Review: Mullah Nasruddin 2.0

Mullah Nasruddin 2.0

When you hear of a children’s play titled Mullah Nasruddin, you imagine an enactment of stories featuring the mythical Mullah. Centuries-old, widely-circulated stories, familiar like old friends. You expect from the show some midly amusing folksy drama that would, if things go well, entertain you without surprising you.

Let the “2.0” in the title serve as warning. Ranga Shankara’s Mullah Nasruddin 2.0 is not that play.

Mullah Nasruddin 2.0 is a metaplay if you will: a farce about what happens when the cast for the *actual* play based on Mullah Nasruddin does not turn up due to a mix-up of dates. Instead of sending SOSes to the cast like regular people would do in the situation, the team here – makeup man, lighting assistant, etc. – decide to take on these roles themselves.

The result is zany with laughs all the way – and not just for the little ones. The “fake” actors purpotedly discover, to their horror, that a farmer in the “actual” play is supposed to have mastered the Arabic tongue. His humble impostor mimics the accent by mispronouncing “chicken” – this tic made an impression so powerful that dinner post-show with chicken in it had me almost calling it “chikun”. I bet the children who watched along will follow the farmer’s pronunciation too for a while.

In the chaotic play-within-play, nothing is sorted, not even who will perform the titular role of Mullah Nasruddin. At one point, the female director gamely dons his beard and begins dispensing sage wisdom.

The “fake” cast was excellent with engaging the audience. There was light-hearted Q&A, on-stage invitation, creativity in delivering messages that may have been too complex for the very young. Stock tales such as The Banquet, when included, were retold with freshness and contemporary puns. Special mention for this one actor (the makeup man) who didn’t even have to make any puns to make people laugh – he had a cackle so infectious, he only had to unleash one and the audience would join in without further prompting.

Notes:

  • The mention of metaplay reminds me of another from a few years ago – Dreams Of Taleem.
  • My co-author Kishore points out that Ranga Shankara hosts another play called The Incredible Mullah Nasruddin (link) with the same ticket format but another director and a different take on the topic. Which begs the question: was the gimmick of missing actors make-believe or real? Are we living in Inception?
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    The Incredible Mullah Nasruddin

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    Article by Shuchi

    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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    2 Comments to “Review: Mullah Nasruddin 2.0”

    1. Well, we have come a long way this month… to be precise from Naseeruddin Shah to Mullah Nasruddin. I consciously had to hold my tongue at the dinner to avoid mispronouncing “chicken “. It was fun the way the kids got chuckling and giggling infectiously … sometimes for no reason at all!

      July 31st, 2017 9:16 am

    2. Incidentally, the same turban seems to star in the posters and tickets for of both Nasruddin shows

      July 31st, 2017 9:32 am

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