Chutney ★★★★½

A conversation between two neighbors – little sweet, little spicy – just like a Chutney.

The opening scene is of a party in a township where we quickly meet the two central characters – Rasika and Vanita. Pretty and hip Rasika is making fun of the boring housewife Vanita. Next twist? Rasika is having an affair with Vanita’s husband! Vanita invites Rasika to her home next afternoon for sharing her secret recipe. Over the snacks, Vanita confides in Rasika. Vanita shares few memories from her past, some sweet some spicy, but tasty just like a well-made chutney!

Vanita’s story is the strongest pillar in this film. The story is inspired by writings of famed writer Bhishm Sahni. It has a strong punch! The deliberate ambiguities also make it for a decent repeat watch, or when you show it to someone else in your friends and families. I am going to watch it again for sure!

Minor Spoiler Alert. Better to read after watching. Click to read The story has deeper sub-contexts. For example, Vanita’s story succeeds not only in threatening Rasika but also her misbehaving servant. The direction and the story not only brings out Vanita’s frustration in the open, but also her jealous nature and desire for her brother-in-law, which is just so subtly shown. All this makes Chutney a must watch! Let us know if you also find something!

Tisca Chopra in the role of Vanita deserves applauds. She is so believable in the role of a blunt dull housewife. All other actors also perform well.

Negatives? Nothing that I could complain about!

AglaPlay Verdict: Must watch
AglaPlay Rating: 4.5/5
Language: Hindi
Duration: ~17 minutes
Writer: Tisca Chopra, Jyoti Kapur Das, 
Avneesh Mishra
Director:  Jyoti Kapur Das
Cast: Tisca Chopra (Vanita),
Rasika Dugal (Rasika) &
Chutney: Little Spicy, Little Sweet

Juice ★★★★★

Winner of two Filmfare awards 2018, Juice is a poignant short film that depicts differential treatment of women in some sections of the society.

Synopsis: The short film depicts a house party among family-friends. The men are chatting and having a good time in the living room with drinks and TV,. The children are playing video games in a different room. All the women, though, are in the kitchen cooking the munchies for the gentlemen outside. These women are from different regions as it shows in the film, but share the common destiny of a single broken table fan in a boiling kitchen. What’s all this to have to do with the title, you ask? A juice? A lot, perhaps…

What works: The film is a must watch, it is really that good. The lead, Shefali Shah also walked away with the best actress award for her performance. Every scene and setup is very authentic. The whole film looks like a scene out of daily life in a Delhi house. If we talk about awards alone, this film won the best short film award in the fiction category in Filmfare awards 2018. And the whole good package ends at even better climax scene with one of the most intriguing facial expressions that I will remember for quite some time.

The dialogues and the screenplay is something which shall be appreciated separately, even if these could not get awarded. This is an overall feminist presentation, and these go over-board with the dramatization and cliches. Juice balances it deftly. It also hints how women themselves think lesser of themselves. It hints how biases are also fueled and supported by submissiveness among women’s social circle.

What is bad: Nothing at all that I could comment on this specific film!

Small note: not particular to feminism or Juice but generally, few presentations (videos, speeches or Whatsapp forwards) charge us emotionally. They color our views. They make us believe (even if for a short period) that everyone on the other side is wrong. That is their job. That is how they will earn and will get viral. Aglaplay strongly advises its viewers to keep themselves free from such emotional on the basis of religion, gender, region, caste, nationality, language, dressing, earning or anything else under the blue sky. Judge a person for who he or she individually is. For Juice, do remember while watching that not all men are alike! There are men at workplaces, in family, in friends who support women and stand for their equality in the society.

Overall: Enjoy Juice, it is a must watch!

AglaPlay Verdict: Must watch
AglaPlay Rating: 5.0/5
Language: Hindi
Duration: ~14 minutes
Writer: Neeraj Ghaywan
Director:  Neeraj Ghaywan
Cast: Shefali Shah(Manju Singh), 
Manish P Chaudhari(Brajesh Singh) &
Juice: Relaxation for a moment

Ek Mamuli Aadmi

The play tells the story of last few years of Ishwar Chand, a retired man, who recently died. When his son tries to invite his father’s colleagues for the funeral, he receives the rude responses. Even the priest is not interested in attending to the rites. The son is in shock. After all, his father was a common man! What can a common man do to cause angst to so many people? Especially when the departed was such a simpleton as his dad. What is even more surprising that while even the dead’s colleagues excused themselves from attending final rites, there is crowd of seemingly unknown people who have come to pay a final visit. What can a common man do to inspire such respect from so many people? The play answers these questions and more by switching between Ishwar’s flashbacks and his office colleagues’ accounts, as the audience and Ishwar’s son learn about his father he never knew.

