Flourished between 1850s to 1930s, Parsi theatre is an amalgamation of exaggerated display of emotions, music which could be live or not, rhyming dialogues with a garnishing of melodrama, a theatre that doesn't strive to be subtle. To get a taste of this style of theatre, Black Art Pearls recently presented a play called 'Mashriki Hoor' in Sri Ram Centre Auditorium, Mandi House.
Directed by Zafar Sanjari, a patron of Parsi theatre and an old theatre hand, who has directed several such plays in the past, the play unfolds to be a fun ride eventually leading to a happy ending. Sahiba, famously called Mashriki Hoor, leads a gang of rebels who loot from the rich and distribute to the poor. She lives her life dressed and behaving as a man to succeed in this mission of hers, probably hinting at how women's rebellion and leadership might not be taken seriously while being feminine.
The play features young and fresh talents who try their best to do justice to their parts. While the play as a whole is an epic drama, it is actually one funny bit played out in a kitchen which throws shade at classism and patriarchy. Also, the play allows a few chuckles here and there even when it is not trying to be funny. While amateurism can be the reason for that, it's not something one would complain about.
Apart from drama and the obvious omnipresence of comedy, romance and conflict also find a place on the stage. The play has several cliched tropes like that of a drunkard and destined to be a fallen king, a crafty and manipulative prime minister, an honest and brave soldier and a princess who is madly in love. While throughout the entirety of the play, it gets a little difficult to keep track of what's happening where everything eventually comes together like the climax of a Priyadarshan film.
The choreography, costumes and set do not give into the ills of low production value and it certainly doesn't affect the soul of the show. The live music and rhyming dialogues are written beautifully in Hindi ad Urdu certainly made up for what lacked everywhere else. It also contributed to the whole feel of the melodrama as promised by the Parsi school of theatre.
Considering that for a lot of actors on stage, it was their first play, there are no big complaints you can make about their acting. A lot of them actually exhibit great potential, especially for the stage.