to Srinidhi, Harish, Astha, Gunjan for having accompanied me to this play. I am sure it was a nice experience for all of you!
There it was…yet another sunday….yet another day of my life. And I am still here waiting for an alternative ending!…
PS: Number7Dream is derived from the title of David Mitchell’s Number9Dream.
PPS: After having seen NIFT and the crowd, I realise why they are such a hot favourite!..:D
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