Free Press Journal

Can I Help You? Serious comedy


Cast: Dalip Tahil, Ananth Mahadevan, Darsheel Safary, Bhavana Pani, Neel Gagdani

Playwright/Director: Abhishek Pattnaik

Young Abhishek Pattnaik’s zestful new comedy comes strained with a serious tenor, which was peripheral in his previous, laugh-a-minute outings. Last time around, visa problems of Syrian expats provided fodder for laughter; this time, Pattnaik takes on real estate woes, manic depression and unmarried offspring.

Everybody wants or needs something; each of the characters coping with the issue in their own way. Inner turmoil, that sad, self-destructive state of being spirals Darsheel Safary’s character to the edge of the abyss (Literally, a cliff at a sylvan space beautifully mounted by the production crew).

By the end of the play, the boy’s existential angst seems to be satisfactorily resolved. In other words, a happy ending of sorts is in store for the conflicted character who desires to depart the realm of the living  from a spot adjoining the bungalow inhabited by spry widower (Dalip Tahil) his only daughter Bhavani Pani) and cheeky domestic help, Lhampa (Neel Gagdani).

Despite a front door with a penchant for coming off its hinges (an apt symbol for the human being whose wounded soul needs healing) it’s a handsome house and it’s up for sale. The retired insurance salesman wants to permanently relocate to the city and a journo from The Telegraph (Ananth Mahadevan) evinces serious interest in the property.

Daddy dearest nurtures hopes of wedded bliss for the singleton daughter who is indifferent to the sale but not Lhampa who wants to stay there forever. So, Lhampa puts a spanner in the works whenever he can: He spills beverages on the floor to put off prospective buyers.

And oh. The defective door is his handiwork too. And then, he unleashes his jokey behaviour on his employer’s daughter,” I will marry you if no one else will.” Seriously? Is he on the same wavelength as the girl intellectually? What about love? Giving comic life to Pattnaik’s prose, Lhampa raised the most laughs but his crassness and audacity are breath-taking.

Ditto, the suicidal boy who rants and raves and is generally obnoxious until he encounters the journalist who doesn’t pull punches:”For someone who has yet to achieve something, you can talk a lot.”

Bells and whistles! Rah! Rah! Bah to the wardrobe in-charge who overdressed the domestic help (such expensive sneakers!) and under-dressed the Lady of the House. In order too is a Hosanna for the set designers, and the accomplished veterans who elevate this play orchestrated by a youthful directorial wand.

The play will be performed at the Sophia Bhabha Auditorium, Oct 9 at 7:30 pm.