Anthbahaar: Hostels 1,3,11,13 – A Review
“Antbahaar” Review by Anshul Jain (Zen)
I feel it is quite difficult to write a review of a good PAF. “Antbahaar” was full of surprises and new elements executed in an impressing manner.
Script and Direction
First and foremost I really appreciate the effort of scripting a PAF in a different language (though not very different from Hindi but still) and maintaining its authenticity 90% of the time. I know there were parts where the script or the voiceover team did have a fall back on normal hindi, but overall I thought it was a commendable effort. The humor content was extremely good and it did make us laugh at several points during the PAF, especially during the first half. The screenplay of the first half could really hold the audience with so many surprises coming up back to back. Sand animation was a great attempt and the fact that this story was based around the deserts of Rajasthan, made this act even more relevant. The “Mela” scene was amazing. The acts like walking on a rope, walking on sticks, puppet show and the three dance performances along with a beautiful prod setup stole the show and gave a terrific start to the PAF. But as there is always some scope of improvement, I felt that the puppet show could have been a little better by adding some more puppet movements apart from the basic two string movements. (for example a string attached to the hip of the female puppet which enables to imitate a “thumka” action could have been added without much difficulty).
Amid the whole show, there were some scenes which were highly appreciated. The scene where cow gives birth to a calf was nice because the chaos created while calling all the villagers could establish the fact that it is a small village where everyone knows each other and you probably don’t need any other means to contact them except a shriek. The scene where “Lapton” is drunk and fights with the soldier was very well done.
Though this was a great PAF, I have some reservations about this. I never perceive a PAF as a walk through an “Art Gallery” wherein you just put up some outstanding art work for display. Though whatever they did was completely gelling with the theme and the setup, they seemed to be pearls without a string. The basic issue or emotion of a village being divided into two was not conveyed in a convincing manner. I completely appreciate the effort to go all the way to “Meharsar” and shoot the video of the villagers, but I craved to see that emotion or issue coming out in the screenplay / script of the PAF. I wasn’t convinced about the real troubles of the division or how has it really affected the lives of the people. There were many scenes which weren’t well connected. There were abrupt shifts in emotions from happiness to seriousness. The scene where Ram Singh is killed ended too abruptly. Towards the end when the army guy (from Lucknow) comes and shouts on people that this division is no joke was really irrational. In my opinion those guys were just standing near the border and talking right? Thus I feel that as the issue became stronger and stronger towards the end, the script became weaker and could not really bring out the point it was supposed to convey.
Acting and Voice-over
Acting team did a wonderful job. Murgi, as usual, was outstanding and did complete justice to his character. Though I would have loved to see some presence of mind to cover up the blunder of breaking the “matki”, but otherwise he was constructively energetic on stage. The “dadiji” did a great job. The two brothers did fairly well. The guy who was narrating the story in the “Mela” scene was good and provided a good start to the PAF. The acting was consistent with the voice-overs for most of the actors. I just felt that they could have engaged more people in the village as most of the times the village seemed deserted and still there were instructions to “go back to home” to those who were probably already at their respective homes.
Voice-overs were one of the best things this PAF had. I appreciate the effort it takes to deliver voice-overs in a different language and that too with full power and emotions. Voice-over of Ram Singh was absolutely brilliant. The voice had the authority which the character demanded. The voice-over of “Dadiji” was good. However, the voice-over of the postman was a little over exaggerated at some places. Another noticeable thing was the way the voice-overs were fading towards the end of the scene. I could see the guys moving away from the mic to give that fading effect. This is not something everyone attempts and I think it was quite good. Overall a wonderful effort by the voice-over team which was well supported by the actors.
The prod setup was very beautiful and was 100% relevant to the PAF. I really appreciate the hard work to lay down tonnes of soil to make the quadrangle look completely genuine. The small Ferris wheel with lights on it was a masterpiece. The whole prod was beautifully set up. The tree, the cottage and the “haweli”, all were nicely made. The prod was successful in making us believe that it is a village in Rajasthan and that is what is expected from the Prod. The best part was that there weren’t many prod shifts. The FA work done on the backdrop was good. Also, prod was well used during the screenplay. Overall, I am very happy with the prod team.
As the PAF was set up in a village in Rajasthan, music team did the right thing by using Indian instruments like table, dholak and dholki for producing the background scores( though I really missed a harmonium). I liked the music created for the “Mela” scene which supported the scene well. Talking about original compositions, as I said earlier, it is very important to have a throw in the voice so as to help the audience clearly understand the lyrics and relate to it. The song attempted by a group of girls lost its impact as there was no lead singer. Why can’t you pick one lead singer, give her one mic and one mic to get the chorus from other girls? The track played for “ara ra ra ra” (for the Bijli dance) was way too poor in quality and I am sure there are umpteen versions of that song available. Leave aside the versions; I strongly feel that this song could have been easily played live. There was a very evident and prolonged error where an english track was running in parallel with the correct track. Though they produced the tapping sound in sync with soldier’s walk in one scene but wasn’t he supposedly walking on sand? Overall I felt that Rajasthani music is a big genre in itself and a little more could have been exploited / improvised to add the flavor.
