Friday, January 22, 2021

Masala chai, anyone?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There’s a touch of Bollywood at the Mardi Gras Festival. PRIYANKA TATER reports

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Presented by Trikone Australasia, a not-for-profit support organisation for the local South Asian GBLTQ community, the play moves away from the usual stories of ‘coming-out’ angst (so last decade!), and dives straight into a Bollywood farce. With a masala mix comprising song and dance routines, high voltage drama, comedy, romance, and almost every emotion under the sun, The Last Chai is an out-and-out entertainer.

“Yes, the stereotyping was intentional,” reveals Nigel Balm, director of the play. “We wanted an over-the-top comedy and sometimes stereotyping helps to bring that in very, very quickly”.

Having watched the play in a nearly full theatre with plenty of laughter to be heard, yours truly certainly has no qualms paying testament to these remarks by the director.

But don’t expect the same old mundane boy-meets-girl love story like any other Bollywood potboiler. There’s a twist in the tale.

Amir is a Sydney-based actor wanting to make it big in the ‘filmy’ world, married to a typical Indian housewife Ragini.  While Ragini is getting a bit too much attention from a female neighbor, Suzy aka Sushmita, Amir has got his share of secrets to deal with: you see, not only is starlet Meera attracted to him, he’s a closeted gay.  And as the three women (the wife, the neighbour and the actress) discover this, a murder is plotted….

The flamboyant Mr. Chaps keeps us entertained with his histrionics while starlet Meera with her Bollywood ‘andaaz’ gets into the skin of her character. There’s plenty of opportunity for cheesy dialogues, slapstick humour, bursts of colour and a generous dose of Bollywood chartbusters.

Trikone Australasia has previously presented sell-out shows such as In The Space Between (Mardi Gras 2011) and Bollywood Queen of the Night (August 2012). Its latest, The Last Chai, is conceived and produced in Sydney, and performed by a local cast.

And talking about the cast, the director has a point to make.

“Mr Chaps (played by Kunal Mirchandani) wrote the script, so it is very home grown,” he reiterates. “The cast have developed the play themselves with their inputs and they are learning the craft of putting something on”.  Thanks to the cast for taking the effort to make it ‘home-grown’ and keeping that intrinsic Indian flavour alive with the authentic Indian accents and costumes!

The germ started to grow in Binu Raghaven’s head almost a year ago when he along with his partner, Nigel Balm (director of the play) went to see a Joe Orton play. That’s when he decided to write a farcical murder story revolving around Indian characters. Binu plays the lead character Amir.

Does the team have any plans of getting onto reel?

Nigel replies, “It is in our minds, yes; we would perhaps try to do a short film. It would be fun to come up with something and see what our version of Bollywood is. This is a hybrid. We haven’t found anyone who has taken a typical western play and combined it with Bollywood music. So we are actually developing a genre and we’re going to have to find a new word for that”.

Well, whatever that word is, it certainly is destined to garner lots of interest and appreciation. Here’s wishing the cast and crew of The Last Chai keep brewing!

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