Review: Taj Mahal ka Tender
Posted on 22 October, 2016 by Team Wishberry
Taj Mahal ka Tender
Written by: Ajay Shukla
Directed by: Aditya Dubey
The plot of Taj Mahal ka Tender was something like this - Shahjahan wants to build a Taj Mahal in today's world, and he has to deal with the bureaucracy and red tapism, and the greedy nature of humans altogether in his pursuit of building a Taj Mahal.
That sounds like an interesting plot. The satire is visible and one would imagine it to be a laugh riot. But it was not even close to expectations that the concept builds. And though, this was an adaptation of an older play, I was looking for originality and modifications according to the times we live in.
For the sake of the review, let us keep the expectations aside. And we will look at it without any shackles of expectations.
The opening of the play was dull. There was a voice-over with Shahjahan on stage, and Mr. Gupta, the chief engineer, joins him on stage. The voice-over continues, Shahjahan leaves, Sudheer, the assistant engineer, enters. That is when the narration ends and the characters on stage begin on a mellow note. That is not the kind of foreplay I like if I am to be excited about the rest of the play. But, the play moved on.
There were jokes in there, but most of them were drab jokes. The entire board of characters was from the 90s stereotypes, so the jokes were not eagerly accepted. Shahjahan's durbaar is made of a Punjabi guy, a Haryanvi guy, a South Indian guy, and a stammering guy; all playing by the stereotype that decades have created. It has been done and dusted and put into a grave at the onset of 2010s. But, I still waited for a twist here or a really good joke there. The slo-mo peon (chapraasi) at Mr. Gupta's office and the Haryanvi contractor, Bhaiyyaji, trying to catch up with technology and annoyed at his wife's demands, were the only two truly enjoyable characters on offer. And barring a couple of sarcastic comments and situational humour, the plate of comedy on this one was pretty much empty.
It was a task, to be honest, to enjoy a joke. Why? Well, there were two settings in the play - Shahjahan's durbaar and Mr. Gupta's office. Within the two hours of the play, they transitioned between the two about 35-40 times (I wasn't exactly keeping count, but it was approximately that many times). That just made the play feel very very slow because there used to be a two minute scene in the durbaar, and they used to move to the office for the next scene, which was again only 2 or 3 minutes long. Such intercuts might work beautifully on screen, but on stage it was just pitiful to see those guys moving things every now and then. And that is a huge directional flaw. Had such erratic transitioning not been there, the play would have been at least ten times more interesting. With that transitioning they only lost the audience's attention very very quickly. There was the character of a tranny, like a naachya in tamasha, which used to hang around the Emperor and try to hit on the bodyguard and a couple of ministers in the durbaar. That character had no point apart from that. Had it been an intense play, that would have worked as comic relief. But, here it just seemed like a filler of sorts.
The performances were pretty decent. Aditya Dubey himself portrayed Bhaiyyaji and that was really well done. The chapraasi was well portrayed. And Shahjahan was performed really well. These were the three best performances in the play. Mr. Gupta and Sudheer were done well. The ministers did their part dutifully, but in most places, a good audience would ask for better. The regional dialects were a highlight, and were done really well. I have to give that to them.
All other flaws, owing to the venue, the limited budgets, and other minor things, I will not blame on the group. That was out of their control. All of that is an add-on and can be taken care 0f over time.
But, the core of a play - the script, characters, direction, and keeping the audience gripped did not happen for a large chunk of the play, and that is something which isn't acceptable.
In the end, I would like to mention that all people involved in the play have a lot of potential. So they should work on those instead of adapting such works which would fail their potential. The group is talented, and will eventually find their way to make the most of what they can do and even achieve supremacy at what they currently seems beyond their powers.