By Manju Sampat
Written and directed by advertising guru and theatre personality Bharat Dabholkar, “That’s my Girl” was recently performed at Rang Sharda, in Bandra. Mr. Dabholkar is well known for his masala plays ‘Bottoms Up’ & ‘Blame It On Yashraj’, that have regaled audiences for years. However, “Thats My Girl”, which has been adapted from the Neil Simon play “I Ought to be in Pictures”, is a different experience altogether. This play has been produced by Mohan Azaad (MAW), a renowned writer for Hindi cinema and his work includes the film, ‘Chandni Bar’.
“That’s My Girl” is a story of nineteen year old, headstrong Aishwarya, who has come looking for her estranged father as he deserted her and her mother some sixteen years ago. Ashu, as she is known, says she has come from Surat to the “City of Dreams”, Bombay, to become a film star. In the process she hopes to connect with her father, a struggling script writer for ‘flims’ , as she calls them! The eternal question for those that come to this city that “has Bollywood” is, “can I also become a film star here”!
The role of the feisty Ashu, is delightfully essayed by Shweta Rohira. Her fluid movements and expressive face are perfect for this role, and it fits her like a glove! When she first meets her father, Anil Desai (Anant Mahadevan), she tells him that she is an “actress who mostly does auditions”! Ashu has been brought up by her “nani” , and though this nani has been dead for six years, Ashu constantly talks to her in her imagination. Ashu discovers that her dad, whom she calls Neil, has a girl friend, Anuradha, (Ananya Dutta), who is a makeup artist. Anu is a nice friendly soul, who tries to bring Ashu back to earth, as she has really seen “ stars underneath their starry glitter”.
Anil lets Ashu stay with him till she can find a role. However, once she starts living with him, she completely transforms Anil’s life in more ways than one. The second half of the play shows his house looking more cheerful, as Ashu has filled it with colourful paintings that she has made. Anil finds himself getting attached to his daughter, and that has made him “vulnerable” again. When Ashu realises that neither her dad nor Anuradha can further her acting career, she takes matters into her hands and starts working at Xanadu, as a parking attendant. Since film stars frequent this disco, she hands them her contact number in the hope they will get in touch!
Although the undercurrent of the story is very emotional and sensitive, almost every other line brings a smile and laughter. The interaction between Ashu and Anil is hilarious at most times but tugs at the heart at some moments. It is a tale about the ambitions of the young, frustrations of adulthood, losing someone you love and finding someone you love. In the end Ashu confides that trying to get into the film industry was “just a decoy, I came here to find you dad”. Both Anant Mahadevan, a veteran film actor, and Ananya Dutta, are perfectly suited to their roles and do a commendable job, but it is the first timer Shweta who steals the show. The stage design, music and lights are adequate. Look out for further shows next month as this play will be traveling soon.