I’d spent the entire day circling the off-beat town of Gokarna, like a worn path of a merry-go-round.
Boredom was closing in, threatening to seal me into its concrete tomb! What to do when the town’s temples are closed to foreigners and you’re not into beaches?
Enter Gokarna’s local community theater.
If you’ve ever watched a Bollywood film, you’ll notice that “cheese” is a consistent flavor of India’s entertainment formula.
Community theater is lovably no exception.
If you’re in India and pass by an empty dirt lot with blaring disco music as advertisement music, you might give sideways glance, then continue on without even a break in your step. This is what I did initially.
The second time I passed it, my curiosity made me stop.
Indian community theater?
The best seats in the house
Entering the lot, the crowd was thin. Some of them looked just as uncertain as me; not knowing what to expect. I went up to the ticket booth.
The ticket seller asked–
30, 40 or 50 rupee seats?
I picked the 40 rupee seats and then proceeded to walk to the door which said “4o”.
The ticket collector at the door seemed surprised to have a foreigner standing in his line.
You see Indian show before? he asked me, thrilled to have a foreigner in his line.
– No, my first time. What is this about?
Oh, dancing, singing,… You know Hindi?
He tossed me a quizzical expression.
– I’ll just watch the gestures and movement.
Excited and proud to be offering me my first experience, he walked me over to the ticket collector at the 50 ruppee entrance, said something to the ticket taker at that line and then proudly hailed me in to the best plastic seats in the house!
You sit here. Your first time.
And so it was!
Indian community theater.
The only thing that surfaces now with that term is madcap masala fun (click here to see my video highlights of that fun, if the bottom video doesn’t work).
Though I couldn’t understand a word of it, I could guess some of the stories. Gauging from the frequent laughter in the house, the show was a comedy and one of the character “actresses” was a man, to add to more of the laughter.
It made my time pass quickly and was one of the best cultural experiences I’ve had.
Never judge an Indian book by it’s cover.
I was glad I came!