The Importance Of “Hamlet”

The Bard’s tale on the machinations of Denmark’s royal family remains his most influential plays translated into Marathi says Vikram Phukan. In his authoritative tome, The Indian Theatre (1970), R.K. Yajnik states that, “No Shakespearean play, most faithfully rendered, has ever evoked such unbounded enthusiasm and admiration in India as the Marathi Hamlet.” Several writers have translated the tragedy, the longest and perhaps the most influential of Shakespeare’s plays, into Marathi. Several translations Indianised the characters while retaining the title of the play (for instance, Nana Yog’s abridged adaptation of 1959). Gopal Ganesh Agarkar’s Vikaravilasita, which opened in 1883, featured the legendary...

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An Actor’s Guide To Playing God

Mugamudigal, a city-based theatre group, gives lovers of the medium a chance to learn the ancient art of therukoothu. “An entire street would transform into a stage. The actors, positioned at two ends, would call out to each other. The fight scenes would be fearful. They would be shooting arrows at each other,” Priyanka Ulaganathan, a young architect, still recalls those nights she sat transfixed by the therukoothu performances in her village of Nangavalli in Salem. The stories were mostly from the Mahabharata. But soon, the culture of her village changed. Disco dancers replaced the koothu artists and the memory of watching the men...

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A Voice For Peace And Human Values

With the passing away of Madeeha Gauhar, the subcontinent has lost a votary of freedom of expression Madeeha Gauhar, the remarkable Pakistani actor, director, playwright and creator of a new kind of theatre in the subcontinent that defied draconian laws of military dictatorship and dark forces let loose by fundamentalists with a view to create a humane society, died in Lahore on April 25 at the age of 61 leaving behind a rich legacy of people’s theatre. Trained in theatre in Pakistan and abroad, she returned to Pakistan, exploring traditional forms like Bhand and Nautanki and founded Ajoka Theatre in...

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Tagore’s Enduring Political Allegory

More than a dozen years after it first opened in Mumbai, as part of a Heisnam Kanhailal double-bill at the 2006 Prithvi Theatre Festival, city theatergoers were able to catch the late stalwart’s Dakghar at the Nehru Centre in Worli in March. The play was performed at the fag end of the Theatre Olympics’ Mumbai leg and despite minimal publicity, attracted a sizeable audience itching to catch a glimpse of a master’s craft not easily accessible in this part of the world. His other play at the Prithvi Festival was the lyrical folk tale Pebet, a political allegory that was already part...

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Women Dancers In India and UK At A Glance

Katerina Valdivia Bruch was in India as a bangaloREsident at Natya & STEM Dance Kampni. During her stay in Bangalore, she was able to attend the BENCH India, a conference on gender inequalities in the performing arts, held on February 7, 2017, at Alliance Française de Bangalore, as part of the Attakalari India Biennial. What follows is a short survey on the current situation of women dancers in India and UK, the challenges they face in their practice and the projects and/or initiatives they are involved in. Tamsin Fitzgerald How did you start with The BENCH? What moved you to create this initiative? The...

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Fight Of The Rebel Queen

Theatre Nisha’s Gallantly Fought the Queen took us on a voyage into the life and times of the Rani of Jhansi In the dark auditorium of Alliance Francaise of Madras, a lone figure facing away from the audience begins to sing the first verse of the famous Hindi poem Bundele Harbolon by Subhadhra Kumari Chauhan accompanied by Vishwa Bharath on percussion. A rough translation of which reads, “Thrones shook and tension erupted among the monarchs. Ageing India was experiencing a new wave of youthfulness. The inhabitants had realized the worth of their lost freedom.” Amidst this chaos rose to power...

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Battle Cries For Liberation

At a staging in Kerala in January, Sara Matchett’s Walk: South Africa proved to be a harrowing but cathartic experience, and not very typical, what seemed to be a projection of its closing credits followed the performance. Names scrolled upwards, and at first, the visual was a testament to the reach of this remarkably resonant project, since so many artists and technicians appeared to have collaborated on it. Yet, the roll continued long beyond what one might expect to be a list of those behind a powerful but finite creative endeavor performed invariably as an intimate three-hander. Midway through, one realized...

