SYDNEY: The murder mystery genre gets the Bollywood treatment in this new production by GLBT South Asian group Trikone Australasia, writes Lachlan Bennett.
Nothing lightens up a murder mystery like a well choreographed dance number.
Binu Raghaven would know, the man behind The Last Chai, a new production that combines the theatrics and spectacle of Bollywood with comedy and Agatha Christie-style mystery.
The Last Chai revolves around Amir, a Sydney-based actor who’s loved by his fellow actor Meera, but loathed by his pill-popping spouse Ragini and envied by his lesbian neighbour Susie, who dreams of ‘loosening up’his wife.
Things turn sour when the three women discover Amir’s secret homosexuality and resolve to plot his murder, each for their own personal reasons.
The result is a franticly hilarious farce, full of enchanting dance numbers, shrouded in Bollywood glamour.
The Last Chai is the latest production by South Asian GLBT support network Trikone Australasia.
Queer issues remain taboo in most of South Asia and Trikone exists to promote awareness in Australia and help people affirm both their sexual and South Asian identities.
Raghaven, a board member of Trikone, performs as the play’s protagonist Amir. He conceptualised the piece as a way of putting a queer spin on the Bollywood genre.
“Everyone thinks Bollywood is always a man loving a woman and vice versa,” Raghaven tells SX. “It’s always about a straight marriage, always straight things. The difference here is this is a gay and lesbian story, which we, as a LGBTIQ organisation, can show.”
“We want to showcase the talent we have in the [queer] community, as well in the South Asian community, to help [broaden] understanding of LGBTIQ issues.”
The Last Chai delves not only into queer issues within the confines of South Asian culture, but also the experience of Indian immigrants to Australia, exploring the cultural disparity between East and West.
The play also incorporates an actor who cross-dresses, which according to Raghaven, had a place in traditional Bollywood cinema.
“In the past, there were transsexual characters called the hijras in India and they would come on in movies for a short scene,” Raghaven says.
Traditionally used in minor roles, hijras were widely perceived as comic relief, Raghaven adds. However, The Last Chai, turns this, and other Bollywood conventions, on its head.
[Image] Zeenat Parveen, Kunal Mirchandani and Binu Raghavan in The Last Chai. Photo: Nigel Bahm
The Last Chai, February 15-17, 21-23, Sidetrack Theatre, Marrickville. Tix $28/$24 from www.sidetrack.com.au