Dinner for Promotion is the story of two ambitious friends Tikku and Seyil, whose main preoccupation is ‘to get to the top’. But unfortunately there is only one post to be filled at the top, and neither of them can arrive there without crossing the other’s path. It is also the story of two elderly ladies, Madam Pamphilia Sipo, and her sister-in-law, Madam Una, who have been lifelong enemies but who became reconciled in the course of the dinner. It is the story too of Mr Sipo of ‘Sipo Amalgamated’, who takes his stomach very seriously and will not be comforted until he has eaten at the correct time. And it is also the story of two young girls, Sharia and Toru, who take part in the struggle of the young men to arrive at the top. To a lesser extent it is also the story of Mr Senka, landlord to Tikku and Seyil, whose persistent effort to collect his monthly rent is, to say the least of it, not very successful.
It is the early 1960s. Tikku and Seyil share a flat in an imaginary African city. Both work for a prominent family business, Sipo Amalgamated. However, they cannot keep up with their rent and resort to all kinds of ingenious tricks to keep the increasingly exasperated landlord off their backs. Tikku’s sister Toru arrives and hatches a plan to solve the problem – promotion at work by means of befriending and marrying Mr Sipo’s only child, Sharia. However, Seyil gets to Sharia first much to Toru’s annoyance so she encourages Tikku to steal Sharia away from Seyil. Sharia loves her father intensely and with this gem of information from Toru, Tikku advises Seyil to say some very uncomplimentary things about Mr Sipo. Seyil loses Sharia, and Tikku seizes the chance to propose to Sharia.
Tikku, Toru and Seyil make arrangements to invite Mr Sipo and his wife Pamphilia to dinner. The aim is to impress Sipo and entice him to offer promotion to Tikku. Seyil offers to handle the invitations, but he has not forgiven his friend for up-staging him and plans instead to ruin the party. He sends an invitation to Mr Sipo’s sour and caustic sister, Madam Una, who he has learnt despises Pamphilia with a vengeance. He also sends an invitation to Tikku and Toru’s illiterate peasant parents to attend their son’s ‘engagement’. Then he sets up a list of incidents to sabotage the dinner.
The Sipos arrive and from the start everything begins to go wrong. Madam Una and Pamphilia immediately go for each other’s throats. We find that their enmity is deep and goes back to their childhood. A hoodlum posing as a debt collector from the radio-hire company appears and demands the radio back. Soon after the landlord arrives and insists that he will spend the whole evening until he receives his money. The host’s parents arrive to surprise and utmost embarrassment, showing up the class gulf between both families. The urbane Sipos handle each episode with grace until the very food on which any semblance of dinner party depends begins to be threatened by sudden trip ups to the gas supply. Madam Una and Pamphilia, who have now made up, join hands and take to the kitchen. However, the disruption to the dinner is unrelenting. The hoodlums return for the furniture and cart away the chairs and dining table. Sharia herself who had agreed to stay away from the dinner arrives. Then the lights go out. Mr Sipo reaches the limit of his tether, incandescent with rage, and hunger.
Issues come to a head when the thug tampering with the gas supply is caught. Sipo learns about the plot to marry his daughter to secure promotion and the real reason for the dinner party. He offers promotion but not to the one who chooses to marry his daughter. Seyil plumbs for promotion while Tikku, to his sister Toru’s dismay, decides to stick with Sharia. In the end, Sipo is forced to offer Tikku promotion within the family business and a consolatory promise of a job elsewhere to Seyil.