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 this play 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 Perch’s 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.]