‘Red Corridor’: gripping play, but a shade too loud


New Delhi : Four aspiring actors from small towns in India – among them a Maoist on the run – make an interesting mix of characters in a melting pot like Mumbai. But what happens when they come together under one roof?

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They create a “Red Corridor” – a hard road fraught with aspirations, struggles, the knocks of life and violent climaxes.

“The Red Corridor”, a play staged at the LTG auditorium in the Mandi House area, probed the angst and euphoria of these diverse characters from small towns who are in the financial and entertainment capital of the country and are bound by a common thread: to make it big on the dream screen.

The play, originally a 15-minute interlude script written by filmmaker Anurag Kashyap as an “outside Prithvi theatre performance” for young actors desperate to show off their talent and get noticed by directors of repute, was expanded into a full-length 60-minute play by Sunit Sinha of the Delhi-based theatre troupe, Actor Factor.

The play is in the genre of reality theatre, which is making a comeback on the Indian stage after a brief lull.

The plot is riveting like a “masala” movie. It makes up for a few shortcomings like a tendency to indulge in melodrama and clichés, high-decibel dialogues and a bit of repetitiveness in the way the dialogues are penned and delivered, as if from a pulpit.

Four aspiring actors find shelter under Mrs Kambli’s roof to make their mark in Mumbai. Mrs Kambli, the respectable landlady with a rather funny habit of shrieking every time she meets her boarders has a strict discipline code – no food and no women in her rooms.

The quartet combs the city during the day for a “break” and unwinds at night with liquor. Night is also the time to relive ideals and duel with egos and jealousies. The play unfolds with the arrival of Rohit Sen from Ranchi, a Naxal (guerrilla) on the run, who wants to become an actor. He teams up with Vishal, Prashant and Anurag and is a kind of an impartial observer to the dramatic turn of events.

Things begin to go awry when Prashant finds a job as a production assistant and leads his friends to believe that he has found an acting assignment for himself. Vishal, who wants to become a serious actor, seethes inside. The anger reaches a flashpoint when Prashant brings a woman home one night. And the landlady threatens to throw them out if they do not pay outstanding rent for three months the next morning.

Vishal kills Prashant in a fit of rage. He is arrested by the archetypal Mumbaiyya police inspector Wardi, who makes him confess to his crime in the lockup. The inspector stumbles also upon the identity of the Naxalite during a raid.

The play ends with Rohit, the guerrilla, fleeing Mumbai.

The actors are committed – their zeal to find a toehold in Delhi’s elite stage brims forth. The play shines at times with homegrown wit, snatches of quality acting and a folksy background score that smacks of the vibrant colours of India. The set is minimal and intelligently crafted to create a diverse set of sequences with minimum props.

But the rampant use of expletives and four letter words detracts from the narrative. It is as if small-towners by nature have no other way to convey the anguish of their struggle than by swearing in their native tongues. Actor Factor needs to polish its act for a few more years before it can join the elite club.