DIRECTED BY AKARSH KHURANA
STARRING: KARAN PANDIT, KASHIN SHETTY, ADHIR BHAT and PRERNA CHAWLA
I thought ‘the Interview’ would go on to be an “it’s so mean it’s actually funny” sort of dark comedy, but it arrested that thought by showing some soul towards the end. I was confused. I chanced to ask this question to director Akarsh Khurana himself, who was kind enough to spare a few minutes for a little chat we shared. But I found his answer unconvincing. He said the sensitivity of their play (written by Siddharth Kumar) depended on the sensitivity of the audience – if we wanted the Boss to be ruthless, he would be, and if we wanted sensitivity then we have that too. A typical entertainer’s answer from a person who doesn’t deny he’s one. I appreciated his honesty but it doesn’t save his play, which is either a painful intrusion of emotions in a laugh riot, or an injection of humour in a social drama, both distinctively spelling ‘half-baked’. On the one hand, it tries to be as crushing as a Coen-invention like ‘A Serious Man’, on the other it takes off in an ‘Up in the Air’ sort of soul-search. I wished I could laugh it off, but then it slapped me with a moral responsibility to take it seriously. I couldn’t decide.
Let this not be mistaken for rawness, even though the play did have ample amounts of it. The presentation was raw, its concept not so. We don’t get to know what happens off-stage, it’s but our own crude extrapolation that we’re entitled to. The interview in itself is obscure, we don’t know who is interviewing who for what post in which corporation. The most we get thrown in are words like ‘Middle Management’, sufficient to define the scenario to a fair level of precision. We have a candidate who has been Boss as well as Employee, set to continue doing the same. There’s his superior in Keith who views him as a potential threat, a pawn moved against his own corporate status. And ultimately, we have the ‘Boss’ as part of an elaborate Good-Cop-Bad-Cop routine with the occasional turn of table. To add to this, there’s also a Secretary who plays both cause and effect in a distorted centre of attention.
The Interviewee corners his bosses, the ‘played’ gets to play back. We delve into fantasy in a flesh-and-blood guise – there simply can’t be a soft ending. The play takes a sensitized turn; a downgrade for the sake of subsequent climactic peak. And the ending isn’t ‘crushing’ or ‘horribly funny’, it’s just wrong. The characters have their catharses – the ‘Candidate’ in the fact that he’s getting a job, Keith because he’s finally getting his promotion, and the ‘Boss’ because his problem is ‘fixed’ as Keith puts it. The Secretary, on her part, finds the highest form of peace. The problem here is that I was denied mine.
I liked how the Candidate reveals to his Boss that he’s about to marry the woman he once molested. I hated how the Boss responds with a similar story of his own. Bosses don't respond to subordinates, they Boss them! And I liked the sigh of relief as the Candidate breathes an “I got the job!” to his fiancée, but I hated the intersperse of sensitivity between bouts of indifference. It’s like our characters ‘reconcile’ into who they are as opposed to being themselves – a contradiction to corporate mentality. I felt as though Siddharth Kumar was prepared to do anything to reap his share of laughs – a trait I empathized with, the sloppy debut that I’ve been through as a playwright. I liked every imperfection of the play in form of premise and presentation, how actors, as characters, fidgeted when inactive; how their exits were announced but not explained. The play stuck religiously to its sequences, its back-stories giving scope for conscious and unconscious imagination – I liked that.
But then I hated how it got so carried away with its own pet concept, much like how I did. Well, what can I say? I am self-critical. Even more so when I find my flaws manifested in someone else, where I don’t have to go easy on them. This ‘Interview’ brought out the Boss in me. And I don’t fire it altogether for that, but I strongly maintain that I expected something more. It’s an Upper Management thing.