Written by the award winning contemporary playwright, screenwriter, director and actor, Girish Karnad, Boiled Beans on Toast is a sharp and witty observation of Indians living in a modern world. Set in Bangalore, the story follows the intertwining lives of six people and is an insightful slice-of-life portrayal of different classes of Indians co-existing under one roof.
Performed in English, the characters include a grand-mother who discovers a passion for horse racing; a not very bright maid who learns to answer back; a bored-housewife who fulfils herself by undertaking charity work – all life is there in this searing saga of a modern metropolis.
Boiled Beans on Toast is a brilliant contemporary Chekovian comic drama, examining aspects of a changing India. It premiered on Sunday 20th April 2014 at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai and then toured India receiving rave reviews.
The title, is actual the name of the city, Bangalore which is the Anglised version of the Kannada – ‘Bengaluru’ – and is reputed to originate from an apocryphal story of a 12th century Hoysala King, Vira Ballala, who during a hunting expedition lost his way. After wandering, he reached the hut of an old woman, who offered the hungry King some cooked boiled beans and a glass of water. In recognition of the hospitality, he named the place Benda Kaal Ooru (Town of Boiled Beans), which then became ‘Bengaluru’.
Primetime Theatre Company was set up in 1991 by Lillete Dubey, an acclaimed actress of theatre, film and television. In the UK, audiences will know her as ‘Mrs Kapoor’ in the forthcoming The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where she plays, “Sonny” (Dev Patel’s) mother. However she has appeared in over forty Bollywood and international films including; Monsoon Wedding; Zubaida, Baghbhan and the original The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to name a few. She will also be in the forthcoming Channel 4 Raj serial, Indian Summers.
As Artistic Director of Primetime Theatre Company, she has directed over 28 productions and several of them have been presented at Watermans, London.
Lillete Dubey says of Boiled Beans on Toast:
‘Girish Karnad’s plays of the last decade are brilliantly sharp, tongue in cheek observations of a contemporary India, infused with an empathetic understanding of the foibles of human nature.
Boiled beans on Toast is a deceptively simple play, that in a non linear narrative, lays bare the aspirations and hopes of a large mass of Indians today, but also subtly explores several modern themes such as urban migration, environmental concerns, consumerism etc, all laced with a great deal of warmth and humour.
As a director, I find it challenging to bring out the subtle nuances of his work, and feel excited and privileged to premiere a play that will remain a mirror of our times for years to come.’
The cast features the best talent from Indian stage and screen — Joy Sengupta, Meenal Patel, Deepika Amin, Avantika Akerkar, Maneesh Verma, Swati Das, Avnish Mehra & Gillian Pinto.
The show premiered in India to critical acclaim.
‘A delightful combination of humour and insight…a very contemporary play that is both powerful and poignant..echoes the pangs and emotions, aspirations and hopes, of all those who are trying to survive in a cosmopolitan metropolis!’ – Times of India
“Staged to perfection…and brilliantly directed…a spectacular theatrical spectacle” – Hindustan Times
‘Sharply observed…piquant & funny…full of wonderful characters’ – Mid-day
‘Brilliantly directed & beautifully fashioned in a style of Ibsen & Shaw” The Hindu, Chennai
Duration: 120 minutes including a 15 minute interval. Age Recommendation 12+
Primetime Theatre Company
Boiled Beans on Toast
Written by Girish Karnad
Directed by Lillete Dubey
Tuesday 10 – Sun 15 March 7.45pm
(Press Night Tuesday 10 March 7.45pm)
Matinee Sat 14 March 3pm
Tickets: £15 (£12.50)
Box Office: 020 8232 1010
Boiled Beans on Toast, a play written by Girish Karnad and directed by Lillete Dubey, comes to the Waterman’s Theatre, London.
The play is titled Boiled Beans on Toast as a reference to a story related to the founding of Bengaluru. The story mentions that an 11th century king was saved by an old woman who offered him boiled beans. The king then decided to name the spot ‘Bendakalooru’ or the place of boiled beans to represent the hospitality.
7 actors who played 19 characters portraying everyday lives of different people from different walks of life and how the environmental changes effected everyone. The Yester years were slipping away right in front of them, whilst some coped other’s some couldn’t.
A slow start to the play, that never really picked up the momentum. The second act was much better. The sub-plots did not gel with the most obvious plots, for instance the drunken father…never heard of him again…whatever happened to him?
I must commend the actors for their performance – brilliant and skilful. But I found it difficult to capture the essence of the dialogue, parts of it was nonsensical and did nothing to raise my emotions. Yes, it was humorous but very mild. The plays denouement was unsatisfying and ambiguous.
I had high expectations that were not met on the night but I would raise a toast to Lillette Dubey and cast for their efforts.
Ms Safirah Irani
‘Boiled Beans on Toast’ anyone? Not for me thanks.
The living room of the Padabidri household in globalised Bangalore, was the main setting for Playwright Girish Karnad’s ‘Boiled Beans on Toast’.
The story follows the trials and tribulations of characters living within/visiting the same household attempting to coexist, across different generations, with varying degrees of social hierarchy within the Indian Society. The nineteen characters, each grappling with the rise and regeneration of Bangalore (Bengaluru) in their own way, are played by seven actors (well done Maneesh Verma for his six different roles).
Whilst Karnad has attempted to intertwine the stories of the character’s lives, I felt the play lacked any real coherence; smoother transitions and deeper, more challenging storylines, were needed in my opinion, to create a feeling of ‘overlap’ and a sense of real connection between the lives on show. The talented Joy Sengupta’s realistic portrayal of Prabhakar saved the show, making the 105 very long minutes of extremely lengthy dialogues and very little action, easier to bear. Story lines were left open ended and in short, the play failed to stir any empathy or emotion in me.
The stage set was simple, yet effective and served well as the backdrop for the various settings including homes of both the wealthy and poor, a corporate office lobby and a coffee shop.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the evening for me, was learning about the history behind the play’s name, which dates back to the story of a King from the 11th Century, who was saved by an old woman who offered him boiled beans. The king then decided to name the spot ‘Benda kalooru’ or the place of boiled beans, to represent the hospitality accorded to a traveller. Over the course of time, the name was changed to Bengalooru or Bangalore.
I wonder if the real problem here is that the depth and meaning of the dialogue and stories, have been lost in translation following the loss of colloquialisms; performed in Kannada, you may well have a totally different and enjoyable experience.