Surprise is the spice of drama. “Don’t think Gustadji is going to ride a horse in the play as a groom,” director of Gustadji Ghode Chadhya’ Yazdi Karanjia tells the audience, “one rides different kinds of horses. The one Gustadji rides is his jidd’ (stubbornness).” The two and a half hour long play gave a rollicking time to spectators last Saturday.
Besides incongruous situations, verbal play in the meethadi’ Parsi dialect, anticlimax and uninhibited dramatic action, the play offers entertainment with songs, dance and costumes. Not much happens but and cheerful characters and their witty dialogue keep the audience in good humour. In the centre remains Gustadji’s jidd’ for everything old.
Not knowing that the bearded ancestor on the wall has been replaced by a mod girl with a sparkling smile, Gustadji offers aarati’. After rousing nostalgia for Munnabai and Janakibai’s voice, when the gramophone is started, peppy modern rhythm blares out. To satisfy his craze, his wife and children buy assal’ dresses at astronomical prices. Lights go off and with Saigal’s “Diya jalao” in lower octave characters from all sides enter with candlelight.
Gustadji is in for a surprise in the play written by Adi Marzban. The key to resolving a conflict between the old and the new generation is moderation. “My brother, tired of the old stalling the new,” Yazdi’s daughter Maharukh had earlier said, “sulked and was walking out one day, when dad joined him.” “He looked at dad in surprise,” she added, “and dad said he too was walking out!”
Parsis developed urban realistic theatre in the 19th century. People like Girish Karnad still know Gujarti theatre as Parsi theatre. Every year when Yazdi’s group comes, Mallika observed, “It’s a high note at Natarani.” “These plays could be among the last performances,” Yazdi said in a lighter vein tinged with irony, “from last Parsis!” Why were there then only a couple of Parsis in the audience?