The city’s Gujarati speakers of an older vintage will fondly recall the plays of Adi Marzban, the playwright and director who was synonymous with Parsi nataks from the 1940s to the 1980s.
The nataks were usually comedies packed with double entendres, slapstick and nifty wordplay in Gujarati and performed by a set of actors devoted to Marzban. Some of them got together last year to perform Laughter in the House, a collage of vignettes from Marzban’s revues that premiered on his birth anniversary on April 17, 2012. Directed by Sam Kerawalla, the show, which gets its title from Meher Marfatia’s eponymous book on 20th-century Parsi theatre, will be staged on Sunday, April 7 at the National Centre for the Performing Arts.
Marzban’s leading actors—Bomi and Dolly Dotiwala, Ruby and Burjor Patel, Scheherazade and Rohinton Mody, Villo Panthaky, Moti Antia and Dinyar Contractor—might be greying and less agile than they used to be, but their spirit and comic timing don’t seem to have aged. The vignettes are silly yet giddily funny (and often misogynistic) stories full of randy men, adulterous women and libidinous teenagers (who are played by some of Parsi theatre’s young actors). For instance, Bomi discovers he’s not as virile as he thought he was during a trip to the doctor with his wife; a mother scolds her son when she thinks he didn’t make the most of being alone at home with his pretty neighbour; and Aspandyar, the shabby Irani servant, has more luck with women than one would imagine. Less amusing is the bewildering inclusion of Bollywood item numbers performed by members of the Hormuzd Khambatta Dance Company. But it is forgiven when we get to the finale, a spirited qawwali in which the men and women playfully spar with each other.