A perfect beginning

Tuesday, 13 October 2015 | Pioneer

Kalki Koechlin’s debut directorial play The Living Room is a farcical comedy and a comment on society

Think of death, life, cookies and a negotiation, and you get The Living Room, the directorial debut of actor Kalki Koechlin. The play, which deals with the perennial debate of life versus death, was staged at the India Habitat Centre here as part of the ongoing Old World Theatre Festival.

The play depicts a debate between death and life where Ana (played by Sheeba Chadha) argues with Death (played with Neil Bhoopalam, dressed in a black coat, red shoes and his face painted blue) not to take her life. Ana offers him a ginger cookie (which he really seemed to like).

The Living Room starts with Death, waiting for Ana to wake up so that he can take her life. A terrifying thunderstorm wakes her up and she finds Death sitting in her living room. Not knowing who he is, she mistakes him for the host of a reality show which she thinks she has been chosen to be a part of. But soon, she confronts reality and realises that Death has come to take her life.

It is this juncture where the debate begins where she says that she is not ready to die, to which Death tries to explain to her that as per the instructions written his book, he has to take her life.

Kalki says that the idea came about in a sleepless night and Woody Allen’s sense of humour was a driving force.

“I couldn’t sleep one night and wrote a two-page scene between death and an old woman where she argues with him about life and death. Woody Allen’s sense of humour has always attracted me and I love the way he can make life so meaningful and yet show us what a farce it can be at the same time,” said the actor, who majored in theatre from the University of London before her Bollywood entry.

With death on her bedside, Ana travels back and forth in time revisiting her childhood to the present. Though the play glimpses some surreal moments with well-crafted montages juxtaposing life and death, it consciously desists from tackling death in a philosophical tone.

“It is a farcical comedy. I always want to entertain people, not lecture them, although this is far from a commercial subject, the way the story is told to make people enjoy and experience, rather than objectively sit outside it and analyse,” Kalki said adding that her play is a comment on the society.

“I wanted to convey how sometimes it takes death for us to wake up and appreciate the experience of life. Death inadvertently helps Ana live her life one last time. Also it’s a comment on our modern lives, and how cheap and aggressive life has become, overpopulation, war, disease has all contributed to living becoming more about survival than experiencing life,” said Kalki.

The plot of the play thickens as Jo, Ana’s estranged lover, and Ana’s rich godson, Born Kuber (Jim Sarbh), rushes in for shelter from a wild storm. It takes an intriguing turn when Dr. Zeus is summoned to investigate the stranger in the house.

Asked how she managed a highly talented crew, Kalki replied, “I love my cast, a bunch of talented and stubborn actors. Each one of them has a different belief on death, so that added to the play, rather than having one point of view, the play offers several. It was difficult for me to know when to let them explore and when to rein things in and edit things out,” she said.

Feminism is a way of being for her, affirms the actor as like the character Ana, who is strong, stubborn, and an independent woman.

Asked about her next movies, she said, “I have finishedWaiting by Anu Menon. Another movie Jia aur Jia is finally ready but I have not started any new film yet.”

With inputs from IANS

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