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Who Done In? (2011)

This farce was written a couple of years back for high school children in India. The names of the characters have meaning here. For instance ‘Ramu Kaka’ meaning ‘Ramu uncle’ is a common name associated with a house servant. The central protagonist’s name ‘Swami’ is a popular name from South India, means ‘Lord’.  The name ‘Maida’ means ‘flour’ in Hindi and is also a play on the meaning of ‘maid’ as in maid servant. There were 13 students in the class so 13 roles were written into this play, but more roles could easily be added.

Who Done In?

Scene 1

(Interior of a house. A table and chair can be seen. Ramu Kaka, a grey haired rickety old man is dusting. Bruce, a hefty muscle man with grey hair arranged in a single long plait down his back and dressed in a Karate uniform, is sitting at the table and eating.)

Narrator: The sun has risen once again on Mr. Mamikandan Swami’s household. Let me introduce him to you. He is a rich, cranky old man, quickly approaching his centenary. He has no family, but he does have a retinue of servants, who have served him faithfully for the last fifty years. Mr. Swami informed his faithful retainers long back, that he has left his property to be divided among them, when he passes on to his heavenly abode. Unfortunately time has been pushing these faithful retainers too towards “St. Peter’s Pearly Gates” and they are no longer faithfully patient.

The stooped old man is Rama Kaka, the quintessential servant and that hulk is Mr. Swamy’s vanity, his bodyguard Bruce Lee.

(Back ground sounds of morning birds chirping, while the narrator speaks. Then music starts and Ramu Kaka starts dancing as he dusts. Sounds of a crash as Ramu Kaka falls down)

Ramu Kaka: Help Bruce Lee, help.

Bruce Lee: What is it, you old canker? Can’t you do nothing without my help?

(He helps Ramu Kaka up)

Ramu Kaka: Look at this layer of dust. By the time I finish cleaning this big old house, it will be time to start all over again. God have mercy on my creaking old bones. Ah those clever spiders. They’ve spun their web in those corners most difficult to reach. Bruce Lee, hey you great big mammoth! Come here and do something to earn your dinner! Body guard indeed! Haul that chair here and act sprightly now. I’m eighty seven and if you think I’m going to be scaling heights just to knock off some spiders, you’ve got another think coming!

Bruce Lee: Calm down old man. I may be younger than you but I am knocking on sixty too. Okay, hold the stool steady. If I fall on you, it will be Ramu Kaka sauce that Maida will be scraping off the floor!

(Bruce Lee climbs on the chair and dusts)

Narrator: Here comes Maida, the maid.

 (Maida, a plump grey haired woman in a maid’s apron, walks in with a cup of tea on a tray.)

Maida: Ah, the old roosters are at it again. Squabble–squabble, fight-fight. One would think you were children, the way you quarrel. Good Morning, you old buzzards!

Bruce Lee: Buzzard is the right word. Hovering over that poor old man, waiting for him to die! He should never have told us that we are his heirs…

Ramu Kaka: Poor old man? Poor old man?  I am the poor old man! He’s the rich miserly old man. Nothing poor about him! And he is the buzzard! He is growing rich at our expense. All we get for our sincerity and hard work is a little food in our bellies and a shelter over our heads. For anything we need, we’ve got to grovel at his feet. That’s my money in his bank I say!

Maida: Hush you old bag of bones. He’ll be here any moment now demanding his tea. (Mimicking) If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a trillion times, I want it on the dot of eight…. Well, I’ve laced his tea with arsenic.  Today’s the last day he’ll scream at me for his morning tea.

(She produces a wicked cackling laugh.)

Bruce Lee: Maida, what have you….?

Narrator: Lo and behold. Mr. Mamikandan Swami, the master of this house and our protagonist, cometh.

(Mr. Swami is a fat old man in a black wig and dressed very loudly in a Hawaiian print shirt and Bermudas and lots of gold chains and medallions. He walks in followed by his secretary, another grey haired, old man, who tries to stab Swamy with a pen once or twice, throughout the play, just as Swamy moves away. He is basically a ‘Yes man’, following Swamy around and nodding his head at whatever Swamy utters.)

