What a delightful end to the weekend! Although the play is an adaptation of a French play set in the 1700s, the Indian flavor is as scrumptious as the French delicacy, served on a platter of witty dialogues, accomplished ensemble, and brilliant screenplay, which just goes on to show how a relatively simple story can become an absolute treat if served tastefully.
Silvia, the daughter of a wealthy French nobleman, has just been informed that her father, Monsieur Orgon, has set up her engagement with a man by the name of Dorante, son of a childhood friend – a fellow monarch. Silvia insists that she must judge for herself whether he is right for her. After gaining her father’s approval, she comes up with a brilliant scheme to observe him at close quarters by swapping places with her domestic help, Lisette – a garrulous, beautiful gossipmonger whose beauty is only overshadowed by her incessant banter. Lisette, looking forward to the adventure, agrees to her Madame’s proposal.
However, unknown to her (but known to her father via some correspondence with Dorante’s father), her suitor – Monsieur Dorante – has come up with a similar scheme to ascertain the true nature of Silvia. His gregarious, rather excessively expressive valet, Arlequin, steps in his shoes and immediately falls for the charms of Lisette, disguised as Silvia. Dorante in the meanwhile, is busy acquainting himself with Lisette (the real Silvia). Dorante, in his avatar as a Valet, comes across as a very refined, cultured man (it is a dead give-away if you ask me with all the inappropriate costumes) and Silvia is immediately drawn to him like a Moth to a flame. While Arlequin is singing paeans for Lisette who is returning his advances openly (but pretending to be bound by her moral duties), Orgon, and Mario (Silvia’s Da Vinci-worshipping, Dorante’s-butt-whacking, homosexual brother) are rejoicing in the fact that Silvia and Dorante are free-falling, or skydiving in love. However, the huge chasm in their social statuses is the only hindrance to their fulfilled romance.
In a moment of mawkishness, Dorante reveals his true identity to her, whereas Silvia still conceals hers and declares that he will have her, come hell or high water. Silvia continues with the love games to assess the extent of his love, by conspiring with her brother, Mario. Finally, everyone reveals the truth to one another, and two pairs are united happily – Silvia with Dorante, and Arlequin with Lisette.
Indian Actor of American origin, Tom Alter, pulls off his role as Monsieur Orgon with aplomb, and the same can be said of others, including Divya Arora as Silvia, Mantra (a well known Radio Jockey in Delhi) as Dorante, and others. This play handles the theme of love, homosexuality, father-son relationships, and women’s liberation adeptly, and resonates with these issues today, even though it was written over 250 years ago. The constant reference to masks, and masquerades are crucial in dealing with identity issues – love me for what I am, not who you want me to be. As Indians we have constantly been exposed to the eternal “Arranged vs Love Marriage” debate, and this movie goes on to prove that the latter does not always score over the former, as long as you make the right choices. Also, social barriers are vanquished when Dorante, unaware of the true identity of the object of his affections, overcomes his hesitation to marry a woman much below him in the social ladder. And all these relevant situations, subjects and circumstances have been sprinkled with the right dose of humor and wit. Endearingly unhinged characters do not fail to amuse or induce a smile at any point in time with their over-the-top routines and inherent goofiness.
You want the weekend dose of laughter? Make sure you reserve the best seat in the house the next time around. They will be back to knock us over in July in Delhi!