The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed several aspects of our lives online, and entertainment is no exception. The 90-minute performance piece Suhani Ki Shaadi, which returns for streaming on June 20, was conceptualised to offer respite to those cooped up in their homes because of the lockdown.
The show has been created by Mehak Mirza Prabhu and Suhani Shah. Prabhu also plays various characters in Shah’s life, from her endearing grandmother to her overbearing manager, all of whom are concerned in different ways with the same thing: when and to whom will Suhani get married? The show takes a fundamental truth of our times – society’s discomfort with single women – and treats it with professionally performed magic.
As the plot progresses, viewers are encouraged to pitch in. This is where Shah steps in by putting her mind-reading skills on display. For instance, participants are asked to name a random number or place, which is then revealed to have already been written down by Shah on a piece of paper in a sealed envelope.
“We encourage people to use the comments section and turn on their mics and cameras at some points, so it doesn’t feel like they are watching a YouTube video,” Shah said.
With the conceptualisation, rehearsals and performances all taking place during the lockdown, it took Shah and Prabhu a few shows before they could settle into the peculiarities of the format. “This show that has been created is specifically for the digital medium,” Prabhu said. “It cannot be done offline. It will continue [to be conducted online] even after the lockdown is lifted.”
Shah performed her first magic trick when she was seven. The prestidigitation industry has a long way to go, especially when it comes to making space for female performers, she observed.
Prabhu’s foray into storytelling happened much later, at the age of 33, when she was dealing with rheumatoid arthritis and depression.
Magicians build their craft around creating personas, while storytellers attempt to reduce the distance between performers and audiences. Bringing these divergent forms to create Suhani Ki Shaadi was an interesting experience, Shah said, adding that the set allows her to disrupt the linear structure of a conventional magic act.
For both performers, the focus isn’t so much on fusing two styles than creating a new and unified one. “We never treated it as storytelling and magic,” Prabhu said. “It was a new form of art that we wanted to present.”