7

Flip the Script Friday: Dolly Dhingra, Unsuitable Girls

Well hey there gang. The Wi-Fi at home decided it does not like me anymore, so until something changes, I’m basically going to be living at Starbucks and the like. I’ve been extremely stressed recently, with several bad headaches. Not sure why – the prospect of turning 30 in a week, my lack of dissertation progress (at least, to my expectations; I am doing a little bit of something each day for it), and general life stress. This new lack of Internet dealio does not help.

Anyhoo, I decided to clear my mind by enjoying a nice meal at Cafe Hollander, and despite the noise, managing to get through an entire play: Unsuitable Girls by Dolly Dhingra.

Image result for unsuitable girls dolly dhingra

Image Credit: Oberon Books.

 

Basics

Unsuitable Girls premiered in 2000, at Contact Theatre in Manchester.

Characters

  • Chumpa Chameli. 28, a “bossy heroine.”
  • Sab and Mandy, her childhood friends, 25 and 28.
  • Mum, Chumpa’s mom, 55.
  • Audrey Sackville, Chumpa’s boss at High Society, 40s.
  • Ashok Sahota, Chumpa’s boyfriend, 28.
  • Mem Sahota, Ashok’s cousin, 28.
  • Vinod Kumar, Bollywood actor, 32.
  • Manoj Sahota, Ashok’s father and local video shop owner.
  • Other minor characters (Mrs. Middleton, Mr. Patel, Agent, Doctor, Matchmaker, Potential Dates…)

 Setting/Plot

Present day, East End of London. We open on Chumpa, wearing a wedding dress in a locker room of a swim club. More on that later. Meanwhile, Mum and Manoj are attempting to navigate the logistics of Chumpa’s wedding to longtime boyfriend and total sleazebag Ashok. After Chumpa declares she is not going to marry Ashok, Mum has a heart attack, leading Chumpa to promise God that if Mum stays alive, she will get married. Mum recovers, so Chumpa’s got a new mission. Chumpa then navigates through a parade of potentials through agencies, through her non-Indian friends Sab and Mandy, and continually running into Ashok’s cousin, Mem. In a side plot, Chumpa is attempting to break into the journalism world, and after being fired by Mr. Patel of Concrete Weekly, lands a job with High Society, where she ends up interviewing a Bollywood star who proposes marriage almost instantly. It looks like a fairy-tale ending, but unsurprisingly, not the fairy tale you’re expecting.

My Thoughts

I picked this play off the shelf randomly, and I think I’d rate it as just fair. There’s quite a lot of drama and a touch of Bollywood fantasy meeting the reality of 21st century relationships, which is an interesting combination. With all the location changes, implied musical numbers, and the whole swimming pool thing, it seems to be more suited for a film script than a theatre script, but if the Contact could pull it off, power to them. Overall, it’s not the most polished piece, with a few elements missing and kind of a sappy ending.

Life Imitating Bollywood

There’s a consistent theme of Bollywood throughout the play, from the myriad references, to implications of dance numbers, even resulting in a more-or-less Bollywood ending. There’s something about it that doesn’t quite work here, at least for me. I feel like in the wrong hands, this play could appear stereotypical and hackneyed (video-store notwithstanding) rather than current and bringing something new to the table. It’s an interesting contrast of worlds, but Dhingra could definitely accentuate it more, or make it seem like less of an abrupt transition. To me, it seems like the characters are almost aware that they’re actors in a Bollywood-esque scenario, which makes it seem less genuine, to a degree.

 

How I’d Flip It

I feel like it would be incredibly hard to stage, but it would definitely provide an “in” for audiences unaware of  the aspects of Indian/British-Indian culture. There are a lot of fun cultural references, dramaturgically speaking, for audiences to get to know. For some reason, though, I think it would be better flipped onto a screen as a short film or a miniseries rather than a stage play. Not saying that is a bad play per se, I just feel like it could get messy and confusing, especially in a small space.

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48

The Terrible Hallmark Valentine’s Day Movie Generator

I actually had a lot of fun making the Overly Dramatic Memoir Generator, and since my chill-out activity of choice these days is late-night Golden Girls marathons on Hallmark, I’ve encountered a whole lot of…commercials for really terrible sounding movies for Valentine’s Day. Seriously, why make another romantic blah-dee-blah when we have enough to watch one every day for fifty years in case we get trapped in an underground bunker while we wait for the nuclear waste to settle and the Earth to become habitable again?

Step 1: She’s a… (first letter of your first name)

A: Single

B: Widowed

C: Divorced

D: Unhappy

E: Sensitive

F: Depressed

G: Over-the-hill

H: Newly single

I: Hopelessly Romantic

J: Unlucky

K: Innocent

L: Lovesick

M: Love-lorn

N: Warm-hearted

O: Cold-hearted

P: Aging

Q: Elderly

R: Nubile

S: Young

T: Prideful

U: Unusual

V: Vain

W: Frustrated

X: Psychotic

Y: Misunderstood

Z: Fabulous

Step 2: Who is she? (month of your birth)

January: Movie Star

February: Telephone Operator

March: Ice Skater

April: Grandmother

May: Chocolatier

June: Sanitation Worker

July: Hairdresser

August: Beekeeper

September: Schoolteacher

October: Secretary

November: Call Girl

December: Lounge Singer.

Step 3: He’s a… (first letter of your last name, Step 1 List)

Step 4: Who is he? (color of your shirt)

Red: Meth Addict

Orange: Actor

Yellow: Sideshow Performer

Green: Police Officer

Blue: Surgeon

Purple: Dentist

Pink: Home Economics Teacher

Brown: Traveling Salesman

Black: Rabbi

Any Other Color: Nobody

Step 5: What happens when they… (date of your birth)

1: Start a business together?

2: Fall in a manhole together?

3: Wake up in an abandoned castle together?

4: Casually exchange glances over sippy cups?

5: Become neighbors?

6: Fight over a parking spot in front of Radio Shack?

7: Accidentally witness a federal crime?

8: Accidentally commit a federal crime?

9: Meet in a unisex handicapped bathroom?

10: Have root canals in adjacent chairs?

11: Sit together at bingo?

12: Get shipwrecked on an uncharted island?

13: Run into each other crossing the street because they’re idiots with no conception of physical space?

14: Adopt the same cat?

15: End up handcuffed together by a magician at a six-year-old’s birthday party?

16: Coach competing cheerleading squads?

17: Have to pick up trash by the side of the road as community service?

18: Get drafted into the army?

19: Walk into a plate glass window?

20: Reach for the same library book?

21: Get seated next to each other at a lesbian wedding?

22: Bump into each other at a Nickelback concert?

23: Accidentally switch bodies?

24: Accidentally switch cell phones?

25: Accidentally switch dressing rooms at Kohl’s?

26: Get jobs at Target?

27: Work the same corner?

28: Shyly smile at one another while picking up their dog’s poop in the local park?

29: Rob the same liquor store at the same time?

30: Discover they kissed at summer camp?

31: Figure out that they might be related?

Find out this Feburary 14 in Terrible Valentine’s Day Movie, 8/7 central, only on Hallmark.

My movie?

“She’s an unlucky secretary. He’s a newly single nobody. What happens when they get seated next to each other at a lesbian wedding?”

Hallmark: Television for People Who Live in a Jodi Picoult Novel

Oh, and hooray hooray for a six continent day! North America (Canada and USA), South America (Brazil), Europe (UK, Greece, Netherlands, Ireland and Romania), Asia (India, Philippines and UAE), Africa (Zambia) and Oceania (Australia).