'Drama Queen': A play presenting funny drama and ironies of life

Picking at various people in her life, from Karan Johar, Ram Gopal Varma to Nagesh Kukunoor, the play 'Drama Queen' by Suchitra Krishnamoorthi tickles funny bone while touching a raw nerve

'Drama Queen': A play presenting funny drama and ironies of life
user

Rana Siddiqui Zaman

When it comes to film, television and theatre actors working in another medium than they are known for, invariably a myth starts doing the rounds that film actors cannot handle stage because their talent is limited to a brief light, camera, action and cut scenes; and a theatre actor goes theatrical when it comes to acting in films and television actors are misfits on stage anyway.

But I have seen film actors who’ve never done plays, performing excellently on stage, theatre and television actors being awarded for their work in films; all these depending upon the role, the director and one’s own energies.

Zeenat Aman, Sonali Kulkarni and Minissha Lamba, in Saif Rafiul Hasan’s earlier years and now Suchitra Krshnamoorthi in Drama Queen, staged at Epicentre in Gurugram and New Delhi’s Kamani Auditorium this past weekend are testimony to the fact.

As widely known, Drama Queen is a best seller book on Suchitra Krishmaoorthi’s own life. It’s a hilarious take on the complexities, a young actor, an estranged wife of a known film director, a single mother, a daughter of well-known family of music devotees and performers, and a woman beyond all this goes through in search of love and warmth.

The play of the same title extracts interesting episodes from the book and shapes into an riveting solo act of 65 minutes. Notably, it’s a largely a one-woman army on stage and off it, in which the protagonist is antagonist too, paintings she has created, lyrics she has penned, music she scored, and songs she has sung, live! However, the voiceover of her sister (actor Sujata Kumar) as her mother and other known actors constitute her companions.

The layered play

It is a single mother’s struggles to take care of everything at home all by herself – her daughter, her school work, her music classes, trips to her father’s, cooking, handling domestic helps, plumber, washerwomen, cleaners and dog care. Added to it is a constant love-cajole relationship with her mother while aspiring to pursue her passion for music and painting, hankering for love and physical intimacy from a committed relationship, a wish to settle down and be a mother again, et al.

All this is conveyed through side-splitting dialogues, layered in their own anguish, jolts, ambitions, aspirations and issues single woman and/or a mother faces in a society. It hints at diseases and internal complexities they may develop while appearing to be strong outside while their insides never heal. It clues at the lack of committed people and hypocrites who treat a single woman/mother as an option than a choice, it raises issues of speaking of physical intimacy as a taboo at home and one’s own dilemma of appearing like a pure soul and never talk of physical bliss to a man, for fear of being misunderstood as available or a “psyco-chic”.

While adhering to a daily ‘to do list” in her “dear diary”, Suchitra as Suchitra makes you roll in laughter, feel the character’s pain, enjoy the peppy numbers which have euphonic tunes and appreciate her unforced skill at delivering long dialogues, never missing a beat, nor faltering on tougher medical terminologies either. The drama almost progresses into a conversation with her audience, who are doing most of the listening and breaking into grins, as a response, invariably.


Performances

Much of Suchitra’s effortlessness goes to the fact that she “didn’t have to mug up” her lines as she herself has written them as much as the screen/ voice coordination with Sujata and other actors. Sujata’s exceptional performance is heard in advising Suchitra scolding, baffling, warning, alerting, taking Suchitra’s opinions and ambitions to different tangents, advising her to remarry only a rich south Indian Venketash and not that goat-look alike musalmaan Iqbal, or her estranged husband Shekhar Kapoor. She insists her daughter Kaveri loves only rasam rice and no junk food, and so on.

The ever blaring mom also stands by her as the counsellor lists ‘psychological’ diseases and phobias Suchitra has and she must overcome them by counselling sessions. Mom scoffs at the counsellor calling her a psyco who wants to scare her baby and mint money. Mom tells Suchitra that she is proud of her, just as Suchitra, fed up of the fake world, is almost ready to give up.

Fun bits from filmi world

The author has included the episodes from her real life in the play like jokingly asking Karan Johar, Ram Gopal Varma and Nagesh Kukonoor to marry her. Even asking a politician in her building if he could introduce her to Rahul Gandhi as he is still single!

The play in English employs fast changing scenes and racy dialogues to keep the viewers engaged. Just sample these quick murmurings, “Look mom, I have heard you snoring too. Sometimes so hard that the blanket over you starts levitating”, or ‘Oh please mom, Sally is not a drug I am taking. She is a singer for God Sake!’, “Business people, all money, very cunning”, “Aiyyo amma, (God) give her budhdhi (brain). If you have no brain, think for your family”, Or, “Oh nana, get up, he sleeps and snores like a buffalo.” in a typical south Indian accent. “Cardboard mannequin like Ramu (Ram Gopal Varma), he is not a good hugger…” and so on.

Voiceover performers

Sujata’s voice modulation at every expression reflects her being an accomplished actor and a voice artiste that she was. (Sujata lost her life a year plus ago). Arif Zakaia as a seducing and sensuous voice of Pankaj, Suresh Menon as Ram Gopal Varma, Ketan Desai as Karan Johar while Nagesh and Ken Ghosh’s voice over are their own - regale the audiences due to a familiarity to these film personalities.

“I had sought permissions from them before I used them in the book and the play and they were all sports that’s why the Drama Queen features them” is what the lead lady of her iconic film Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, against Shah Rukh Khan puts it.

Of the director

Drama Queen is young director Randhir Roy’s third play after Golu and Company (2014), Manto’s Aik Haan (2019). Roy had worked with her earlier witnessing her speaking “Hindi, Urdu and English effortlessly on stage so Drama Queen was a natural progression” as he responds.

“To make it commercially successful, I wanted it to be comical, and not send the audience back home with a heavy heart when they are paying a good amount to show up. We wanted the focus on her and hence kept minimalist set design to distract the audiences’ attention.” Already four shows old, Roy reveals that this time the play had the fresh additions of graphics/illustrations/ caricatures on screen with voiceover which wasn’t the case in previous shows.

I give full credit for an extra doses of entertainment to an outstanding illustrations and graphics made by Gopi Kukde. There is less that hinders Drama Queen from becoming more popular as it exposes hypocrisies in witty undertones. It also stealthily moists your eyes towards the end for all the warmth wrapped in admonishment and reprimands, just like rough life lessons we learn enroute our own internal growth.

I asked Suchitra if she has plans to do the play in Hindi so it could reach non- English speaking audiences too.

“No, because it has my beloved, deceased sister’s voiceover which we will have to dubb by some other artiste. And it’s not emotionally acceptable to me.”

Fair enough.

Drama Queen, now all set to take more rounds in different parts of India and globe, is worth a watch.

Click here to join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines