Salaam India, inspired by Pavan Varma’s book, Being Indian is led by a cast of four actors: Shena Gamat; Ashish Paliwal; Andrew Hoffland and Lushin Dubey, who also directs — features four interwoven stories set in Delhi that explore what it is to be an ‘Indian’ in a diverse country of over a billion people.
The actors played in an ensemble manner and the script by Nicholas Kharkongor uses humour and polemic to create sixteen characters, who run the whole gamut of Indians ranging from poor labourers to middle class urbanites, to politicians — all supporting a range of ‘Indian accents’ from a Gujarati businessman, South Indian politician, Bengali bureaucrat — that were greeted with much laughter and clapping from the audience who recognized such characters.
The first of the stories deals with friendship and support among the lower class labourers, and this section was performed in Hindi as a way of retaining authenticity of the ‘voice’ of the character. The second story is about a Gujarati businessman married to a exercise crazy Belarusian woman and about to have his building demolished despite appeals to the corrupt politicians; while the third one is about the ensuing wedding of an older-middle class girl whose family is beset with requests for ‘gifts’ from the groom’s family; and the final one debates what is the Indian national dish – is it Tandoori chicken or Idli -sambhar? The stories are bookend by dances.
The performance was followed by an after-show reception for the cast and guests at the Guru Tandoori restaurant at the Watermans, where guests included eminent members of the Asian and Indian media, and other local personalities such as Shay and Shani Grewal from BBC London, and their parents, The Grewals (Channel 4 The Family fame) – all who are part of Watermans language theatre community along with Mr. Rifat Shammin and Kiran Purohit, two stalwarts of the Urdu and Gujarati theatre respectively. Other guests included singer and performer Devdutt Joshi, music promoter, Jay Visva Deva and Ashis Ray from The Times of India. Theatre designer, Sophia Lovell Smith and director, Rosamunde Hutt, were also among the guests
REVIEW – REVIEW – REVIEW – REVIEW – REVIEW
Having recently returned from Chennai, I was extremely curious to see if ‘Salaam India’ would live up to and meet my new found opinions about India; it surpassed them.
Chennai was a welcome overload on all my senses, as was the articulate acting and seamlessly effortless character changes by an ensemble of four very talented artists. Directed by and starring Lushin Dubey (Asia’s answer to Joanna Lumley), Salaam India tells four stories, all set in Delhi, that eventually begin to entwine in to each other in a clever subtle way. A brilliant play inspired by Pavan Varma’s bestseller ‘Being Indian’.
Set in a post-colonial India some 65 years on, one is taken on a journey of ‘everything Indian’ in a mere 90 minutes. Following a powerful opening dance sequence, showcasing the many genres of Indian dance, and rather long if somewhat unnecessary voice over ‘introduction’ to the play in the dark , one is transported through the well thought out scenarios and the joys, trials and tribulations of 16 different characters.
Prepare for laughs as arguments over India’s national dish ensue and an exhausted mother tries to get her son to make something of himself (he’s much more interested in porn & fags). The more sensitive issues are also tackled in a respectful dignified way with a focus on corruption, bribery equality and the dowry system. India’s advances in the IT field and industry are also celebrated as is the fact Hinduism has remained the main religion in a country that has had its fair share of troubles.
I love that the play goes ‘full circle’ with the opening and closing scenes, dialogue and music repeated; to me this was symbolic of the ‘circle of life’ and the Hindu belief in reincarnation. Never before have I seen four more talented people together on one stage.
On describing India, one line read “We shift, we change, we adapt”. What more is there to say?
An absolute masterpiece.
BY PRITY VACANT (Horse & Hound Reporter)