Blue mug image by denn
Went to see a play in Hyderabad. Let me say, firstly, the audience was huge. I’ve been in Sri Lanka for years and India is bright lights big city for me. The cast was from film and TV and the scene seemed quite happening. Rajat Kapoor was the star I knew. That said, I didn’t really understand the play and fell asleep during parts of it. Near the end I had about 5 minutes of what felt like lucidation, but I’m not sure. However, I did wake up thinking about it, which is a plus.
Experimental theater is not always enjoyable. Much of the pleasure of art comes from dancing around the predictable, a chord progression, a well-timed joke, the familiar structure of drama or tragedy. Variation within that theme, but on that theme, so as not to jangle the synapses so much.
Blue Mug, however, is not structured in that way. It is basically 75 minutes of monologues with a few conversations. There are engaging actors, but it is fundamentally a bunch of people relating stories about their childhood. Significant portions are in Hindi, or Hinglish, which I missed, but I think I followed the most of it. They say the story is based on the Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks, but I read and studied that book and the relation seems cursory. Besides the patient HM with memory loss, there isn’t that much correlation.
But all that may be besides the point. I’ve said that I fell asleep, but when I woke up the next day I was thinking about the play. Which means, to me, that the ideas had some impact beyond entertainment. Because I was not particularly entertained. But what were they talking about?
After hearing minute upon minute of stories about childhood erections, sleeping on terraces, breaking up, dating, father issues, funerals, people, places, it all starts to blur. There were long monologues in Hindi and uproarious jokes I didn’t get and I started to pass out. Then, however, at the very very end, there is about 10 minutes where the monologues become connected and the actors become somewhat self aware and at the same time start losing the thread. They are then watching each other and forgetting what they say almost immediately, devolving into shapes and movement. Which was, I think a moment.
The entire play was kind of like being inside someone’s brain. Repetitive, self-indulgent, too long and often boring. That is, however, a somewhat interesting simulation to do on stage. The idea of memory in its actual form, not the structured narrative structure we employ to retain and sustain an audience’s fickle interest. It’s not the most entertaining (not that the bits aren’t funny), but it certainly makes you think. I think that’s the point, but perhaps I’m just remembering wrong.
The Blue Mug is a play directed by Atul Kumar. It stars Konkana Sen Sharma, Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey, Sheeba Chadha and Munish Bhardwaj. As far as I know it’s running till April 11th across India and in the Middle East, Brazil and the US after that.