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Three boys and girls in Mumbai share an apartment and a dream—to make it as actors. They believe their neighbour is a producer who is casting a road company, when in reality he is a chef. Things come to a hilarious pass when the chef runs out of oil, comes to their apartment to borrow some, gets pulled into a play they are staging for his benefit—complete with a murder so realistic that even the police are called in. “What Will People Say is inspired by a 1940s American play, Out of the Frying Pan, by Francis Swann,” begins director Vaishwath Shankar, who also wrote the script. “Being someone who is trying to make it in the entertainment business, I found it relevant. Every decision we make, like taking up theatre full time, attracts the question, ‘what will people say’. So it resonates with where I am at now,” says the 23-year-old who has taken a U-turn from his industrial engineering background to become an actor-director.
60 and counting
A joint production by The Madras Players and Crea-Shakthi, the play kicks off the former’s 60th anniversary. Earleir, the two had  worked together on Mangalam (2013, on sexual abuse) and Agatha Christie’s And Then They Were None (2014). “The Madras Players wanted to start the year on a lighter note. Moreover, they are experienced actors who need young blood and we are youngsters who need the experience,” admits Abhinav Suresh, one of Crea-Shakthi’s co-founders.
But age was never a factor when rehearsals got underway. “I had a clear idea as to what I wanted from the play and who I wanted in it. Some of the senior actors—like Janaki Sabesh and T M Karthik—are people I grew up watching. As for the others, I wrote the script keeping certain people’s strengths and weaknesses in mind,” says Shankar, on his third directorial.
Next step
With sets designed by Victor Paulraj of Studio 7 (“nothing fancy as the focus is on the action”), the 90-minute production promises to be laugh out loud and full of energy. “There is a lot of good young theatre coming out and I believe we have a critical audience in the city. While we may still not be at par with other metros, where even a weekday performance would get packed houses, we will get there soon,” smiles Shankar, who wants to try his hand at regional theatre and films, too.
March 6-8, The Museum Theatre, from 7.15 pm. `200 – `500. Details: indianstage.in

—Surya Praphulla Kumar

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