Dead Man Laughing:
The Gujarati production Aane Bhi Do Yaaro is the funniest play seen in recent times, and that’s saying a lot because there are so many comedies produced in Gujarati, but many of them are old-fashioned and some of them alarmingly sexist.
This high-energy play, directed by Dhiraj Palshetkar, co-written by Gaurav Naik and Raj Patil, is hilarious, and, in spite of the lead characters trying to pull off multiple cons, it has a cheerful innocence that reminds one of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Golmaal.
Jimit Trivedi, returning to theatre after eight years, plays Aditya, who has just lost his job, and finds that his father Keshav (Harikrishna Dave) owes a large sum of money to a loan shark, whose enforcer, Vasoolibhai (Vistap Gotla) threatens to cut out their kidneys if the fifteen lakh is not repaid soon.
A thief who has stolen the father’s jacket dies in a bridge collapse, and mistaken identity leads to a compensation of five lakh from the state. Then there’s the insurance money that can be obtained provided the claims officer can be convinced that Keshav is dead. But his wife (Vaishali Parmar) and Aditya’s girlfriend cannot get wind of this deception. This requires father and son to weave outrageous stories, and try to get their hands on the much-needed money, while keeping Keshav alive for one set of people and dead for another—so Keshav’s regular photo and a garlanded one have to be exchanged with split-second timing, depending on who is in the room. Which gets hysterical when the insurance man is to come by on the same day as the girlfriend decides to bring her father to meet her future husband’s parents.
Add to the pile up of crises a friend who wants to condole with the family but is told to pretend for the sake of Keshav’s clueless wife that he is alive; Vasooli moving into the house because his boss kicks him out for failing to get the loan money and bullied into acting as a servant, and Keshav’s London-based brother landing up offering a fortune, but actually hiding secrets of his own.
In a film, this kind of convoluted plot is easy to pull off, because of the facility of retakes while shooting and editing later, but on stage, the director has to ensure that the actors are nimble on their feet at all times, keep their comic timing sharp and have the ability to ad-lib if there is an error, forgotten line or missed cue.
Jimit Trivedi, ably supported by Harikrishna Dave and Vistap Gotla (who also plays an old Parsi lawyer befuddled by the goings-on), make sure that even when the plot goes a bit haywire, the pace never slackens and the laughs do not stop. Far-fetched though the story may be, Aane Bhi Do Yaaro is, thankfully, not the kind of comedy which demands that audiences leave their brains at the door.