Who goes to an acting class to learn, yaar? It was upon this lofty premise that Meherzad Patel's The Class Act was written, after which its sitcom-like style has endeared it to audiences across the country. As it happens, this story really begins back when Patel, then a student of law, found himself at his first internship. It began on June 1 that year, when the courts were closed and like any other intern, Patel found himself swimming in a sea of files he had been asked "to read." Sitting in a cabin of his own, Patel grabbed himself a pen and wrote the 30-minute version of The Class Act.
"It was called Eenie Meenie Miney Mo at first," says Patel, who took the script back to his school, St. Mary's for the students to perform at their annual inter-house dramatics event. "The house that performed it won and we thought it would work as a professional production too," says Meherzad. The school is crucial to their story - most members of Silly Point Productions (we will get to the nomenclature later), come from St. Mary's, which is known for its strong dramatics programme.
That's how Silly Point came to be - named after Patel's love for cricket. The term, 'Silly Point', is the fielding position nearest the batsman, reserved, back in the days before helmets, for the youngest, most bullied player on the team. "That's what we were - in the line of fire because we were the newest. We also like comedy, so 'silly' seemed a good way to go!"
The Class Act is set netirely in an acting classroom, where five students and their teacher, William, played by Patel, take on each other's religious stereotypes. "The four men represent Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Parsis, the four major religions of Mumbai," says Patel. "They're fighting with each other but it's not really a fight - this is their normal. They're not taking digs at each other's religion, they're taking digs at each other."
The challenge, Patel remarks, is getting good actors to play bad ones, the sort one normally finds in an acting class! "You're quite likely to find bad actors at a class! I've met some wonderful human beings at these places, but they're terrible actors and they know it. They're not there to be actors, they're there to have some fun!" The serious students who truly believe this is their ticket to the big league are pitted against the class clown - Patel's version of the Yin and Yang.
The 125-page script was whittled down to around 60 - "We edit it everyday, including today," says Patel, two days before their show in Bengaluru. The actors contributed to the script too - the play culminates with a monologue, that holy-of-holies, which actors were encouraged to write for themselves. "One of actors did produce one and he lapses into Hindi at the end of an English play," says Patel.
Silly Point Productions started off with a repertoire of English comedies, making the transition to Gujarati some years later. "We thought doing plays in Gujarati was lame, because a lot of us our Parsis and the language came to us naturally. Now, people say we have helped revive the culture." The Parsi New Year, celebrated in August ad the Irani New Year, which happens in March, are unfailingly marked with a new production. "We're expected to do one and it's expected to be good," Patel smiles. "We're lucky to have an audience that loves us!"
What: The Class Act
When: Nov. 26, 7 pm
Where: MLR Convention, Centre, JP Nagar, Brigade Millennium, 7th Phase J.P. Nagar