Review: Miss Meena by Perch

Posted on Jul 30th, 2010 by Shuchi in Reviews, English Et Al, Musicals, Perch

Miss Meena by Perch Is that a bucket, a movie camera or the head of a cow? A cup of coffee, a phone or flowers in a temple? Objects in Perch’s Miss Meena transmogrify, and how! If for nothing else, this play is a must-watch for the inventiveness of its props.

But there is a lot else to watch Miss Meena for. A superb set of actors who double as singers, instrumentalists (not to mention winged moths). The hallmark of great acting is to stand out even when you’re doing nothing. Witness "Ravi Anna" become a statue to see what I mean.

Miss Meena‘s script is loosely based on The Visit by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt. A major shift from the original is in making the play revolve around films. This gives a lot of scope for crowd-pleasing parodying of movie clichés. Early on is a sequence of auditions for a film to be shot in the village – Ravi Anna’s rendition of a film climax complete with gunfire is to die for.

The play falters a bit in the post-interval session. The skit on ‘Baap Ki Beti’, while comical on its own, isn’t very relevant to the rest of the play and gets repetitive. We’ve already seen that Ravi Anna cracks us up when taking bullets and collapsing; having him do it again is like retelling the punch line of a joke. Ditto for the scenes in which the actors cup water in their hands and throw it on each other. Very amusing the first time but the novelty wears off when done once too often.

The last stretch of the play would also have had greater impact, I think, had it been shorter.

Miss Meena is tagged as "A Play In English and a Smattering of Other Languages". Perhaps someone who knows all the languages in the play – English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada – will get more out of it than I did. I felt a bit left out when the language shifted entirely to Tamil – there is more than a mere smattering, really. The intent behind making Miss Meena multilingual puzzles me. In the case of a play like Dreams of Taleem, the rationale could be to make conversations realistic, that’s the way people speak in urban Mumbai. The same logic does not hold for Miss Meena. The natives of the village of Pichampuram are surely not speaking a mix of English, Hindi, Tamil and Kannada?

But let me not harp on minor nitpicks, they do not take away from the fun quotient of Miss Meena. Why just the audience, the cast seemed to be having a great time on stage too. It’s a pity that Ranga Shankara wasn’t half-full today, I hope the crowds flock in for the remaining shows. In fact I’m itching to watch it another time just to find out one thing -  in her first scene, how in heaven’s name did Miss Meena apparate onto stage?

[PS: If you know the names of the actors, do leave a comment about it.]

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Shuchi lives in Bangalore (mostly), when she isn't traveling out of town for work. She adores theatre and writes about plays she watches whenever she gets a chance.
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18 Comments to “Review: Miss Meena by Perch”

  1. Anish Victor-the guy who plays takes the bullet in the audition scene. He also plays the daugthter in the skit

    Sachin Gurjale. the MLA

    Iswar Srikumar-the hero, michael something/also DOP of the movie

    Sunita–the girl who does the nagina snake dance

    Malavika-the teacher, the actor last out of the stage as she sweeps

    Karuna-miss meena

    Anand swamy-ravi who turns into a statue

    Hiresh–the guy in short pants.. speaks a lot in kannada

    I think that’s the lot.. 🙂

    August 1st, 2010 2:39 pm

  2. First things first, since I got to sit on one of the top rows, I could see how Miss Meena apparated. She just walks in straight into the circle of people from behind. Of course, folks seated besides me also failed to notice how it was done so I guess it was quite some trickery. And the auditorium was pretty packed.

    Now onto the two striking aspects of performance: the props and the sounds. As you rightly said, the props do take on different avatars in the most creative manner. What is also interesting to note is that they hardly ever become what they actually are: a broom is never a broom, a bicycle pump is never a bicycle pump. The choice to not use any sort of an accompanying soundtrack but to solely rely on ventriloquism to cover everything from the chirp of a grasshopper to the chime of temple bell was astounding.

    Fortunately, I have a fairly good comprehension of all the languages that were “smattered” and I can vouch for the fact that dialogues in Tamil were quite amusing and would have been lost in translation had it be done any other way. The Hindi and Kannada interjections however felt out of place since wasn’t delivering any sort of a special punch to the scenes.

    Overall, it did justice to the tackiness of Indian cinema from the yesteryears that it was trying to mimic. I would have loved to write an entire review myself but as history suggests, I wouldn’t have done a timely job; so thanks for putting this out when the play was still running.

    August 1st, 2010 7:05 pm

  3. Hi Nimi – Thank you. A very talented set of actors!

    Hi Arvind – Thanks for your notes on the play. Their choice to not have set changes the traditional way but merge it seamlessly with the acts was also commendable. Agree about the props – well the broom is a broom in the final scene but that’s the exception to the rule.

