An adaptation of Irish playwright Marie Jones’ Stones in his Pocket, Mosambi Narangi is directed by Mohit Takalkar. The Hindi play revolves around two small-town film extras, Mosambi Prasad and Narangi Lal, played brilliantly by Rajit Kapur and Ajeet Singh Palawat.
It’s about two small-time extras with big dreams
Flower petals strewn across the ground. Empty bottles of water and wrappers in corners. Makeshift seats fashioned from equipment. This shabby scene is the set of a Bollywood film being shot in Benares. It’s a typical sight. As one of the characters points out, movie makers come to small towns to tell local stories and leave a mess. It’s not only the place that gets treated badly, the people too are pushed around by city folk.
At the receiving end are the play’s titular characters, Narangi Lal (Ajeet Singh Palawat) and Mosambi Prasad (Rajit Kapur). They’re both extras working on the sets of a Bollywood film titled Isaq Benaraswala being filmed on the ghats. They’re ambitious, eager to please and bullied by everyone in the crew, from the stage director Zinnia and the film’s director Saurabh to the lead actress Sabrina, all of whom are played by Kapur and Singh Palawat.
The play is also about dreams and the disappointment of unfulfilled ambitions, a common experience among filmwallahs, whose careers are salted with failures big and small. Narangi wants to make a blockbuster film from a script he has written. He tries to sell it to Zinnia, who’s uninterested. Mosambi, on the other hand, wants to play a meaningful role in a film. But he’s distracted by the desire to become a friend with benefits to Sabrina. The dreams of both strugglers are dashed, multiple times.
Sometimes repeated failure has dangerous consequences, such as the case of Mosambi’s brother Sonu. When Mosambi and Narangi talk about their dreams and Sonu’s, the suggestion is that we often expect too much of ourselves.
Rajit Kapur and Ajeet Singh Palawat are terrific
Kapur and Singh Palawat effortlessly slip from one role to another, making each character gloriously watchable. Kapur deftly essays the roles of a Parsi stage manager, issuing instructions in a comical mix of Hindi and English, Mosambi’s younger brother Sonu and Makhan mama, the “most senior junior artist”. Singh Palawat is hilarious as Sabrina, the half-Russian leading lady, who speaks bad Hindi and is desperate to improve her language skills, the no-nonsense movie director Saurabh and Sabrina’s angry young Punjabi bodyguard, Joginder.
While the second half of the play does lag, overall Mosambi Narangi is a delightful story. The simplicity of the story and sets allow the talents of Kapur and Singh Palawat to shine. The performance is aided by a catchy title track and intelligent sound effects by musicians on stage.