By Deepa Gahlot
There was a time long, long ago, when one rupee counted for something, and Nitin Bharadwaj’s Ek Rupaiya a charming cautionary tale, is set in a North Indian town in the period.
Chintu (Kavid Dave) is the son of an honest government official, so the family is always short of money. One day, when Chintu is a rupee short to buy milk, and afraid that he will get a thrashing at home if he returns without it, he picks up a coin from the temple. After a conversation with his mother, he convinces himself that god doesn’t mind sharing his money, so he makes it a habit of stealing from the temple.
Then, he fails in his mid-term exam, when a constantly gloating sister, who also carries tales against him, stands first. Chintu gets a shock when Lord Shiva (Bhupesh Singh) and Hanuman (Akash Basnet) – dressed like idols in temples and TV serials—land up demanding their money back. Chintu has to somehow find the money, or he is in danger of failing his finals.
Chintu has a cute Sardar friend Pahari (Trimala Adhikari), who claims to be Spiderman, and it is the innocence of the boy that he does not question this absurd claim, but just assumes his buddy with superpowers will help him. He tries to bet on his cricketing skills, rents out comics and such, but the money does not amount to much.
In a hilarious scene, he lies and schemes to be sent to his aunt’s house in Lucknow, so that he can visit his grandmother and various relatives to collect money as gifts from them—which is a tradition in the North.
The gods, meanwhile, amuse themselves reading comics, watching television (Hanuman is pleased to find Ramayan on air) and banter with the boy, increasingly desperate to return the money and have them off his back.
The play is very well-written–sweet and funny, and slips in a message without turning preachy. The set is bare, with just a few boxes, doubling up as various props. It’s the actors’ infectious energy that makes the play such an enjoyable watch. The gods have seldom been crazier!
Written & Directed by Nitin Bharadwaj
Cast: Kavin Dave, Bhupesh Singh, Aakash Basnet, Trimala Adhikari and others
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.