Mr. Swami: Maida! Where’s my morning tea? If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a trillion times, I want it on the dot of eight!

Maida: Here you are Sir.

Bruce Lee: Wait Maida…!

(Maida offers the tea on a tray to Mr. Swami who barely takes a sip before putting it back on the tray.)

Mr. Swami: It’s too hot! Keep it till I get back from my drive. What is it Bruce old fellow? Just because I’m nice to all of you does not mean that I’ll let you take advantage of me.

Bruce Lee: The tea, the tea…

Mr. Swami: Go get your tea from the kitchen. (Aside) These people are all the same. Give them an inch and they’ll demand a mile…

(Mr. Swami walks out grumbling to himself. Maida stares after him then takes out a bottle from her pocket and looks at it.)

 

Maida: Oh no, the date has long expired.

Bruce Lee: Thank God, Maida. How could you?

Maida: Oh, very easily. I’m fed up. He’s never going to die and we are all going to be well settled in heaven before he kicks the bucket!

(She absently drinks the tea, chokes and falls down dead.)

Narrator: Thrifty Maida. Never wasted any food.

Bruce Lee: Maida, oh my God, Maida! We have to inform the master. We’ll tell him it was a heart attack. I’m sure Dr. Watson will agree. The good doctor’s grown so old, all she cares about is her comfort.

Ramu Kaka: I always knew he would be the death of us. All these years he has been eating into our body and souls with his harsh words. His promises of riches are temptations of the devil. Maida is lucky to have escaped him.  She will be far happier in heaven after so many years of faithful, thankless service. God is always watching.

(Both walk of stage. Close curtains.)

Scene 2

(Some flower pots are placed at the back.)

Narrator:  OK, looks like today’s going to be an action packed day. Let’s move to the driveway in front of the house.

Mr. Swamy: Driver! Get my Rolls.

(Driver, a grey haired geriatric, walks in slowly with a walking stick)

Driver (aside): After fifty years of service he still can’t remember my name! I’m going to run him over, and that will be the end of him. Surely the world will thank me. I’ll state, he suddenly walked in front of the car. Shelly, the gardener, will corroborate my story.

(Driver starts walking in the wrong direction, Swamy points him in the right dirction)

Swamy: My car is that way, you fool. After fifty years of service, he still can’t remember where he parks my car.

Narrator: Oh ho, the driver wants to kill Swamy. Here he comes with Swamy’s pride and joy. He’s accelerating too fast, driving full tilt at the old man.

(Swamy walks to the middle of the drive way and stands hands akimbo, waiting for his car to stop before him. The secretary walks in front of Swamy with arms raised, gesturing to stop. Back ground sounds of a car brakes screeching are followed by a silly laugh from the Secretary who falls to the ground when the car barely manages to stop in time in front of him.)

Is this Swamy’s end? What’s the secretary doing? Doesn’t he realize the danger…? But the driver’s gone senile! He’s forgotten his intentions and has jammed on the brakes. Oh the secretary has been hit by the car but he is unhurt and is picking himself off the ground. The car has stopped but at what cost? The driver’s head hit the steering wheel and he has been knocked out. Shelly, the old gardener, is running forward to check the driver’s pulse. What’s the verdict?

Shelly: Shaab, shaab, he’s dead!

Mr. Swami: Did my poor beauty get scratched? Speeding like that on my drive way… Dead is he? He deserves it for treating my baby so carelessly. Call Dr. Watson.

(Shelly leaves calling loudly for Dr. Watson. Dr Watson appears with a walking stick and her medical bag and checks the driver’s pulse. The driver begins to regain consciousness only to collapse under Dr. Watson’s careless handling.)

