anita majumdar and leon aureus
It is Christmas 1989 in India and Kabirah is hoping for her big break as a Bollywood playback singer. So begins Oy! Just Beat It, the newest play from Anita Majumdar which is playing as part of the 2010 Toronto Fringe Festival.
In four days Kabirah will be married to a man she has never met and yet, she still has her heart set on him sweeping her away from the political turmoil of India and “other Indians” and whisking her off to America. Her singing partner for the evening is Filipe, an Indo-Filipino who lived in India for most of his adolescence, went to University in North America and now dreams of returning to a homeland he barely knows. Kabirah suffers from an overwhelming insecurity about her physical appearance, centering resolutely on the idea of shadism (prejudice based on skin tone), for apparently she is darker than the ideal for Indian culture. Her and Filipe have a complex connection, as they banter with one another in an almost flirtatious way, but also pepper each other with harsh criticisms and sardonic quips. Yet ultimately, their time together trapped in a sound studio with a distinctly pervy sound engineer, whose voice resonates, dripping with lust and sleaze from the booth, forges a bond between Kabirah and Filipe that may not change either of their lives, but certainly enriches their awareness about their unique experiences.
Reza Jacobs, whose voice is pre-recorded as the sound engineer, provides some awkward tension to draw Kabirah and Filipe together with his perfect combination of being both sordid and creepy. Leon Aureus plays Filipe a little inconsistently, sometimes cocky and aloof, and sometimes slightly hesitant and awkward without a clear sense of why his demeanour is shifting. Anita Majumdar is dynamic and fascinating as Kabirah, and is truly the spirit of this piece. She has the comic rhythm of her lines absolutely precise and coupled with a lovely voice, she is the reason that the audience remains captivated throughout the play.
Some of the references to the socio-political conditions in India in the late 1980s were confusing for me, but predominantly I enjoy the way that Majumdar submerges her audience into India’s vibrant Bollywood and I was struck by how self-loathing Kabirah was, as she had obviously internalized all the criticisms others had projected onto her about the color of her skin. I appreciated that this play did not have a clear-cut sense of conclusion, but that these three characters would disperse, perhaps never to see one another again, but that there was a subtle difference in both Kabirah and Filipe at the end because of the hours they spent together in the Sound Studio one Christmas Eve.
Oy! Just Beat It is a fun little play that shows off some of Majumdar’s assorted talents, it keeps the audience entertained and features some Michael Jackson translated into Hindi. If you have never seen Anita Majumdar perform, I would recommend that you do; she is a force to be reckoned with!
Oy! Just Beat It plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space (30 Bridgman Avenue) Sunday, July 11 @ 3:30 pm. all tickets $10 at the door or book in advance by calling the fringe hotline at 416.966.1062 or go online at http://www.fringetoronto.com/.