Hold the Mushrooms: Arundhati Raja’s new play is a funny take on family feud

The 75-minute piece is written by debutant playwright Binoy Mohan

Paramita Gupta, Yamuna Kali and Jimmy Xavier in a scene from the play

By Reema Gowalla

The last time TheatreRoom was in conversation with Bengaluru-based veteran theatre personality Arundhati Raja, it was about the English adaptation of Girish Karnad’s 1980 Kannada play Hittina Hunja. She had directed Bali: The Sacrifice, which marked the reopening of Jagriti Theatre in September 2021, after the long Covid lull. One year later, she is busy with the second run of her latest directorial — Hold the Mushrooms — a contemporary play, written by first-time playwright Binoy Mohan.

With nearly 50 plays to her credit as a theatre director, Arundhati has worked on complex classics, light-hearted comedies and more in her illustrious theatre journey. As the title for her new play hints at, Hold the Mushrooms navigates feuds in a modern family, and how members deal with such situations. The 75-minute piece is a dramedy that explores this theme to put in context how people cope with the aftermath of life-altering events that can throw a spanner in the works of any resolution. The play sheds light on how the members of the family in question deal with the consequences of these events, and why sometimes saying ‘sorry’ to a loved one seems to be such a tough job to do. The actors of the play are Jimmy Xavier, Paramita Gupta, Yamuna Kali and Vishnu Surendran.

Arundhati Raja

Sharing her thoughts on the play, Arundhati says, “It’s been a good experience to direct a contemporary script after a while. Hold the Mushrooms is a very relatable play — a story that every member of the audience can identify with in one way or the other. It’s a modern family set up, where there are closeness and differences, love and bickering as well as difficulties and ease. It’s a simple yet interesting script by Binoy, who has written a play for the first time. The play’s natural dialogues are its biggest takeaway. There are no monologues or complexities, in terms of its flow and treatment, making the piece a delight to watch. In fact, we have run housefull shows during its first run in July, while the second leg of shows are also quite an encouraging outcome.”

Binoy Mohan

According to Binoy, the idea occurred to him when he was musing about “how even the most liberal of people can cling so dearly to their prejudices”. He then merged this with another train of thought — the coping mechanisms that people resort to, especially when they don’t have anyone to speak to or are unwilling to acknowledge their source of sorrow and grief. Through this play, the playwright hopes to “make people evaluate how important their beliefs are, as opposed to the happiness of a loved one and whether or not their pride is worth the regret of unresolved estrangements”.

Arundhati’s previous works have been mostly adaptations of classics or plays that rather have a serious undertone. So, how was it to direct a piece that’s quite away from that. “A play is a play. Be it a classic or a contemporary script, it’s still dialogue on stage. A play script is nothing but a set of dialogues. It’s always about actors talking to each other. Of course, the approach to directing Hold the Mushrooms is a lot different from that of helming Bali: The Sacrifice, but at the end of the day, it’s all about giving shape to a piece for the stage. That said, the new play is a naturalistic one that has both drama and comedy. And it was indeed an exciting and invigorating experience to bring it to the stage,” she elaborates.

Describing audience response to live performances as getting increasingly better in recent times, the director says, “It’s encouraging to see people coming back to auditoriums to watch plays and other performances after the long gap of the pandemic. Word of mouth has been very helpful in recreating the buzz. Getting the performers back on stage and playwrights writing new plays have been the most motivating factor in these tough times.”

You can book your tickets for today’s show here.

Vishnu Surendran and Jimmy on stage

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