Laughter rings in the house again

Five years after Laughter In The House sparked magic at the box office, the golden oldies of Parsi theatre are back with a sequel

By Anju Maskeri | Posted 05-Feb-2017

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Burjor Patel, Rashna Karai and Sam Kerawalla at the rehearsal of Laughter in the House 2 at Tata Theatre; Pics/Bipin Kokate

At 6.30 PM, when we step inside the Seaview Room at Tata Theatre, NCPA, the cast of Laughter in The House is in the midst of rehearsals. With seamless ease, Ruby Patel (83), Moti Antia (82), Dolly (80) and Bomi Dotiwala (80)— all stalwarts of Parsi theatre — have the handful of spectators in splits as they bring to life adman Bharat Dabholkar’s new skit Cricket With Parsi Women. The gag, a playful banter between three Parsi women while watching a cricket match, is one of the many rib tickling tributes to the community.

Five years after Laughter in the House 1 sparked magic at the box office, running to packed houses for 10 shows. the same team of vintage stars is back with the sequel. Taking its name from mid-day columnist Meher Marfatia’s 2011 book titled Laughter in the House: 20th-Century Parsi Theatre, the show is an ode to the late Adi Marzban, who was famous for his farcical content.

Interestingly, the cast is helmed by some of his oldest actors who worked with him for decades. However, this time around, Aatish Kapadia, Dinyar Contractor, Bharat Dabholkar, Meherzad Patel and Rahul da Cunha have been roped in to pay tribute to the maverick with their scripts. The revue, peppered with skits, songs and dance sequences, will be showcased on February 19 at NCPA.

“The last time we used Adi Marzban’s scripts with slight tweaks. This time, we realised that we had exhausted most of it. I admit it was tough to get writers who could match up to Adi’s jokes, which is when we thought of getting Rahul, Aatish and others to be part of it,” says Burjor Patel (86), who has translated the gags from English to Gujarati and is also one of the lead actors in the play. “In the last five years, we lost a few members of the original cast, but that’s how life is,” he says.

Sam Kerawalla (84), who directed the first show, has been working for over a year to get the second act together. Yet, he says he’d have liked some more time. With a little more than two weeks to go for the opening, he says it’s still a work in progress. “Every day we do improvisations,” he says. The skits, though in Gujarati are easy to follow even for a non-Parsi like this writer. “Parsi-Gujarati has never been a pure form of Gujarati. It’s an Anglicized version, for instance, ‘hello darling, kem cho’,” he says. The director is also honing the supporting younger cast led by Danesh Irani, Danesh Khambata, Parinaz Jal, Rashna Karai, Jasmin Siganporia, Meiron Damania — some of these are fresh finds from the Draame Bawaas competition introduced last year to unearth new Parsi talent.

Jim Vimadalal (37), who compered the first part is here to observe the rehearsals to collect fodder for his act. “I put in my own gags before introducing the main acts,” he adds. Vimadalal says the idea behind the revival is to showcase the astounding talent of these actors, most of whom are living out their twilight years. “All these actors are legends. Most non-Parsis are not even aware of their work. They are phenomenal on stage! Most people I know who are in their 80s, are not even able to walk properly, forget acting.”

There will also be a 12-minute long antakshari penned by famous script writer, Aatish Kapadia. “The eight songs based on popular Hindi and English numbers depict the peculiarity of Parsis without deriding them. It’s about their quirks — the food habits, punctuality, flirtatiousness, number-dropping — all the plus and minuses. I feel it’s the only religion that celebrates being alive.”