It is rare for an enactment of a novel to match up to the source. Nuances of writing – passages about atmosphere, insights into characters’ motivations, the artful arrangement of words – do not translate well to the visual medium.
Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone, in that sense, is a delight for the play/film-maker – a story of mass appeal told in simple, flourish-free language.
Evam does a very decent job of the stage adaptation. This doesn’t happen often but I enjoyed the play more than the book.
With a 2+ hour run time (long for a play, yet I didn’t feel it) Five Point Someone follows the plot of Chetan Bhagat’s novel faithfully, adding some distinct Evamish touches along the way.
Five Point Someone is about (as everyone must know by now) three friends Hari, Ryan and Alok underachievers or five-point-someones at IIT Delhi. The novel traces their lives through four years of IIT, with mostly Hari telling the tale in the first person. The play handles this device with two separate people as Haris – one doing the acting, the other outside as the narrator.
One of the most interesting aspects of the play is its use of lights to create location and shift audience attention. Narrator Hari appears under a spotlight whenever his turn comes while the actors on stage freeze, then fades into darkness as the action resumes on stage. Red-and-blue rotating lights stand for the ambulance. An inventively designed bulb inside a bottle is part of their hostel room. The dark night on the terrace is lit up by a simulation of moonlight.
Special mention for the vertical bed, which brought on giggles and applause from the audience. Set changes must have been tough to manage within the few seconds that the main stage was dark and Narrator Hari was active. There was one awkward moment when the lights came on before the stage was ready; other than that it was done pretty adeptly.
I also liked the way the cast managed to face the audience at all times, especially in the unconventionally staged classroom scenes.
It’s intriguing how actors who excel in one type of role are misfits in another. Ryan was fine as long as he played the self-assured hero, but did not pull off the guilt-ridden soliloquy that well. Prof Cherian was about okay as the strict disciplinarian, but in the difficult scene in which he reads Sameer’s letter and breaks down, he was very very good. Narrator Hari was just right for the role too, he has a voice to die for! But as always, taken collectively Evam’s acting left me underwhelmed. For a professional theatre group, there is too much rawness.
(Turns out that Evam has two casts for Five Point Someone. I saw the one on 28th Jan 2010. The Hari I didn’t get to see is getting lots of complimentary messages on Twitter, making me wish I had gone for his show!)
The play ended with a neat way of introducing the cast. For me, it is little gestures like these that makes Evam so much fun.