Spotlight by Aaina: A Review

Spotlight — Aaina Dramatics’ second production of the odd semester — is a platform where they showcase their new talent. Comprising eight acts with freshers playing most of the parts, this night is responsible for grooming some great actors.

Here is a rundown of all the plays performed by the club:

 

The Refund

The Refund is a hilarious take on the common notion that schools do not teach life skills, or as reiterated in the play — anything useful. Directed by Abhinav, Riya, and Prishita — the act starts with a former student Wasserkopf, played by Abhinav, storming into his principal’s office. He is keen on getting back his tuition money, as he did not learn anything ‘useful’ in his years of education. The commotion among the two leads to a decision of a retest — if he fails, he gets his fees reimbursed. Lenzin beautifully portrays the feelings of anger and frustration in the principal.

We are then introduced to three teachers who are responsible for conducting the examination. The play wondrously propagates through the conversation between the student and teachers.

A refreshing touch was the principal’s assistant, played by Varad, who hopelessly tries to win over one of the teachers in the background.

The trio of teachers, played by Aarya, Trithi, and Vandana, are witty in their questions and manage to challenge Wasserkopf’s assertive behaviour.
All in all, the act was hilarious, and the directors and cast left a lasting impression on the audience.

 

Reed ki Haddi

Reed ki Haddi is a comical satire, reflecting on the misogynistic values embedded in Indian roots, and the miserable condition of women in the society. Set in the 60s, the act revolves around a loving father, Ramswaroop, who is desperately searching for a suitable groom for his college-graduate daughter. In the rush of preparations, he accidentally hurts his backbone(reed ki haddi), which provides initial comic relief. This then takes a deeper meaning, as we get to know that neither the mother nor the groom’s family encourages education for women. The groom’s father firmly believes that their designated place is confined to the walls of the house.
This heads to the poor father lying to the groom about his daughter’s, education. The play further unfolds with a compelling and dramatic climax.

Reed ki Haddi was an acting-driven play, relying on strong performances by the cast comprising of Vaibhav, Khushi, Nadia, Rahul, Piyush, and Ritwik.
The play was profound in its own way, wonderfully crafted by directors Piyush and Priyanka.

 

An Astrologer’s Day

Set in the early 2000s, Astrologer’s day is a thriller comedy, where a witty astrologer plays with the fears of his customers to earn money.

The play introduces us to the daily life of an astrologer  which, as it turns out, is not very different from a common man’s conventional life. Like a common man, he regularly bickers with his wife providing a bit of comic relief, and like a common man, he promptly goes to work everyday.

Eventually, he runs into a banana vendor and offers him to tell his future in exchange for some bananas and a nominal fee. We soon learn his cunning ways, and how he convinces the innocent vendor to believe all the wayward statements he makes about the future.

The astrologer then meets a sensible and practical man. Their conversation then evolves to a bet between the two, where the man agrees to pay a considerable amount if the astrologer guesses his future and past events correctly. The play then takes a shocking turn, as he rightly points out the details of the man’s traumatic past. The suspense then unfolds in the climax scene, which leaves the audience in awe.

The spectacular performances by Soham, Abhinav, Sneha, Siddhant, and Manideep, beautifully directed by Ambika and Siddhant was cherry on top of the cake.
The direction and the portrayal of the astrologer by Abhinav was lauded by the judges and thereby earned awards for best direction and best actor.

 

Asmanajas

Exploring the theme of religious and socio-political issues — Asmanajas was a deep-seated analysis of the social problems in our country. The storyline revolves around two individuals, a middle-aged man and his young servant — both having completely different outlooks on life. The old man devoted his entire life to one party and adapted the casteist view of society.
However, when his shop is demolished by the party members, he is forced to review his direction. This is further aided by his young servant, who shows him the reality of theirc dysfunctional community. This puts the man into a dilemma, which makes him question his life ideals.

Actors Animay and Arnav pulled off deep characters with utmost perfection, as they gracefully lead the play to a powerful climax.
The play, directed to excellence by Ayush and Shantanu, managed to build up the intensity they were trying to attain and left a lasting impression on the audience.

 

Murder by Midnight

”Murder by Midnight’ is a thrilling comedy that finds Detective Dick Piston trying to get to the bottom of a murder at the Lake View Hotel. With twists and turns throughout, the play had the audience hooting at every beat.

Piston is approached by a newly widowed woman, Barbara Knowles, who is dressed in nothing but a towel. She asks for his help as her husband has just been murdered. As they develop a playful banter, Piston calls the room service to order champagne and oysters. When the bellhop arrives at the room, he is immediately shot by the detective. Piston explains that he could have been the only one to have murdered Knowles’ husband. He also accuses the widow of having an affair with the bellhop. 

