The bell rings once, an old-fashioned steel-finished bell. The crowd lines up, not so quietly, to be ushered in to the hall. It is a small theater. The seating is uncomfortable albeit cushioned. The middle seats are long taken, by seasoned theater-goers. A stifled silence settles over the crowd, a crowd that is used to banter and chatter, cheering and clapping. Curious looks are exchanged all round, for what else can one do when talking would be looked down upon. The faces look funny, shaded by the dim lights, eyes rolling around, heads bobbing up and down. More people walk in, while the second and third gongs are sounded. The lights go out slowly. Like a classic faux pas, a mobile phone goes off somewhere. Some laughter followed by “shh”s.
It is time for the show to begin.
I am not a habitual theater-goer. And it is not because I don’t like it. It is only because, as many I have told this to, know, “Whenever I am in Delhi, Bombay hosts the English plays and whenever am in Bombay, quite ironically, those plays have gone to Delhi.” In fact, I love the theater. There can be very few things more real than someone performing flesh and blood on stage, with bare minimum props, only witty dialogues to go by.
I remember the first time I had to go up on stage to deliver a speech. The night before, I just could not sleep at all. And till the time the crowd started applauding towards the end of the speech, my legs were involuntarily shaking, if only in my mind. Even today, when there is an important presentation up for delivery, I am a little unsettled the evening before.
That is precisely why I love plays. How very difficult can it be to play up to the gallery, wondering all through whether it is going well or not, whether the crowd likes the show or not, while at the same time trying not to forget any of the dialogues. Effort comes through so apparently beautifully that, be it a good show or bad show, I only remember it as a great effort.
There is another reason I love plays. It is interesting to see how the crowd dresses up, as if for a themed party. The Fab India kurtis and the flowing skirts, the kajal and the silver bangles, the Indian-ish footwear, the whiff of old-worldish perfumes, the South-Delhi disdain, the South-Bombay ‘haught’ – aah what fun!
I no longer shuttle towns every Friday evening. And yeah, V indulges my liking for plays. That should help me watch the show more - both on stage and off stage ;)