Narrator: Ah, the driver is regaining consciousness or…

Dr. Watson: He’s dead. Yes, well… now I guess he’s really dead. Can’t do anything to help him. I’d better give you something to help your body cope with this trauma. After all you’re no longer a spring chicken. (She walks to the front of the stage where oversized thermacol or cardboard implements like a hammer, a wrench and a syringe are kept. She opens her medical box which is medium sized and acts as if she is taking the implements out of it one by one, showing them clearly to the audience. She picks the syringe the last.) I’ll get you now old man. If I don’t act now, I’ll soon be too old to enjoy the just fruits of my labor.

Narrator: Shame to lose such a well trained driver even if he’d gone a bit senile. Sad, he had only Dr. Watson’s tender mercies at hand.

Dr. Watson wants to give Swami an injection. But what is Shelly about? He’s going to drop that pot on Swamy… But Swamy has moved forward to take his injection and the pot has missed him. Good Lord, Shelly has overbalanced and fallen to his death!

(Back ground scream for Shelly as he falls from the balcony, which is a chair hidden behind a cardboard wall; followed by a gasp as the Dr. injects herself)

Is Swamy actually concerned about Shelly’s fall? Nope, he’s picking up the coin that fell out of Shelly’s pocket!

What’s happening to Dr. Watson? She missed injecting Swamy when he moved to pick up Shelly’s coin and pricked herself with the syringe instead. Heavens, what was in that syringe? Is she dead too?

Mr. Swamy: Oh no, not another one. You people are dropping around me like flies!

Guard: Saar, saar, what has happened? I saw everything and came running all the way from the gate to help you.

Mr. Swamy: You fool! If you saw everything, why do you ask?  And who asked you to leave the gate unattended? I’ll fire you, nincompoop, see if I don’t!

Guard: No Saar. I’ve had enough. I will fire on you.

(Back ground noise of a pistol being cocked, the sound of the bullet, ricocheting off metal, a long drawn out comical scream from the guard as he dies.)

Narrator: Guard proceeds to draw his gun and fire on Mr. Swami but the bullet has ricocheted off a medallion around Mr. Swami’s neck and of all things, has hit the guard. Exit guard. Poor chump. God rest his soul.

Mr. Swamy: Not him too. Who’s going to clean this mess? (He looks at his secretary who waves his hand, mouthing ‘No, no’. Swamy shakes his head.) No.. You are incapable of the simplest thing. Now I’ll have to go to the trouble of hiring new servants…

(Ramu Kaka and Bruce Lee come out of the house and are shocked to see all the dead bodies lying around.)

Mr Swamy: Ah good you’re here. See to these bodies, will you.

Bruce Lee: Boss what happened? Everybody … dead? How can this be possible?

Ramu Kaka: He’s eaten all of them. Can’t you see? He gobbled up their souls until nothing was left. But I won’t let him get the best of us. I shall be the end of this demon.

Bruce Lee: Ramu Kaka, nooo…

(Ramu Kaka picks up a rock and hurls it at Mr. Swamy. Background sound of the effort of hurling the rock and Bruce’s scream followed by a comical scream for the Secretary. Bruce Lee steps protectively in front of Mr. Swamy and is hit by the rock. He collapses on top of the secretary who dies. Seeing this Ramu Kaka gets a heart attack and dies.)

Ramu Kaka: Lee my friend… I’m behind you.

Mr. Swamy: Of all the silly things. Well, at least Bruce was useful in the end, though I can never understand such foolishness. I guess I’ll have to call the police. They’ll help me.

Narrator: There’s more action happening here than in a 20-20 match. Mr. Swamy is calling the police on his cellphone and they have very promptly appeared.

(Detective 3 runs across the stage with his pistol extended, searching under rocks and behind flower pots.)

Detective 1: My God! This looks like a war zone with bodies everywhere. Did the old man go mad and kill his servants?

Detective 2: As the last man standing, in this land of geriatrics, he has to be our man. Mr. Swamy, you are under arrest for the murder of eight people.

Mr. Swamy: What? No! I didn’t do anything… Secretary, tell them I’m innocent. Secretary? Secretary? When did you die?

(Bruce Lee groans, sits up, looks around and groans louder.)

