Act Of God:
As Paresh Rawal taked over as Chairperson of the National School of Drama, a look at one of his most popular plays:
Paresh Rawal had started his acting career on stage in the 1980s, and then stepped away to have a successful career in films, and later, a brief stint with politics. But every time he returns to the stage after long gaps, he brings his star quality to theatre. Tickets for his plays sell out in no time, and people who are not regular theatregoers, turn up to watch his plays. Scalpers, allegedly make a quick buck– unheard of in theatre!
Two of his plays were huge hits–Dear Father and Kishan vs Kanhaiya, which continues to pack houses even after its film version, Oh My God, came out in 2012 (with due credit given to the original source, a lesser known Australian film called The Man Who Sued God).
The play, directed by Umesh Shukla, has had a very successful run in Gujarati (as Kanjee Viruddh Kanjee), with Sachin Khedekar and then Tiku Talsania starring, but audiences still flocked to see it with Rawal starring in its Hindi “reloaded” adaptation.
He plays Kishan, an atheist, who has a shop in Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar, where he sells religious idols with supposedly miraculous powers to gullible customers. His wife (Nishi Doshi, other actresses have played the part in earlier productions) is very religious, which leads to some lighthearted banter between the them. When an earthquake destroys his shop, he finds that the insurance company won’t pay up his claim because an “Act of God” is not covered by his policy.
Furious and on the verge of ruin, he decides to sue God. No lawyer is willing to take the case, so he represents himself in court, demanding that God or any of his representatives on earth, make good his losses caused by an act of God. And if God didn’t do it, then the insurance company should pay up.
The arguments he comes up with are witty and thought-provoking. There is the expected backlash from religious fanatics, but also a surge of support from people who faced a similar problem. Then, Lord Krishna (Jimit Trivedi–again played by other actors before) himself makes an appearance, to debate spiritual matters with the atheist.
Bhavesh Mandaliya’s play is one of the best written works in recent years, and gives a good actor like Paresh Rawal rich material with which to enthrall audiences. After more than 500 shows in India and abroad, Rawal continued to perform it whenever he had the time, and always packed houses in advance.