There’s a scene in the play, ‘Welcome Zindagi’, where the character, Bhanu Ganatra (Jigna Vyas who clearly steals the show) says, “Kaan na jalsa aankhon thi naa karaaye!” which, when roughly translated, means, “One cannot enjoy the pleasures of the ear through the eyes”. This line is quite befitting to describe this remarkable Gujarati play written and directed by Saumya Joshi, for one needs to watch and actually ‘hear’ these characters and their story, rather than ‘read’ about them.
The initial twenty minutes are enough for you to get up, close and personal with the three characters of this play: Arun Ganatra (aptly played by Saumya Joshi), who is a Head Clerk at the brink of retirement from a job he takes pride in, Bhanu Ganatra (Jigna Vyas, who clearly steals the show as the wife and mother, and also doubles up as narrator), and Vivek Ganatra (Abhinay Banker – an actor to watch out for).
The dialogues of Jigna Vyas are peppered with Kathiawadi accent, which works for the play despite being at the risk of sounding like Supriya Pathak’s popular ‘Ae Prafull’ twang in the TV series, ‘Khichdi’. The best thing about her character is almost every lady in the auditorium could relate to Bhanu Ganatra (I could already see many ladies nodding in déjà vu and sighing, ‘Saache j, aavu j thaai’ i.e. ‘this is what actually happens’). The actress hence succeeds in creating a direct link with the audience, especially through the brief pauses she smartly uses to evoke empathy as audience’s reaction.
While Jigna Vyas is vocal about her thoughts, anxieties, joy, and frustrations, Saumya Joshi charts the restraint route with his character, Arun Ganatra. He seldom expresses what’s on his mind, and adroitly employs his body language (the slight tilt in the head, the hunchbacked shoulder and drooping eyes behind the glasses are the little giveaways, if one notices closely). Nevertheless, Saumya Joshi towers over everyone with his winning speech, articulated with a complete flawless tone, which, like a perfect symphony, knows when to hit the high notes and when to whisper in silence. A single line from this speech would make you label me a spoilsport. So I’d better stop here and proceed.
Vivek Ganatra, played by Abhinay Banker, is a young and dynamic guy with a fire in his belly, dreams in his eyes, yet his feet are grounded, albeit in a mire of his past. The little grudges he’s been nursing since his childhood eventually grow up to become ogres of misunderstanding between him and his father, Arun Ganatra. There is a scene where he describes that his friendship with a rich guy isn’t because of the wealth he possesses, but because he is indeed a true friend. This fact is illustrated through a narration by Abhinay Banker. And trust me, this gem of an actor conjures up a lively image of the incident merely with his body language and voice modulation (pardon the technical term).It’s surely a scene where he commands his presence, both as his character, Vivek Ganatra, as well as an ace actor.
Calling ‘Welcome Zindagi’ a ‘comedy’ would be a misnomer, a ‘family drama’ would be criminal, a ‘social satire’ would perhaps be a bit closer to what it is, but the best way to describe this awe-inspiring, goosebump-inducing, rib-tickling play would be: Factual Fiction. Watch it to know what I mean and you’ll never miss a single play by Saumya Joshi, presented under Kiran Bhatt and Kiran Sampat’s banner, ‘Khelaiya’(popular for Kanjee Viruddh Kanjee which was adapted into Hindi film, Oh My God!). Thanks team Khelaiya for bringing a breath of fresh air in Vadodara with ‘Welcome Zindagi’.