An old dog doesn’t need to learn new tricks

Gujrati play about an elderly neighbourhood Casanova has its audience in hysterics.


Fatima Attarwala November 07, 2010

KARACHI: A Casanova at heart will remain incorrigible no matter how old he gets and how much trouble he stirs up. This was the theme of the Gujrati comedy play “Kutra ni Puchri Wanki” [a dog’s tail can never straighten] staged at the Arts Council by the Karanjia troupe.

The backstage troubles of a locked door with the costumes inside during a tense quick-change moment went unnoticed by the audience due to the smoothness of the ad-libbing.

And smooth it should be, given that the troupe has been performing the play on and off since 1966. It has been acted out around 300 times.

The Karanjia troupe is not a group of professional actors but rather of professionals from the field of finance and medicine, who work because it is their “hobby and passion, not profession”, as one of the actors, Vira Karanjia, put it.

The two-act play, presented by the Young Mazdayasnian Zoroastrian Association (YMZA), was for the young at heart - given by the number of silver heads in the audience, there were many young hearts out there indeed. It was also exclusive because the entire play was in Gujrati. The crowd of around 200 people included Parsis and Bohris as well.

The cast was striking because of the age differences of the actors. Most of them were at least 60 years old and the younger ones had to try hard to match their highly polished delivery. But the young ones complemented their older cast well.

The well-executed dialogue was a judicious blend of one-liners and slapstick, with Gujrati cultural undertones. Down to the calendar in Gujrati on stage, the traits that defined the community were sublimely portrayed.

The plot

‘Burjour’ (Mehernosh Karanjia) is the neighbourhood Casanova, a fact well known by his suspicious wife, ‘Farida’ (Vira Karanjia). Using his innocent friend ‘Jehanbux’ (Yazdi Karanjia), Burjour manages to fool Farida time and again. In the process of keeping her in the dark about his four girlfriends, Burjour has to pretend that a pearl necklace found among his clothes is a gift for her. But the pearls, worth Rs100,000 were actually worn by Burjour’s girlfriend Dilnawaz - who, in her turn, had ‘borrowed’ them from a minister’s wife. Thus, it is imperative that an equivalent sum be raised to buy an identical necklace. One of the many attempts to raise money includes filing a false claim of being in a bus accident, in which Jehanbux is haplessly roped in as accomplice and witness.

The expressions and acting of the veteran actors was spot on, with the right amount of hamming with comic results. Director and actor of hundreds of plays Yazdi Karanjia perfectly depicted the simple and obliging friend, with an eye for the ladies himself.

The actors seemed to be having as much fun on stage as the laughing audience, making for a highly entertaining and complete evening.

The play, which was to run from November 5 to 7, will have its last show on Sunday. The proceeds of the play will be donated for flood relief, according to the play’s pamphlet.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2010.

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