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Those Indian Guys in D'Arranged Marriage & From India With Love
 
23/06/2005
The Star
TWO MEN AND A SARI IN D’ARRANGED MARRIAGE
By Saras M. Manickam

"Sanjay, you are already 10. Isn’t it time you were thinking of marriage?” So begins D’Arranged Marriage, a hilarious take on the Indian preoccupation with marriage.

There’s Sanjay, a cranky father, pious mother, an uncle, cousin, and Maori best friend, the intended bride, bride’s father and the village idiot – on whom the bride sets her sights.

Put one man, Tarun Mohanbhai, on stage to play all these roles and what you got were 75 minutes of largely non-stop comedy at the Actors Studio in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, last week.

The story is simple. The son of Indian immigrants in New Zealand, Sanjay is imbued with Western values and tries to dodge the issue of his marriage, which his parents keep raising. Along the way, appear his uncle, cousin, and friend who badger him with useless advice and information.

When he finally meets Neenu, his intended bride, he falls for her like a ton of bricks (romantic Bollywood music here). Unfortunately, Neenu is in love with Rundeep, the village idiot.

D’Arranged Marriage is a testimony to Tarun’s slick skills as a stand up comic. He almost never faltered as he moved from character to distinct character in split seconds. There was neither costume change nor intermission but the audience was too busy laughing to notice.

I thought that the caricature of snobbish Neenu’s father with his glass of whisky was spot on. And when Pushpa hyperventilates at the thought of homosexuality, her “hey Ram, hey Ram” was the epitome of a screamingly funny Indian housewife.

There were, however, some movements that were rather tired – what was with the crotch grabbing, anyway? Also, Tarun could have paced himself a tad slower to allow the audience to catch more – the laughter would have been even greater.

What helped rivet the audience was the slide show. The slides gave us glimpses of how the characters looked and helped explain various situations.

Tarun is obviously a multi-talented man: he wrote D’Arranged Marriage together with his creative partner, Rajeev Varma.

The two Kiwis, known simply as Those Indian Guys, also wrote the prequel to D’Arranged Marriage, From India with Love (thanks a lot, George Lucas!). D’Arranged Marriage played first; it finished its run on June 12 but has been “brought back by popular demand” for two extra shows next week. From India with Love continues until Sunday.

From India with Love tells of the trials and tribulations of Pushpa (Rajeev) and Manhur (Tarun), two penniless Indian villagers, as they fall in love and travel to New Zealand to seek a better life to help Pushpa’s ailing father. The couple find life in New Zealand unbearably harsh, at least at first. The Indian and New Zealand backgrounds provide ample fodder for humorous observations on cultural differences, racism, ignorance and interaction.

Indeed, it is a wicked parody of Indian mores and culture that pokes fun at just about every Indian stereotype – but without malice. Think the Indian disdain for dark complexions: “Pushpa? But she’s so black!” Think Indian survival instincts: Manhur: “I have nothing!” Dilip: “Don’t focus on the facts!” It’s here, delivered with barrels of laughter that leave you with aching sides.

It’s not just the script or the acting that is funny. It is as much the way the entire play is put together with live acting, filmed clips and puppetry. Both the technical and the live aspects mesh perfectly without a hitch and the end result is a great comedy.

Despite the laughs, however, not every single little thing worked. For instance, the Bollywood style songs were at first very funny. However, there were too many of them and they stretched tiresomely long. With no subtitles to help non-Hindi speakers, the initial thrust of laughter became a little forced.

But, really, it was a minor flaw. Watch these plays, not just for laughs but also to see two very fine actors.