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Bangalore drama is like Downton Abbey on epic scale

The haves and have nots of India's silicon valley collide in Girish Karnad's Boiled Beans on Toast, which received its UK premiere at Watermans arts centre in Brentford

Girish Karnad's look at modern day Bangalore deals with dramas on a very different scale.

While the city's wealthy elite fret over appearances and search for meaning in life, they barely notice its underclass trampling over one another just to keep their heads above water.

Weaving together six very different lives as they briefly converge amid the fast-changing physical and social landscape of India's bustling silicon valley, it has the feel of a more epic Downton Abbey.

 

The action revolves around Muttu, the wife of a wealthy businessman. As she gets misty-eyed over the felling of a tree outside her opulent apartment, the deeper roots of her melancholy gradually become apparent.

Her friend, the snooty and manipulative Kitty Iyer, finds idle amusement playing god with the life of a wide-eyed bureaucrat in thrall to the city and the opportunity it represents.

Meanwhile, Muttu's naive son Kunaal's eyes are opened as he learns what their maid Vimla gets up to when she's not serving tea.

Their shifting fortunes are symbolic of a city in transition, but one where tradition holds firm as skyscrapers reach for the clouds.

As the protagonists seek very modern gods in the worlds of rock music and horse racing, they remain bound by age old conventions.

Joy Sengupta is a delight as Prabhakar, whose eternal optimism delivers most of the best lines, like when he tells Muttu 'this hive of pollution is like a breath of fresh air'. Swati Das also shines as Vimla, her steely, overbearing exterior masking the fear and desperation in her eyes.

Under Lillete Dubey's direction, the two hours fly by, but the drama is painted in broad brushstrokes. Although it hints at darker depths, particularly when it comes to Kitty's marriage, these are never fully explored.

It's an illuminating and frequently funny insight into the fabric of a modern city, but one in which the characters' inner lives are obscured amid the traffic and pollution.

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