Director: Shrirang Godbole
Actors: Radhika Ingale, Devendra Saralkar, Aroh Velankar. Ashwini Phatak and Harshad Rajpathak
Whatever happens in our life is definitely about you and me, isn’t it. There are so many things in between though. In the case of this play, ‘Du and Me’, it does become true. It’s different… really! Part of the silver jubilee year celebrations of Grips theatre in India, this play is a unique collaboration between German Grips professional Lutz Huebner, Shrirang Godbole and Vibhawari Deshpande. Most would know of Grips as creators of plays keeping the youth in mind, also offering a slice of life and a deep message. But these plays are in fact for one and all. Du is German for ‘you’ while the Me is our Marathi ‘me’. The play is a great attempt at passing the message of getting over cultural assumptions and misunderstanding to create a bond of respect and looking at a culture from better perspective. The focus is also on the mistake many adults making of thinking that youngsters, are plain immature to understand relationships and other things in life.
You meet a typical Puneri family – the Deshpandes (typical Puneri surname, nahi ka?), which consists of a cricket addict father who takes things lightly, an inquisitive and hyper mother, an over-the-top grandmother and a sensible daughter (all of 17) Radha. They are in a cultural exchange programme wherein a German teenager named Boris, plans to stay with them and the next year, Radha is to go to Germany. As expected, the grandmother froths at her mouth at the concept of a young boy in their house when they have a teenager daughter, plus the cultural differences. The parents, on the other hand, are chilled. Boris arrives and after a few hits and misses, gets to know them. But it is the cultural clashes which becomes an issue, especially when he and Radha become ‘good friends’.
If you are of the thought that this play might be working on the usual lines of all drab messages, think again. It is a well-written and directed play. The play speaks the true language of not just today’s youth who know how they want to understand issues like love and culture but also shows what the parents go through. The parents, however modern, do have their share of panic attacks when it comes to their kids. What carries the play is the humour which does not falter anywhere. The humour connects with you as it focuses on simple things like our habits, Hindi movies and songs, cultural clashes and so on. The play speaks our mind but nowhere does it comes out as preachy. For example, when the Deshpandes come to know about Boris’s dysfunctional family, the reactions are what one would expect from any typical Indian middle-class family. It works for us that the writers, Shrirang Godbole and Vibhawari Deshpande, are also the play’s directors. They know what they want to see on the stage.
It is the actors who make this play work for us. The play dwells on humour to present the theme.. The first one to get our clap is Radhika Ingale who plays the mother and some other minor characters. She makes you laugh and smile with her unique style of innocent funny bones – a rare feat. She gets equal support in keeping the play upbeat from Devendra Saralkar who plays her husband. He comes out as a typical Indian husband, who prefers cricket over family matter, thinks his daughter is still young and lets his wife do the talking. Together, Radhika and Devendra come as an awesome force. Ashwini Pathak is good as the slightly confused, stubborn but mature Radha, but sadly is overshadowed by others. Aroh Velankar’s Boris comes out as a bit too naive who learns about India and culture the hard way. We are slightly amused at the fact that considering Boris wants to know more about India, he is bit insensitive to issues. In a world where you know cultural aspects of a country by the click of a button, Boris appears to be clueless. It is Harshad Rajpathak (no there is no typo here, a man plays the role of the grandmother) who creates an impact as the grandmother and nosey neighbour. His rendition of the grandmother makes you laugh and you look forward to him, her.. errgh!!
The set design is quite basic and works for the play to run smoothly. On one side, notice a kind of steps prepared where the other actors sit while someone else is performing. The use of props and lighting is superb. Rahul Ranade’s music gets your emotions flowing. Do listen to the title song. You’ll love it.
‘Du and Me‘ is the kind of the play which has something to say but the language is not condescending. It depends on simple humour to take itself forward without harming the content. Definitely, a perfect play for the family to watch..