Mumbai Mirror, Saturday, June 23, 2007
“Losing The Plot”
Medha and Zoombish 2 has no traditional plot, narrative, structure, or characters. It breaks all moulds to set the tone for the play
You can tell a Ramanathan play from far away- it has an unmistakable, complex and familiar smell. He’s been tossing his favourite ingredients again- a twist of language, generous dry cheeky humour and a smattering of his favourite issues stirred incorrigibly into a very hot pot that does turn out right this time. Far from the self-conscious mission of his ode to Kabir, this defiant sequel to the popular Medha and Zoombish saga sees the playwright and director back in top form.
This is not a sequel in the traditional sense for those who were hoping to see Medha and Zoombish grow up, fall in love, fight the world and take year leaps. But then there is nothing traditional about it. It has no traditional narrative, structure, plot, characters, look or feel making it hard to fit it into a genre or style. Frivolous it never is, but nor does it burden itself with any sort of self-importance or “social and moral” responsibility providing a refreshing alternative to plays that celebrate the ‘free spirit of children’ within a tight burdened framework of political correctness without a sense of irony. The thoroughness with which it breaks all moulds sets the perfect tone for its contents.
For those who just came in, Medha is your typical gen-next privledged urban gal and Zoombish, a proverbial “outsider”. While the first installment saw them exploring themselves vis-à-vis each other, the follow up finds them in a multi caste and multi-class school where they struggle to understand and adapt to shifting realities of the modern world haunted by the ghosts of history and balance their callings with the yoke of an archaic system of education, ‘values’ and parental expectations.
Ramanathan casts a large group of ‘actors’ from life and in true ‘nouveau realistic’ style allows them to play themselves. ‘Act’ they may not, but they do dispel all notions of amateurishness with an exemplarily rehearsed, confident and synchronized performance.
He keeps a tight rein on elucidation; resent all you can, but he will not clarify his point, let alone his stand on anything he brings up. There is not even a mirage of soluble resolution right up to the very end. Even the climax, reminiscent of Tendulkar’s self-referential plays, invites the audience to pick an ending to suit their individual sensibilities from a multiple choice of outcomes.
But if you are not easily distracted by the unfamiliar there is plenty of stuff here to indulge in- energy, rebellion, anger, irreverence, poignancy, confessions, angst and a song and dance to go with everything. The use of space is markedly deft and aesthetic but the light design in keeping with regrettable trends is duly ignored after it fulfils its basic functions.
Ramanathan does not talk down to his children audience. He does not patronize them nor purports to ‘show them the way’. He simply invites them to have fun and celebrate their world as they make sense out of it. Adults are free to join in with them or enquire into their own belief system. But even for those who choose to switch of their brains and simply sing along, this play is a soothing antidote to the rampant stupidity it pointedly denounces.