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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Dad’s Girl-friend, Play review: Giggles, chuckles and a tear for your tissue

Dad’s Girl-friend, Play review: Giggles, chuckles and a tear for your tissue

It’s not as shocking as it seems. Dad’s a widower. He is an acclaimed novelist and the girl- friend is someone who begins as a protégée and ends up being her mentor’s soul-mate. The feelings are completely mutual, but how do they convince author’s daughter and son-in-law about their plans, and how can you choose between your daughter and your girl-friend, who, incidentally, are both of the same age? That in essence is the plot of the play, Dad’s Girl-friend, which is in Hindi, with ample doses of English, so they call Hinglish.

Mr. Dalip Vaidya a famous author, professional speaker and professor, has had a very successful career, but in the process, he could never give time to his family--his wife and a daughter, Diya. He did not attend any of her birthdays and was absent even at her wedding. Diya is now married to Kanav, a theatre actor, against the wish of Vaidya. After many years, Vaidya, who has now settled in the USA, he is now coming to meet his daughter and stay with her for some time. Diya is very excited, but Kanav is naturally upset. Meeting her after years, Vaidya starts discovering various dimensions of the father-daughter relationship for the first time. At the same time his tiffs and recurrent friction, with the funny, whimsical and witty Kanav, keeps taking new shapes.

Things take an unexpected turn when Avni, an old student and fan of Vaidya during his days in Lucknow, shows up in Delhi, and starts visiting Vaidya quite often, on his invitation. To Diya’s horror, she even addresses him as “Dalip”. Diya, who is otherwise very kind and generous, starts feeling insecure about Avni, as she is taking away time and attention from her father. Diya’s father was lost for decades, but now that the two have found each other, will they separate once more?

Impressive credentials adorn the coat-of-arms of writer-director Atul Satya Koushik. An alumnus of Sri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi, he is a qualified Chartered Accountant. He also holds a degree in Law. All of 32, he has already written 12 full length theatre plays and produced and directed 15 theatre productions with over 250 shows in different parts of India. His trademark productions include "Chakravyuh", "Draupadi", "Kahani Teri Meri", "Saudagar" (Merchant of Venice), "Wo Lahore", "Couple Trouble" and “Raavan ki Ramayan" featuring Puneet Issar.

Having seen Raavan ki Ramayan less than a month ago, that was the only benchmark I could measure Dad’s Girl-friend against. Comparisons can be odious, I accept. Raavan Ki Ramayan was epic mythology where the tale and characters very familiar to almost the entire audience, and all that mattered was execution and performances. Atul Satya Koushik came-up trumps. Dad’s Girl-friend is romantic comedy with mushy overdoses and a hint of bedroom farce. Here, Koushik is struggling.

Since the title is Dad’s Girl-friend, the narrator should have been Diya, the daughter, but Koushik goes with Kanav. Why he chose to name the character Kanav is beyond me, because this is the first I have heard the name, in 50 years of professional life. He is supposed to be an actor, but the only interaction about theatre is through a series of off-stage phone calls. One or two are funny, and then they get irritating. Vaidya, a man of letters and a name to reckon with in English literature, is unable to match the diction and accent that should be integral to his part.

I can recall four dances of various styles, all well enacted. Their connection with the plot, however, is tenuous. Koushik has a weakness for jazz/soul music, and several pieces are used to good effect. There is a water fixation too. Almost all the characters cross the stage to the stage right, and keep pouring and drinking water. The ‘vent your anger’ alcove was a good idea, till Koushik decided to milk it completely. All phone calls received or made by the characters are from expected persons. Since a rather long period is indicated for the events in the play—two weeks or so, calls from unrelated persons could add to the humour. Sadly, the end, though a convenient lie, is not a convincing one. More imaginative writing was required.

Suman Vaidya, Karishma Singh, Satyender Malik and Anumeha Jain have all performed to grade. Satyender Malik has the most punch-lines, and that is logical, since he is a theatre actor. Suman suits the role in terms of personality, but needs to brush-up his English a bit. Vertically challenged Malik and tall girl Singh make a comely pair, in spite of the height issue.

This kind of subject is American playwright Neil Simon territory: Familial bonds v/s amoral/immoral developments, a hint of sex, chuckles and giggles, and the odd half-tear to deposit on your handkerchief/tissue. Come Blow Your Horn, Barefoot in the Park, Chapter Two, The Odd Couple and many more were made into successful films. He’s 90 going on 91. Koushik must tip his hat to the Jewish genius, for I cannot imagine Dad’s Girl-friend materialising without a tour of the universe populated by Marvin Neil Simon.

Rating: ** ½

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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