Mr. Swamy: Wait. It was him. He killed everyone because he wanted to become my sole heir. I had to knock him out with that rock.

Bruce Lee: What? Groan.. My head!

Detective 1: Both of you need to come with us while we complete our investigations.

Mr. Swamy: I’ll explain the matter to you clearly. This man I hired as my bodyguard killed all my servants and then attempted to kill me so that he would inherit my property. Arrest him!

Bruce Lee: Groan.

Detective 2: He doesn’t look too good. We need an ambulance here.

Detective 1: Mr. Swamy, please come with me. I need to take your statement.

Mr. Swamy: I’m not going anywhere. Do you think I am a fool to leave my house open to you people to walk in and out without so much as a ‘by your leave’? You can take my statement right here. I am completely innocent and I can prove it. These people just dropped dead. If anybody is guilty, it must be that behemoth I hired to be my body guard. Fine job of protecting he’s doing, lying in the dust. Get up man and admit to your sins! Tell them I’m innocent! I’m innocent …

(Mr. Swamy has a heart attack. Detective 1 catches him as he collapses. Swamy’s black wig falls off to show that he is actually completely white haired.)

Detective 1: Quick, we need to get them both to a hospital.

(Both patients are taken away by the cops.

Background sore of ‘Dhan te Nan’ plays. All the dead drop their wigs and rise and dance with uncoordinated movements to the music. The narrator joins their dance and comes forward to shake hands with them when the music ends. The dead start looking and moving more youthfully.)

Narrator: Hello there. Welcome to the land of the dead!

Driver: Who are you? How can you see us?

Narrator: I am a ghost too, silly. Of course I can see you. I was Swamy’s uncle and the owner of this property. Swamy killed me sixty years ago to get his hands on my property. I have been waiting for this day for sixty years.

Maida: Well, don’t keep us in suspense. Tell us what’s going to happen now. I thought I would be in heaven.

Narrator: I am still here because I refused to go to heaven without teaching my nephew a lesson. You haven’t ascended because of the evil thoughts you have been harboring towards your master. But don’t worry, your time will come. In the meantime, we are all equals; enjoy the luxuries of this house as you never did while you were alive. Soon we are going to have a visitor, who is going to keep us entertained. Ah, here he comes.

(Mr. Swamy walks in.)

Mr. Swamy: I died! Of all the infernal luck. That body guard of mine has ended up with all my property! Why did I have to die of a heart attack now?

Narrator: How long were you expecting to live, my dear?

Mr. Swamy: Uncle! Have you been living here all this time?

Narrator: Yep. How could I leave you behind?

Mr. Swamy: Well, I’ve at least enjoyed life for the past sixty years…

Narrator: Sorry to disillusion you, but in reality you have been condemned to a lonely life filled with your own suspicions. It’s not wealth that brings happiness but family and friends. When you killed me, you destroyed your soul and with that, any chance of a happy life. Look what awaits you now.

(Mr. Swamy looks around and finds that his dead servants have surrounded him. They pounce on him and trounce him soundly. Bruce Lee walks in.)

Shelly: Can he see us too?

Driver: No, he isn’t dead like us.

Ramu Kaka: Be quiet, he’s addressing us.

Bruce Lee: It’s time for goodbye, my friends. You may already know that I have inherited all the property but I can’t live here without you. I am going to donate this house for the use of the homeless, the sick and the needy. (Swamy sits up and says “What? What was that?) I suppose all of you have already ascended to heaven. Where ever you are I pray that you are happy. Goodbye.

(Bruce Lee leaves the stage.)

Ramu Kaka (to the departing Bruce Lee): God bless you.

(Background sounds of rushing wind and gentle rumble of thunder)

Narrator (peacefully): Ah it’s time for me to go. See you soon friends.

(Narrator backs out of the stage.)

Ramu Kaka (joyfully): My time has come too.

(Ramu Kaka backs out of the stage followed by the others. Mr. Swamy turns around, scratches his head and sits down.)

Mr. Swamy (wailing into the silence after the wind): God, when will you call me? God?

(Curtains)