Hope Invites Possibilities: A Review of the Play Good Luck,
Bad Luck, Who Knows?
Iris C F Gomes
Good Luck, Bad luck, Who Knows? is a brand new play from The Mustard Seed Company, written by Isabel Santa Rita Vas and directed by Isabel Vas and Kiran Bhandari. The play was performed with much success, eliciting appreciation from the audience.
The play explores how the changing condition of a particular street, called Rua de Mascate (Street of Hawkers), Good Luck Street or Bad Luck Street depending on its circumstances, transforms the people associated with it. This street is threatened by a garbage dump and the building of a parking lot. We are introduced to the play’s protagonists, whose lives are revealed to be deeply connected with this street.
Harsha, an older lady with dementia, has made her home in this street after being cast out by her own daughter. She responds to any given situation with a stream of appropriate Gandhian quotes despite the limited functionality of her brain.
Pranoy is an artist who has defied pressure from his brother to go into a mainstream profession and wants to add his artistic touch to the inner street. He clashes with Girish, a radio officer on board a ship and the self-appointed guardian of the street, because he initially supports progress. Their argument is broken up by Sheela, the seamstress, who declares her profound interest in human nature and her love of learning. She and Girish recognise each other as school mates, meeting once again in the street. They recall that Harsha was Sheela’s classmate.
Desiree, the dancer and devotee of Rabindranath Tagore, appears and declares that not much can be done against the onslaught of development and talks about the ‘survival of the silent’. Pranoy and Desiree seem to be far too immersed in their art forms to care as much about the street, but Girish and Sheela reminisce about the beckoning calls of the salt and lottery sellers, the children playing games, the delicious aroma of food cooking, and the police marching band in the street and become determined to save the street they deem to be part of their identity and their home. As the motley group disperses, Girish entreats them to come up with a plan to thwart the rebuilding blitz.
When they meet the next day, it is to the news that work is to progress at a more rapid rate than before, and Girish christens the street Bad Luck Street. Pranoy, however, arrives with a plan to save the street and encourages the others to honour the source of their inspiration in life, or their ‘god’, in a different area of the street. Banksy is Pranoy’s hero, Girish’s is thunder (Thor), Desiree’s is Rabindranath Tagore and Sheela’s is Irom Sharmila. Pranoy attempts to move Harsha from the street as she appears to him as an obstacle to his artistic vision. He is met by vehement opposition from Girish who is extremely protective of Harsha.
Once the group leaves, the building crew arrive and manage to displace Harsha. She manages to escape the mental hospital to which her daughter Anjali has committed her. The group decides to meet at every weekend in the hope that the street art will make a difference and save the street.
The play attacks the corruption of the politician-builder-police nexus, but stresses more on the apathy of people, especially those who are not directly affected by changes that uproot memories, heritage and certain members of society. This apathy can be seen at a microcosmic level in Harsha’s treatment by her own daughter. The story of Rua de Mascate is itself a microcosmic representation of what happens in most of India and Goa. The lack of desire to take on the responsibility to fight atrocities seems almost ingrained in our Indian psyche. Rare are the occasions when we see people come together for a genuine cause and those that take them on have tough battles to encounter.
Girish and the others are the scarce few that come together to reclaim the street, the scarce few that risk harsh repercussions but nonetheless resist the temptation to give up and promise to persevere to achieve their goal of preserving Good Luck Street.
Each character has had his or her own personal hurdles to surmount: Pranoy was disowned for being in love with his lower caste girlfriend Sangeeta and not toeing the line of convention; Harsha was abandoned in her state of dementia; Sheela has not been able to reach her full potential and has had a failed business; Desiree has had to grapple with the psychological and physical effects of her father’s suicide; and Girish has had to live a life devoid of love after being jilted by his lover. Coming together to save Rua de Mascate brings them good luck, in a sense, by resolving doubts about abilities and affirming confidence in choices made, as in the case of Pranoy who chose art over medicine and Sheela who made peace with her failure and became a door to door seamstress in the footsteps of her late father. The entire episode also inspires Sheela to write a book. Girish and Desiree find solace in each other after sharing their stories while Girish hopes to provide Harsha a home.
The playwright also makes a commentary on idols not being perfect, as Desiree points out to Sheela that Irom Sharmila deserted her cause to marry. We tend to hail our heroes as if they are without imperfections. But humans are not without imperfections. It is for particular traits and achievements that we must esteem our heroes and not lose sight of that even in the light of their foibles (unless your hero is a megalomaniac like Hitler or Stalin), following the example of Sheela. The trick is to imitate the virtues of our heroes but acknowledge their shortcomings and do the opposite.
The play also visits the possibilities that art offers in bringing about change and campaigning for conservation and rights. The change in attitude in Pranoy and Desiree shows movement away from art for art’s sake to art for a purpose.
The play ends on a positive note that there is hope as along as we come together for a common cause, and do not give up or give in to injustice and corruption, letting love be our guide.
The thought-provoking script by Isabel Vas has humour intermingled with the serious message of the play, for example, Sheela exclaims, ‘I cannot sew a sexy, frilly underwear for the city, can I?!’ when she is called to make an artistic contribution to the salvation of the street. Ms Vas’ play on words and integration of multiple languages always makes her work highly entertaining. The incorporation of music and dance was an added bonus. The mime, although innovative, was a tad disjointed. This may be because there was too much happening on stage for the audience to take in everything without dialogue to clarify certain movements, and the music playing along with the mime was too loud and distracting.
Kiran Bhandari and Karishma Alvares were excellent in their respective roles as Girish and Sheela. Newcomers Vibhav Sawant (Pranoy) and Impana Kulkarni (Desiree) are talented actors with potential. Other actors include Sarah Fernandes as Harsha. The mime cast includes Andria R Antao, Kalidas Kurdikar, Kimberely Noronha, Kyra Semelhago, Nellie M Velho Pereira, Prasad P Kalangutkar, and Veda Bhandari.