Review of A Streetcar Named Desire

Review of A Streetcar Named Desire

By Manju Sampat

Jeff Goldberg Studio’s latest offering, A Streetcar Named Desire, is
based on the classic play of the same name, by Tennessee Williams. The
original play, set in the sultry French Quarter of New Orleans, was made
into a powerful film in 1953. Three of the actors from this film won
Oscar awards and Marlon Brando as Stanley became a cult hero!

Goldberg, the director of this play, refers to his production as a
“Bombay Adaptation“. While the original play that won Williams a
Pulitzer prize was written in 1947, Goldberg has set his adaptation in
the late sixties in Bombay’s Chembur area. Instead of a streetcar, the
eponymous Bombay local train can be heard in the background. It is by
one such train, that Blanche DuBois, the play’s protagonist, arrives at
her sister Stella Fernandez’s house. This renowned drama follows
troubled former schoolteacher Blanche DuBois as she leaves Pondicherry
and moves in with her sister, Stella and her husband, Stanley, in

It is a long and difficult play to watch and be a part of, and the
cloying and stifling nature of some of the relationships unfolding on
stage, together with the constant reminder by Blanche, of the humid and
muggy pre-monsoon Bombay weather, make this a “claustrophobic” watch,
just what the author intended! Had the original script unfolded on
stage, the viewing would have been a bit tedious but because of a clever
adaptation and an easy flow between the Hindi and English dialogues in
this play, fewer demands are made on the audience and this adds to the
enjoyment of the play.

Blanche fancies herself as a bit of an aristocrat and is horrified to
see what a run down apartment her sister lives in. She claims that she
“lost” their beautiful home Belle Reve in Pondicherry as she needed the
money to look after their ailing parents. Now that they are no longer
alive, she has no one else in the world but Stella, who happily takes
her in. However, Blanche’s flirtatious presence causes problems for
Stella and Stanley, who already have a volatile relationship, leading to
an even greater conflict in the Fernandez household. Despite the fact
that she first finds Stanley “common” and is sickened by his uncouth
ways, she is strangely attracted by his animal magnetism. Stanley is
selfish and raucous, most inconsiderate of his pregnant wife Stella, and
only interested in drinking and playing cards with his equally uncouth
buddies. These encounters with his friends are a very interesting and
entertaining watch, and these encounters are invariably in Hindi and
also in Haryanvi as Stanley ‘s best friend Vir is from Haryana. His
other pals are Ajay, their landlord, who lives upstairs of Stella and
Stanley, and also Vijay, Ajay’s younger brother.

Stella and Ajay seem to have the only “straight” roles in the play.
Urvazi Kotwal as Stella and Rishabh Mehrotra as Ajay are both very
convincing in their parts and seem to be the only voices of reason, in
the midst of all the chaos.

Stanley is constantly rough and violent, especially with his wife, and
Kashyap Shangari manages to instil enough energy in his acting to play a
reasonable Stanley.

He is never quite convinced about all that Blanche makes herself out to
be. He realises she is totally delusional and not quite the cultured
lady she imagines she is. On probing, he finds many skeletons slipping
out of her cupboard. He wants Stella to send her away, but where is
Blanche to go. She makes a last desperate attempt to ensnare Vir, in the
hope he will marry her, but Stanley snatches even that refuge away from
Blanche. In her confession to Vir, more shocking and heartbreaking
secrets are exposed. Sumit Jakhar is brilliant as Vir, and his attempts
at communicating with the sophisticated Blanche in broken English, is
really quite touching. Saloni Khanna as Blanche, manages to convey her
vulnerability and does a commendable job of a difficult role, one that
needs to portray a false sense of grandeur.

The old Hindi film songs played in the background when the Hindi
speaking gang is playing cards and the haunting Edith Piaf riff when
Blanche is reminiscing about her past, are an effective tool to convey
an authentic atmosphere. The experiment of doing a substantial part of
the play in Hindi, works wonderfully well. There is a slight twist in
the end in this production. When Stella goes to hospital because of
premature labor, we see Stanley and Blanche alone in the house and they
go into the bedroom together, and the rest is left to our imagination.
Whereas in the film, Blanche is led away to an institution by a doctor
and she grandly says “I have always depended on the kindness of
strangers “


The night we saw this play, the real Mumbai monsoon actually arrived to
herald a new beginning and an end to the clammy and sultry atmosphere we
had been subjected to, for over two hours of viewing an excellent

Further shows are scheduled for 15th, 16th and 17th June at 8pm at

The Jeff Goldberg Studio

401 Links Building, 14th Road, Khar

Get your tickets from