    Maybe separate versions in single languages would have worked better, as done for plays like Five Grains of Sugar or Bikhre Bimb. Loss in translation is bound to happen but at least it gives a chance to new audiences, and lets the audience that knows the primary language to enjoy the play undiluted.

    August 2nd, 2010 8:39 am

  4. Hi Suchi, watched the play on Saturday evening and simply loved it. The theatre seemed packed and in splits. There was so much to learn about the craft from the play. Most of it is already mentioned here like the props and the sounds but also the overall concept of performing in a box and having all the props lying around. The creation of Ganesha was amazing and we were laughing our heads off in the “Sir, ‘kerchief” scene. Even the songs were good, still humming the “Oye Raja, Oye Rani” tune.

    I do agree that the Tamil bits were lost to me & I had to pester my tamilian friend to translate from time to time but it was worth an experience.

    If you have watched Evam’s Idiot from Dinner earlier, then you might remember the Tax Inspector “Hari”. He was Iswar who plays Madan/Michael in this one. Also, Sachin Gurjale was one of the character in “Park”

    August 3rd, 2010 3:02 pm

  5. …Evam’s Idiot from Dinner earlier, then you might remember the Tax Inspector “Hari”. He was Iswar who plays Madan/Michael…

    So that’s why he looked so familiar! I was straining hard to remember. Thanks, Piyush!

    August 3rd, 2010 7:34 pm

  6. Audio-visual was a treat in this play. Malavika has an amazing voice the closing song even though i dint understand the lyrics was very melodious.

    August 20th, 2010 2:37 pm

  7. Hi,

    Sorry i would like to re-correct one of the actor name who’s there in this play Ms. Meena.

    Sorry Nimi.

    Viresh – the guy in short pants.. speaks a lot in kannada..

    September 24th, 2010 11:39 pm

  8. 4th Girl in the play, character of the “Mallu”/ Asst Director was done by Anushka Meenakshi is it ?

    October 2nd, 2010 11:40 pm

  9. Saw it today, it was sold out. Loved it !

    Eashwar was Michael / Madan (spoke to him & Girish Karnad after the show).

    LA

    October 2nd, 2010 11:50 pm

  10. @ Shuchi : Yup 🙂 dunno how i missed her name 🙁

    @ Lokesh : Thanks a bunch 🙂 Please tell your friends to come.. We got 2 more shows @ 3.30pm & 7.30pm on 3rd Oct

    October 3rd, 2010 12:09 am

  11. One of the Best drama I saw recently, which force me to see two shows.

    Congrats..

    October 4th, 2010 9:43 pm

  12. Good to know you liked it. I saw two shows as well.

    I heard that a different actor played Ravi’s role in this weekend’s show? If so, those who watched the recent run missed a top-class performance.

    October 4th, 2010 10:17 pm

  13. Hey Shuchi if you are talking about the one which happened in Rangashakara on the 2nd October,2010 @ 7.30 pm then it is Anand swamy only (as mentioned above). Hope there was not any change in the actor in the shows before and after that. Is that’s so ?

    October 5th, 2010 3:31 pm

  14. Hi Sudhan, I’ll check with my friend who told me about it – in her show, Ravi was another actor. It must’ve been the Saturday show.

    Update: The production team informs me – Ravi was played by Anish Victor on Saturday afternoon. The Saturday evening show was by Anand Samy.

    October 6th, 2010 8:25 am

  15. I watched the play.I must confess that it left me confused. When I left the theater, I did not know what the artists were trying to convey. The potpourri of languages added to a weak theme and poor background. I could not make out a village scene from a scene in a movie studio. All in all a hotch potch show for the audience, even though the actors were very enthusiastic about the whole affair.

    June 4th, 2011 11:22 am

  16. The show is back at RS from 9th Feb to 12th Feb. Book your tickets at:
    http://www.indianstage.in/EventDetails.do?eventId=2502

    February 3rd, 2012 11:55 am

  17. Hi Shuchi,

    I watched the play at Rangashankara this month. Here’s mmy short review of it:

    http://nambitious.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/a-glowing-tribute-to-the-play-ms-meena/

    February 13th, 2012 12:27 pm

  18. Saw the play last Saturday. Enjoyed every bit of it! Right from the opening scene where Ravi Anna stands still as a statue to the song in the final scene, everything was brilliant. I particularly liked the multilingual songs and usage of props. I also felt the TV Show act was a bit out of context. In fact, when Ravi Anna tries to talk to the TV Host in private, I thought the story will head to a completely different ending.

    I bought the CD as well. Apart from the songs and music, it also has the skit part. Whenever I listen, the scenes play out in my mind. 🙂

    February 18th, 2012 1:14 pm

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