We are all, without doubt, guilty of fantasising about what our life could have been like. We often pretend to appreciate our present state of affairs when we instead wish that things were different. We sometimes hope and pray for change, and remain in angst when nothing happens.
It is against this backdrop that Rajendra Moodley’s new play is set.
For Anand, the son of parents operating an outpaced Indian spice shop in Melbourne, the dream is to be an actor or poet – the family business holds no interest whatsoever. The consequence: a constant battle between desire and the qualms of his present situation.
The Perfume Garden, written by Rajendra Moodley and starring himself as Anand, is a play that embraces culture, religion, family, love and superstition. Performed at Chapel Off Chapel in Prahran in early August, over 100 guests viewed the play.
Anand is a creative type who lives with his parents. Taunts from his father Satya (Vishwajeet Pradhan) come thick and fast, even as he himself suffers self-doubt about the lack of a girlfriend and work that he finds worthwhile. He looks to Krishna seeking insights about true love, and dabbles with essential oils thinking that they hold magical powers.
Satya, keen to have grandchildren, uses a matchmaking site to eventually put Devi (Sacha Joseph) in contact with Anand. Anand is not pleased, but Devi is fascinated by his artistic flair. Unable to make his mind about Devi, Anand spirals further down in his unremarkable life.
Solace comes from an unusual source – an elderly female relative Ayah (Khema De Silva). A victim of stroke and wheelchair bound, she does not say or do much. Anand vents his frustrations to non-responsive Ayah. Donned in white, the colour worn by Goddess Sarasvati (patron of the arts), Ayah listens.
The essential oils cast their spell, and Ayah livens up, much to the curiosity of the family. Ayah guides Anand with wise thoughts and patronises him to appreciate what he has in life.
But lost in his disillusioned state, Anand fails to respond well to those who associate with him in real life. Devi tires of waiting for Anand to make up his mind. It seems as though Anand will continue to live a fantasy life in his mind, happy to be in that state.
The play is filled with Bollywood appeal, romantic satire and intergenerational conflict. The blend of magic and realism, though, is somewhat intriguing! Yet, the play has many turns in its structure. The storyline could have been streamlined: much of the parents’ frustrations and juxtaposed scenes are difficult to follow.
Produced by Moodley in conjunction with Australian Bollywood Productions, directed by Paul Watson, choreographed by Jagritti Bhati of Ignite Bollywood, the play reflects on current individual and family situations. Featuring a dance troupe which included members of Ignite Bollywood and the Victorian State Ballet, the play certainly does not make you forget about Moodley’s Indian roots!