‘The Kachra Tales’, a play about a sweeper-boy, impresses with its humorous dialogues, dramatic acting, and flamboyant settings
Photo: Kanda (left) and Kachra
By Shevlin Sebastian
A group of boys and girls hold on to a stick above their heads for dear life. They are swinging from side to side. All of them are wearing black shirts and loose trousers. A couple of girls have bulbous red noses. One of the boys says, 'Mumbai Central'. It takes some time to realise that they are inside a suburban train in Mumbai. Suddenly, they all rush out of the train.
One is talking on the phone. Another is running around in circles. One wears outsize spectacles and then… boom … they all land on the floor, looking lifeless. “We just wanted to show the chaos of Mumbai,” says director Jaimini Pathak. A boy appears on the stage with a broom and sweeps the crowd off the stage. And that is how Kachra, the sweeper boy, is introduced. He is wearing a white vest and brown shorts.
Kachra’s mother wants him to study, but he wants to become a top-class sweeper. “I want to clean up the whole world,” says Kachra. “Otherwise, the earth will be a filthy place.” Soon, his friend Kanda appears. They talk about their teacher, Sikandar Babu. At the side, Sikander is trying to teach a group of bored students. Says the teacher to a student: “You are sprouting nonsense, you little blot.”
Meanwhile, Kanda says, “I want to become like Salman [Khan].” He writes a poem in praise of the Bollywood actress Rukmini Kiran Shah, who is coming to town. They go over to the set and are blocked by the watchman and the make-up artist. Suddenly, Rukmini zooms in wearing a green top and pink skirt. But somehow, the boys manage to slip in. Soon, there is a fight between hero Tabrez Anand and Rukmini. They chase each other. There is a melee and, in the confusion, Kachra and Kanda are transported to another world.
This is a new kingdom where the boys meet two men who represent an ostrich and crab. Kachra says, “Who are you?” And the pair break out into a wonderful song, with a couple of Bengali sentences thrown in:
Who are we?
Ami Ke, Tumi Ke? (Who am I? Who are you?)
Jaani Na, Jaano Na. (I don’t know. You don’t know.)
“The play got its inspiration from the nonsense verse of Sukumar Ray, Lewis Carroll, Ogden Nash, and Edward Lear,” says Pathak. “In fact, the ‘who are we’ song was a tribute to Sukumar Ray’s ‘Mish Mash’.” The script was written, not surprisingly, by a Bengali: Nayantara Roy.
The ostrich and the crab tell the boys that the king is cruel and heartless. He does not allow the people to own houses and possessions. “They tell the boys that if they want to escape, they would have to kill the king,” says Anand Ramprasad, of ‘Working Title’, a Mumbai-based theatre company, which produced the play.
Many incidents and songs take place, and finally the Queen realises that her husband had killed her father, the old king. She accosts the young king, is about to kill him and at the last moment spares his life and sends him away, to be guarded at all times in a remote area. In between Kachra says, “Is this reality or a dream?”
Soon, Kachra’s mother is awakening him. It seems to be a dream. He rushes to meet Kanda who also confirmed that he had the same vision.
Many youngsters attended the play, named, ‘The Kachra Tales’. One of them was Joseph Monis, a Class 11 student. “When I was told it was a play about a young cleaning boy I thought it would be a depressing story, but it turned out to be wonderful,” says Joseph. “I especially enjoyed the weird dialogues. The acting was great.”
Says Sneha Rita, a Class 6 student, “It was the funniest play I have seen in my entire life. I loved everything about it.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)