Seemingly impressed by Piston, Knowles makes advances at him, but that’s where the plot twists. The bellhop is alive, and he shoots the widow to her death. He reveals that Piston was indeed right, and calls himself and the detective, ‘her victims’. The play ends with Piston sneakily hitting the bellhop with an alarm clock, closing the case for good. 

Directors Aashka and Aniket have set up a magnificent act here. Involving a lot of planned movement on stage, everything still feels very natural. Enakshi, who plays Knowles, pulls off an incredibly tough character with great ease. Rasank who plays Piston also puts up a great act. The chemistry between the two characters is definitely the highlight of the play. Akshay who plays the bellhop is great at delivering dialogues, and really brings out the insanity of his character. The play received a great response owing to the interesting script, and amazing performances.

Monkey’s Paw

The Monkey’s Paw is a tale about greed and the consequences that come with it. At the beginning of the play, Sergeant-Major Morris pays a visit to his old friend, Andrew White. Discussing stories from when he was posted in India, the Sergeant brings up the monkey’s paw, a mystical charm that grants its owner three wishes.

Andrew eventually uses this charm, wishing for two hundred thousand pounds. The wish comes true when Elizabeth arrives at the doorstep of the Whites. A representative from the factory their son works for, she informs Mr and Mrs White that Herbert has been mangled to death by some machine. She offers them two hundred thousand pounds as compensation that they furiously decline. 

Grief-stricken by the loss of her son, Mrs White goes against her husband’s will to bring Herbert back to life using the Monkey’s Paw. She then goes outside expecting to see Herbert at the door. The last we hear from her is when she screams outside. In the end, Andrew uses the Paw one last time and wishes that his son were dead again.

Packing a lot of content in a short duration, directors Avi and Arvind have done a great job at structuring each event in the play. Yash, who plays Herbert, comes off as an extremely likeable, witty character. Kavya who plays Elizabeth makes good use of the short time she gets on stage. Sergeant-Major Morris’s charisma is portrayed really well by Vedanth. Harsh and Anangsha however, are simply brilliant as Mr and Mrs White. Not only were their expressions and body language on point, but all the actors also had great chemistry. Overall, the play’s serious tone was a well-received change by the audience.

Khudhkhushi

Based around the antics of young love, ‘Khudhkhushi’ is a refreshing take on classic romantic stories. Beginning with an intense monologue by the protagonist, you expect the play to be substantially heavy. This misconception, however, is immediately debunked by the banter that follows between Zoya and her Chacha Jaan. Zoya wishes to commit suicide in the wake of her lover’s demise. This decision of hers is ridiculously taken for granted by her old uncle which makes for some great humour. 

Later on in the play, Zoya is greeted by an energetic Heer at her doorstep, a reference from the old classic — Heer-Ranjha. Heer brings a new perspective to the table. Conversing with her convinces Zoya to not commit suicide.

Directors Abheek and Sakshi have pieced together a wonder here. Every interaction between each character is close to flawless. Abheek, himself, plays the role of Chacha Jaan which he pulls off extremely well. Nandini who plays Zoya is simply phenomenal on stage earning her the award of best actress. From the very beginning, she had the audience on her fingertips. Heer, however, played by Anushka, is my personal favourite. She brings incredible energy to the stage with her expressions and gestures. Overall, ‘Khudhkhushi’ rightly earned the position of best play with brilliant performances across the board.

3 A.M. Wake-Up Call

Last but not least, the closing act — ‘3 A.M. Wake-Up Call’ — a hysterical dark comedy, originally written by E.R. Schultz. 

‘A friend in need is a friend indeed,’ is what Bob must have had in mind when Bill urged him to come to a remote parking lot at 3 A.M. in the morning. In the parking lot, the pair engage in a dialogue filled with funny understatements, and some thrilling revelations. 

As the night unfolds, Bob explains to Bill how he committed a double murder with hilarious nonchalance. Further, he reveals that the deed was done by Bob’s own golf club which makes him just as much of a suspect. Taken aback by this overload of information, Bob tries to make sense out of the whole situation. 

The well-written play makes for some of the night’s best comedy. With great comic timing, Ayush, who plays Bill, delivers some really crisp punchlines. Bob, played by Harsh is also a delight on the stage. 

Directors Aneesh and Ishan are the real stars here though. Deviating from the script, they left the audience bewildered with their ending. In the end, Bill turns out to be a figment of Bob’s imagination. 

The overall event showcased a wide variety of talent through its eight successful plays. The actors graced the front stage, while the directors, set designers, and the musicians formed the backbone of the entire act. A great play is the most puissant form of art, which stirs up strong, intangible feelings in our mind. And indeed, this event by Aaina stirred up some deep emotions and was a miracle of its own.

— Written by Chintan Gandhi and Alankriti Singh for MTTN

— Pictures by Almas Khan and Mridul Kalra

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