Choreography came as a mixed bag – with some positives and some negatives. The variety which they came up with was wonderful and all dances were very well executed. The “Fire Dance” at the beginning was nice and it set the mood. However, it would have been better if the dancers could lip sync the song. This was followed by the “Kucchi Ghodi” dance and the “Liliput” dance, both of them were good. The “Liliput” dance, inspite of a sound box glitch, was well handled and looked too funny. I liked the track used for this dance. “Bijli” dance was good with Zoya’s impressive performance during “ghoomar”. But it would have been better if the “dholak” player could act as if he is playing rather than enjoying “Bijli’s” dance unless they wanted to show that they are dancing on a recorded track and the “dholak” player plays only on his own songs :P.
The choreography for the contemporary dance was very good. The lifts and drops were smooth. The execution of lifting the border to divide the village was brilliant. The choreography seemed to be relevant and I could relate it to the PAF. However, I was not happy to see the costumes for the same as they were completely off with the feel of the set up. Though I get the logic that this was just a depiction, but the costumes somehow felt out of place. I think it would have been better if it was done with a blue kurti instead of a dress and a black dhoti instead of jeans / pants. The next dance with black clothes (let’s call it “allah” dance) was good in terms of choreography and energy as well, though it was hard to interpret the exact message it wanted to convey. Synchronization was just average in almost all the dance performances. Thus overall I feel the team did a commendable job in offering variety to the audience but there was scope for improvement in both choreography (for fire dance, kuchhi ghodi and bijli dance) and synchronization (for almost all).
The on stage lights used to create the ambience was too good. The lanterns and the lights on the Ferris wheel were nice. The red light focused on the tree from the truss looked beautiful, though it was not used in the screenplay. Also the other two lights coming from the truss were blue colored which failed to up lift the ambience. I would have preferred red or orange instead. The execution of lights was not impressive. There were visible errors which could have been avoided. I feel that in a prod set up like this where there are no sections i.e. where the entire prod is depicting just one location, handling lights is much easier. For every scene, even if you switch on all the lights I won’t mind it. There weren’t any prod shifts, making life much easier for the lights team. Still there were certain glitches. For the first three dances (“mela” scene), why weren’t the left side quadrangle moons focused on the dancers. In my opinion you guys did not want to put them on as you wanted to keep the “nautanki” (puppet set up) in dark so that it comes as a surprise. But it was anyways visible. Had you guys focused these lights on the dancers, the impact would have been much more. Also, you could have easily made the audience follow the moon to seek their attention at the sand animation which many people seemed to miss at the start. Overall the lights team could have done a little better.
They had the perfect setting to highlight the costumes and they did justice to it. The costumes for all actors were apt. The costumes for all the dances (especially Bijli dance and allah dance) were very good. The make-up done for the “Liliput” dance on the chest was good. Overall good costumes to add to the Rajasthani village set up except the costumes for 12 guys in the last scene holding the platform which probably displayed all kinds of pajamas, shorts and jeans available in the market 😛
This PAF started on a very high note. It blew away the audience with some brilliant acts and healthy humor. But as it progressed, not only did the script fail to lead the story to a satisfying conclusion, but the execution also became loose. At the end I was confused as to what should I feel about the whole issue? Should I be angry over the decision to divide, sympathetic towards the villagers, sad that the villagers will not be able to stay together or happy that the division didn’t let their spirits down and they looked forward to be united again. I really feel this PAF had a tremendous potential to be one of the best PAFs, but somewhere somehow it failed leave me spellbound.
In finance, people often use two approaches to value a company called SOTP (Sum of the Parts) and Comparable Analysis. While this PAF would value high if valued as a sum of individual parts / trophies, it might suffer when compared to others as a complete package. It all depends on how the judges look at it!! In any case I enjoyed it and hence a big kudos to team “Antbahaar”, you guys rocked that night! 🙂
Ratings [This was very tough and too close]
Script: 8/ 10
Direction: 8 / 10
Acting: 9.5 / 10
Voice-over: 9.5 / 10
Prod: 9 / 10
Music: 7.5 / 10
Choreography: 8 / 10
Lights: 8 / 10
Costumes: 9 / 10
Overall: 8 / 10