In India, funeral rituals are solemn affairs, and anyone who dares laugh would probably be socially boycotted. In the UK, of course nothing is sacred as far as humour goes, so British actor and comedian Kavi Shastri’s Good Mourning, produced by Ashvin Gidwani and directed by Deven Khote could well be set in London (going by the view from the window on stage), or even an upper class apartment in Mumbai, where friends of the deceased would gather to mourn after the funeral, `and proceed to get drunk.
Laila (Anu Menon) has just lost her husband Rahul, who fell from the first floor window of their apartment and died. The words accident, suicide, murder swirl around in whispers in the well-appointed living room with its abundantly stocked bar.
Rahul’s business partner Ashvin (Danny Sura), friends Yogi (Zafar Karachiwala) and his wife Sangeeta (Rytasha Rathore) arrive, an overwrought best pal Rupert (Aseem Hattangady) trails in a bewildered uncle (Sohrab Ardeshir), and his belligerent younger brother Sachin (Omkar Kulkarni) itches to pick a fight with Laila.
It’s a standard drama template in which a disparate bunch of people gather in a room, and their secrets, resentments, lies, pretenses, jealousy, pettiness, all spill out as copious amounts of booze are consumed over one long evening.
To tone down the bickering, the uncle, who turns out to be a clinical psychologist, suggests they all play different parts and recreate the scene to alleviate the tension in the room. This is when the true faces of the friends are exposed; while pretending to be someone else – Sachin gets to play a lamp that was kicked and shattered when Rahul fell –they can say what they feel.
The game gets increasingly hilarious—even though it goes for a little too long—before the evening winds down and what really happened is revealed. In this kind of comedy-suspense, the coordination between the actors, their ability to play comic scenes without trying to overshadow the others or playing to the gallery is tested, and Deven Khote has managed to balance things in way that everybody gets their moment– Zafar Karachiwala’s alcoholic and sarcastic Yogi is funny without trying too hard, and Rytasha Rathore’s Sangeeta nails the typical envious frenemy.
The hypocrisy behind seemingly happy marriages is the wound from which the bandage is ripped off, with the ouch turning into laughter of recognition and understanding. Good Mourning is an enjoyable play about a grim subject, which Shastri, Khote and the actors have pulled off with the right amount of insouciance, and without making the audience feel uncomfortable at any point.