India is a cricket-crazy country. It is one of the many things we share in common with our Pakistani neighbors. The rivalry between the two national teams is extremely intense, and you need to watch what you say around cricket-crazy fans, lest you want to incur their spiteful wrath. India-Pakistan cricket matches are no regular games – it is the game of fighting to the death (not literally, of course). Both sides are very competitive, have grand celebrations upon victory, and sulk for weeks if faced with defeat. Based on these extreme emotions comes a play by Suketu Shah (director) and Abhishek Pattnaik (writer), which explores personal relationships and inter-communal marriages set against the backdrop of cricket. Last Over stars theatre veterans Rakesh Bedi and Ananth Mahadevan in prominent roles.
The main characters of the play are Zubaina Kazmi and Sunny Arora, who are newly married. Interestingly, Zubaina hails from Pakistan and Sunny from Punjab in India, and both are now settled in London. The story begins with them taking charge of the catering service during the cricket World Cup finals at Lord’s (a popular stadium in London). This final is to be held between Zubaina and Sunny’s home countries. But the couple is not too worried about the game. Their real worries start when their fathers land up announced in their house in London, both wishing to go for the finals. While their fathers are not very accepting of their relationship, they are even more concerned about the final game, the tickets for which are sold out. What follows is an intense rivalry between the fathers that goes beyond the impending game of cricket.
While the plot of the play seems a tad serious, the execution goes beyond the boundary of hilarity. You will have a ball watching Rakesh Bedi and Ananth Mahadevan, as they bowl you over with laughter. Too many cricket puns? Well, forgive us, because we were expecting many from the play, but it preferred to swerve to the real issue than focus on cricket. Bedi and Mahadevan were certainly the ones to watch out for, as they delivered some side-splitting humor. Bedi had the best of lines, and his punches hit the stump every time. Mahadevan made up with his equally obnoxious antics, and any Indian or Pakistani could relate to these characters. With their years of experience on stage as well as on camera, these veterans hit sixes after sixes.
Abhishek Pattnaik also deserves special mention as the writer of the play, who has produced one fine, well-written script. The play was witty, the characters were each given unique characteristics, and there were plenty of punches to keep the audience engaged for two hours. Comedy can often be slapstick, but Pattnaik did not divert from the message. It is good to see plays are can be an equal dose of relevance and entertainment.