A mindless, funny tale

When two like-minded bedfellows converge to conspire something so drastic, then more chaos gets added to an already confused state. One innovative mind connives with an extremely enthusiastic heart, and they get along like a house on fire. The result is an obvious treat to watch on stage.
With minimal props and a designed backdrop to suggest a cramped cell-like room, Topi is a simple comedy about two friends. Both might appear as fools on the surface, ceaselessly chalking out a slew of crazy, daft plans only to provide some comic relief to a pointless plot. But beneath this hollow derivation, lies an in-depth irony of unemployment, deprivation and a desperation to realise that lifelong treasured dream, no matter how ulterior it looks at the very outset.
The more you rub a soap, the more foam it lathers up, and more scum is created. Only a bucket of water is then required to clean up this mess and jolt a dolt out of his abstract reverie. The two thickly-befriended buddies and seemingly enterprising youth, having migrated from their native places in the search of jobs, finally reach the shores of Mumbai, a major, metropolitan city and the commercial capital of India. They mull over a lucrative possibility to put an end to their prolonged struggling stretch. One hails from Titagarh, while the other boards a train from Khardah. Landing in Mumbai, fight against all odds to tide over, but to no avail. They believe that all efforts can’t go in vain. There is a silver lining hiding behind the grey clouds. Reluctant to bow out of the “boxing-rink” and hang their gloves err…heads in shame, they choose to bide their time for that one lucky break. Browsing through film magazines and reading excerpts of interviews of industry bigwigs, whose brand equity sells faster than hot-cakes, one of them stumbles upon a unique idea to bury their crisis. Consequently, they go on a hatching spree to earn some mega bucks in the process. Of course, their madness gets foiled with a method and that flawless execution skill. To add more fuel to their hot-pursuit, they rope in one of the most popular Indian idioms, reasonably. Yes, Bollywood (Hindi film industry) it is, beyond doubt. Relying extensively on the snippets of tinsel town glitz-n-glamour and the oh-so indispensable security issue of its demi-god stars, Topi sheds light on the protagonists’ strategy to dupe the so-called star-struck, delirious fans and the unwarranted stalkers with puckish tricks and pranks. The dunces think that they can pull off such a stunt and rake in heaps of moolah against each assignment. They set a hefty sum-rate on each ridiculous contrivance with an air of conviction and try to drive home the point that nothing is impracticable under the sun, especially in the Mayanagari, which is metaphorically a mirage to many a dreamer, who set out to plod over a myriad miles of arid dessert-dunes, only to land up with a coveted break in Bollywood. Here too, the male protagonists embark upon a journey of quest, which reflects their search for an attractive oasis called Mumbai. The imageries of sea-beaches, noisy slums, heat, dust, dirt, pollutants from factories and nearby mills quite naturally flow into their idle conversations.
Those who can sniff off a curious case from a distance and have no qualms about having an appetite for digesting a strange bag of beans without a burp, can certainly look for this play of weird and nonsensical stuff, just for laughs. Often after a hard-day’s toil, when the brain can no longer tolerate the blades of reason and judgement, no matter how insane or baseless an argument two peculiar men proffer, it never falls on deaf ears. Rather, the impish antics are absorbed with rapt attention to wash off one’s stress woes. At the end of the day, some unadulterated fun inevitably cracks wonders as a charger to captivate the minds of exhausted body-batteries, seated along the auditorium rows.
In such a premise of theatrical absurdity, the two men thinking alike just jump-start a money-spinning business only to find their virtually impossible mission possible with great prospects. Albeit at a glance, the conceived plan initially sounds infeasible. But boy, it works and pays off well too! In a country infested with corruptions and forgeries, no wonder, the agency takes off to a flying start under the protective hat of guile and chicanery and even shoots up the price-tags to consolidate its position in the market.
A story of reconstruction of dreams through real-life opportunities, Topi is a rip-roaring laughathon, let loose. It offers no message, but conveys an observation of a coloured vision and wholeheartedly, supports the shades of a fantastical dream, no matter how vague and illogical it seems. Although Topi consists of an original text, yet the playwright acknowledges that everlasting short stories by English literary authors namely, Roald Dahl and Dorothy Parker, have incessantly inspired a rigmarole of twists and turns in the script’s dramatic context.
Written by Arindam Mukherjee, Topi is a production by a Kolkata-based critically acclaimed troupe called Storyteller. For theatre icon Debshankar Halder, Topi is his first foray into direction. It is a promising directorial debut by one of the leading stage actors from today’s Bengali theatrescape. Besides Halder, the cast also features yet another powerful performer, Shantilal Mukherjee, who fits the bill to the tee with his body-lingo and deep baritone, suitable for stage histrionics. Topi is the latest from the group’s stable and its recent rendition at the Airtel Lifestage theatre festival marks the play’s maiden show on stage. An engrossing entertainer, Topi is recommended for those who have the guts to consume an irrational scheme without a digestive pill.

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