By Deepa Gahlot
Paresh Rawal had started his acting career on stage in the 1980s, and then stepped away to have a successful career in films, and now politics. But every time he returns to the stage after long gaps, he brings his star quality to theatre. Tickets for his plays sell out in no time, and people who are not regular theatregoers, turn up to watch his plays.
He has two plays running Dear Father and the huge hit, Kishan vs Kanhaiya, which continues to pack houses even after its film version, Oh My God, came out in 2012 (with due credit given to the original source, a lesser known Australian film called The Man Who Sued God).
The play, directed by Umesh Shukla, has had a very successful run in Gujarati (as Kanjee Viruddh Kanjee), with Sachin Khedekar and then Tiku Talsania starring, but audiences are still flocking to see it with Rawal starring in its Hindi “reloaded” adaptation.
He plays Kishan, an atheist, who has a shop in Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar, where he sells religious idols with supposedly miraculous powers to gullible customers. His wife (Nishi Doshi) is very religious, which leads to some lighthearted banter between the them. When an earthquake destroys his shop, he finds that the insurance company won’t pay up his claim because an “Act of God” is not covered by his policy.
Furious and on the verge of ruin, he decides to sue God. No lawyer is willing to take the case, so he represents himself in court, demanding that God or any of his representatives on earth, make good his losses caused by an act of God. And if God didn’t do it, then the insurance company should pay up.
The arguments he comes up with are witty and thought-provoking. There is the expected backlash from religious fanatics, but also a surge of support from people who faced a similar problem. Then, Lord Krishna (Jimit Trivedi) himself makes an appearance, to debate spiritual matters with the atheist.
Bhavesh Mandaliya’s play is one of the best written works in recent years, and gives a good actor like Paresh Rawal rich material with which to enthrall audiences. After more than 500 shows in India and abroad, Rawal is doing more shows in Mumbai, and anybody who has not seen him on stage yet, should buy a ticket.
Directed by: Umesh Shukla
Cast: Paresh Rawal, Chirag Vora, Jimit Trivedi, Nishi Doshi, Ankit Trivedi 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.