The play excels on all parameters. The portrayal of Ishwar by Aanjjan Srivastav is done so well that audience fails to differentiate between the performer and the character. Other characters also act very well, especially Niraj Pandey.

The play is a must watch and among the best performances in Mumbai theatre with an engaging script and tight screenplay. The play evokes complete spectrum of emotions and is highly recommended.

AglaPlay Verdict: Must Watch
AglaPlay Rating: 4.5/5
Language: Hindi 
Duration: 2 Hours (Approx.)
Writer:  Ashok Lal 
Director: Raman Kumar
Cast: Aanjjan Srivastav (Ishwar), 
Pramod Dubey,
Nivedita Baunthiyal,
Shivkant Lakhanpal, 
Akbar Khan, Niraj Pandey
& Others

Below are few relevant links. The play is inspired from Japanese movie ‘Ikuru’ whose trailer link is also provided.

Play performed by IIM Lucknow 
Review on HT [Potential Spoilers]
Ikuru (1952) Movie Trailer

Bali aur Shambhu

Bali aur Shambhu‘ tells story of two roommates in an old-age home. Shambhu who was staying alone in his room for long. When Bali comes to stay in the same room, Shambhu does not take this ‘encroachment’ well. The solitude of cantankerous Shabhu is further disturbed by Bali’s endless banters. Many (funny) verbal fights ensue between the two, resulting in a relationship which can pass as friendship. Both have some happiness and some sorrows from the past. What is it that they are hiding? What are their sorrows which really haunt these two roommates?

The play is a masterpiece. The play is very well written, supported by strong execution by the cast. The director-writer Manav Kaul deserves appreciation for bringing such plays which are not only entertaining, but also talk of the issues which concern old age people. The contrasting characters are developed well through the play. The duration and timings are just so well-balanced! The music and lighting during dance sequences is apt and fits beautifully as reminiscence of old times.

This is an amazing play which delivers a beautiful story performed by two veteran actors – Sudhir Pandey and Kumud Mishra. This play is rather low-key, with not many performances and publicity. I just hope that this is taken up for more shows, because this play definitely deserves that. The play will be good even for younger audience, who may not connect wholly with the pain of characters but will enjoy Shambhu’s mischief and Balu’s banters!

AglaPlay Verdict: Must Watch
AglaPlay Rating: 4/5
Language: Hindi
Duration: 1 Hour 30 Minutes 
Writer: Manav Kaul
Director:  Manav Kaul 
Cast: Kumud Mishra (Bali),
Sudhir Pandey (Shambhu),  
& Others

Below are a few relevant links. The link to the whole script from Manav’s blog is also provided for those who may not be able to watch live performance.

Other Links
Bali OR Shambhu? By The Cast
Play Script

Shatranj Ke Mohre

Director by famed Ramesh Talwar in 70s, this is the longest running play of IPTA group. The title loosely translates to ‘Human Pawns’ in the context of the play. These human pawns, like their fellow Chess pawns; are expendables, and are stuck between the fight of two contrasting ideologies (kings). The central characters here are Kakaji and Acharya Ram Bhajan. The story unfolds between the contrasting ideologies of these two, identifying pawns of the system. This satirical play provokes the free decision-making ability of the characters itself.

The play is a treasure. A must-watch, it balances the bitter satire with precise comic timings and light notes. The seasoned cast of IPTA delivers yet another outstanding performance. The set and lightnings compliment the topnotch performances to create this classic. It is also a good opportunity for the audience to watch so many famed artists performing together on the stage!

AglaPlay Verdict: Must watch
AglaPlay Rating: 5/5
Language: Hindi
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes (Approx)
Writer: P L Deshpande 
Director: Ramesh Talwar 
Cast:   Aanjjan Srivastav, 
Rakesh Bedi, 
Avtar Gill, Ramesh  Talwar, 
Rashmi Sharma, Bansi Thapar, 
Javed Khan 
& Others

Below are a few relevant links. The web link to the play performance by IIT Kanpur students is also provided for those who cannot see live performance.

Other Links
Image Gallery at IPTA Mumbai site
Ramesh Talwar Wikipedia
Aanjjan Srivastav Wikipedia
Avtar Gill Wikipedia
Rakesh Bedi Wikipedia