Five Point Someone by Madras Players

Chowdiah Hall was brimming with youngsters yesterday (Sat, July 21) when Evam presented the Madras Players’ production of Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone. The theatre group is based out of Chennai and the book was adapted and directed by Nikhila Kesavan.

At the outset, I must confess that it can never be easy to adapt a book like Five Point Someone to stage, and I was pleasantly surprised. Five Point Someone is the story of Alok Gupta, Ryan Oberoi and Hari Kumar, three freshers who make it to the hallowed Indian Institute of Technology at Delhi, from completely different backgrounds and vastly different takes on life. Alok has a family to look after — he is the only hope for his paralyzed father, school-teacher mother and a simpering sister. Ryan is ubercool, with parents earning a dollar salary, but indifferent to the needs of their child, and as a result, the son has turned into a cynic, a brilliant cynic. Hari is a rolling stone, and most of the moss he gathers is what Ryan feeds him. The three who become friends right in the first few days of their stay during a ragging incident, decide to take life light, enjoy the ‘best’ years, and end up as five-pointers, and barely make through the semesters, who are supposed to be scorned at, humiliated in class, and as a result spend most of their time outside of it rather than in it. They however, find time to fight with each other, make up, fall in love, lay inebriated on the institute terrace, get caught stealing question papers, and finally make it out of IIT. The story is well known — the book having sold hundreds of thousands of copies, but capturing the magic on stage was not an easy task.

It is at this point that one needs to commend the director and the actors. If I said that the audience was in splits, I would be undermining the amount of noise the auditorium generated. The book is in first-person narrative style, and the director stuck to it, introducing the author who was recounting his story as a fellow actor while we saw the actors on stage. The play was full of punch lines — about how students lived their life at ‘Sassies’ (the all night eating joint), the inability to understand the female species, the altercations with the professors — and the audience raised the hall with their claps at each of them. The directory was also able to portray the emotional parts well especially the dichotomy in Alok’s mind. The sets were minimalist and most of the action was limited to a single room. The lights were well-handled except for a lapse or two in the entire play, which really commendable since they were used very heavily since the two likenesses of Hari were together on stage a lot of times. I am afraid I didn’t much notice the music except for Floyd’s ‘Brick in the Wall’ before the beginning and after the end.

Sarvesh Sridhar as Alok was the pick of the actors. This monologue about being a ‘loser’ was really well done since at no point the audience felt that it was dragged. Also, little things like always running when he got on stage (and near perfect cueing) made it a treat to watch him perform. Abhijeet Mohanty as Hari was faltering, as the character demanded. However, his movements felt a little too unnatural and forced at times. Praveen Bharatwaj as Ryan was blase, but one hoped to see something more exciting — and the maverick didn’t come out that well. S Vidyuth as the author was detached and the high-point was when after Hari and Neha have sex, and the author comes on stage and blushes! Uttara Krishnadas as Neha handled the romantic scenes quite well (which were well applauded), but the emotional scenes became a little drab. The other professors did their small roles quite well, esp. Shankar Sundaram as Prof. Dubey.

While he play was very well adapted and very well presented, I personally felt that two of the scenes they had left out should have been there — the initial ragging scene, and the scene where Hari goes to give his Viva having had a few rather large shots of Vodka. Those two scenes would have been superb, and I was silently wishing that they would be there. The little things which as a hostelite I have lived and experienced, and the (perhaps not so much) pressure at another such institute that I have seen, really made it a personal journey.

 What I also really appreciated was that the organizers were kind enough to give me (and my friends) tickets to see the show (divine intervention) and one was able to establish a personal rapport with a few members of Evam. And I came back with a bag full of chocolates as a prize for being super-insistent for the tickets! Thanks guys! I wanted to give a tempo shout (a celebration of victory) of my college after the play but sadly my friends were not willing.

A great show — and I am sure everybody who saw it absolutely loved it — and went back feeling much lighter and happier. And the intense stomach pain after the play due to all the laughing — as they say hanste hanste mera pet phat gaya. A must watch!

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