Grim, but not so grim

Ambika Shaligram
Friday, 12 October 2018

Virajas Kulkarni and Suraj Parasnis talk about their latest Marathi production, Mickey which is dark, edgy and funny

Theatron’s newest production Mickey, a Marathi two-act play has many firsts to its credit. It’s the first co-production between Theatron Entertainment and Theatre Academy. The play was rehearsed and also premiered at a new theatre space — Sakal Lalit Kalaghar — developed by Prasad Purandare for Theatre Academy. Mickey also has all its three main actors on stage.

The cast describes the play as black comedy infused with Shakespearean tragedy. The premise sounds familiar, we say, because many young theatre groups turn to the Bard’s text. In this case, however, Virajas Kulkarni, who has written the drama and co-directed it with Suraj Parasnis, says, “The story organically had elements of William Shakespeare’s tragedies.”

Written five years ago, the story is developed on an old association Kulkarni and his family had with a barber’s shop. “My father, grandfather and I had been going to the same hair salon for several years. The owners knew our family members very well. One day they folded up their business, without any notice, and that left an impression on me. I would often wonder about the owners, if they had got new job or what they were doing in this wide world. So I wrote this story about a barber (Keshav — played by Shivraj Waichal), his father (Sakhram — played by Kulkarni)) and his friend (Antony  — played by Parasnis). They get into a debt and a dead body adds to the mystery. While writing, I realised that there were some identifiable traits of my three characters with Shakespeare’s tragedies. This all happened organically. I didn’t strive for this effect,” emphasises Kulkarni.

“There are certain commonalities in Shakespeare’s characters. For instance, they are always carrying guilt, either of their making or of someone else’s, like Hamlet does. Keshav doesn’t care much for his father while he is alive, but when he dies, he turns vengeful. Shakespeare’s Romeo is so passionate, but he doesn’t know how to live and survive in this world and so on,” he adds. 

The story offered them possibility to fuse mystery, dark elements with some thrills and humour. “We are doing something like this for the first time. It’s a big experiment for us,” says Parasnis. Kulkarni adds, “When you have a taut suspense, elements of humour provide relief to the audience. We have tried to ensure that the flow is smooth and nothing is forced.”

Besides venturing into a dark space, which Parasnis said took him some time getting used to, he also found it challenging to set up a salon as their stage. “The play unfolds in a hair salon, so we had to visualise Mickey quite differently. We have four original compositions too. So far we have done one horror comedy, one silent comedy and Mickey is now a thriller comedy. With Mickey, I was a lot more nervous. And, at home, when I would talk to my parents, I would just say, ‘This is a new genre and new space. Don’t scold us too much if we go a little off track’. I always had fruitful discussion about the plot, cast etc with my parents. I would explain what we were doing. With Mickey, I was hoping to surprise myself and them,” said Parasnis. 

The response after their first show was heartening. “People laughed till tears rolled down their eyes. We were on track. Of course, we did get a few tips on how to make the play better, but no harsh criticism,” he adds. 

When asked who calls the shots, with two directors steering the play, Kulkarni says, “Since our first play, we always had two directors. It works for us. We have common ground, but different strengths. I lean towards literary stuff, Suraj is practical. It also helps that we are also the actors. We know what can go wrong, while executing our vision. Also, we don’t believe that the actor does exactly what the director tells him to do. We give freedom to each other.” 

Having said that, when asked ‘who is the Mickey here?’, Parasnis cheekily replies, “That’s the tagline for our promotion — Konere Mickey.”

Catch Theatron Entertainment’s Marathi play, Mickey, tonight at 9.30 pm at  Lokshahir Annabhau Sathe Auditorium, Bibvewadi

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