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Metaphor At Play: New Theatre from Belgium, Poland and United States

Focusing on varied issues, three foreign plays staged at the 8th Theatre Olympics appealed with their presentation and performance. The Last One presented by Gema Galiana and Anthony Nikolchev’s The Useless Room, U.S., is a fine theatrical piece in terms of innovative presentational style as well as a severe indictment of mindless exploitation of nature in the name of development. Directed by Galiana and written by Nikolchev, there are three characters—one woman and two men. It is a physical theatre involving a lot of violent encounters between performers who appear to be trained in martial art and adept at the...

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The Making and Breaking of a Tyrant: “Dhaad” New Play from India

At the ongoing Theatre Olympics, Gujarati play Dhaad brought to fore the making and breaking of a tyrant Jashwant Thaker Memorial Foundation, Ahmedabad brought to the 8th Theatre Olympics Dhaad in Gujarati. It was remarkable for its stark realism about the life of a brute dacoit and his three wives subjected by the dacoit to merciless cruelties. The rich production values, the aptly cast production, and the thrilling dances made the production arresting. Written by Vinesh Antani and directed by seasoned actress and director Aditi Desai, the play is set in the desert of Kutch. Living in a barren landscape with little means...

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The Perks Of Bringing In New People In The Theatre Repertory

Casting actors from outside the repertory means new energy and new audiences. Last week, I watched a play set in Portugal, produced by a group from Pune, in which the protagonist was played by an actor from Jaipur. A few years ago I directed a play set in Baghdad and London, in which a few Iraqi insurgents were portrayed by actors from Bulandshahr, Cuttack, and Pune. One of the nicest plays I have seen about Kashmir was directed by a Bengali and featured an actor from Bengaluru. We ourselves have often cast actors from Pune and Bengaluru. Increasing diversity And...

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The Theatre Form, Yakshagana, Involves All-Night Plays As Offerings To A Deity

For six straight months every year, a tiny village comes alive with all-night Yakshagana. A five-kilometer, narrow, gravelly stretch branching out from Honnavar-Bengaluru National Highway leads to the village of Gundabala in Uttara Kannada. One would miss the road but for a board at the Hadinabala junction that reads: Way to Gundabala, “Yaksha Kashi.” As dusk sets in, music envelopes the quiet village. A stage erected on a spacious ground in front of the Mukhyaprana Lakshmi Venkatesha temple, home to the village’s presiding deity, slowly comes alive. Situated on the banks of a rivulet and surrounded by areca palms...

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Towards An Inclusive Stage…

Starting today, the 13th edition of META Festival brings to theatre lovers diverse plays from all corners of the country. Delhi’s theatre circuit is fully charged these days. Even as the 8th Theatre Olympics comes to a close, the curtain rises on the 13th edition of the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards Festival. Spread over six days, the festival will showcase ten plays chosen from around 350 entries. “After more than a decade, META has carved a niche for itself. This can be attributed to the quality of plays that the festival stages. This time too, we received entries from...

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Dramatic Soundscapes

Rather than experimental theatre, it is the realm of dance works that is considered to be much more amenable to music and its ability to guide or transform a live performance. It is as if the body can only respond to the suggestible registers fed to it by soaring melodies or beats. Yet, recent excursions in contemporary dance have attempted to entirely dispense with sound altogether. Sounds of silence Instead, a vast unstarched expanse of silence becomes the ether in which the performers must discover their corporeal alter egos. In Avantika Bahl’s Say, What?, she interacts through gestures with deaf performer...

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Moveable Cultural Feast

This weekend, the city gets a brand new festival that seeks to inject an infectious arts vibe into neighborhoods A self-styled “muddle” of art confections served up at an alternative art venue in suburbia promises to be this weekend’s top ticket. Jhamela is the arts-focused microfest that will pop up at Andheri’s Aram Nagar, the mecca for film and television fortune-seekers. The driving force behind it is actor Abhishek Krishnan, frontman of new events venture, The Misfits Co. He is perhaps best known as the singing-and-dancing younger Mahatma in the NCPA production, Gandhi The Musical. The event will have all...

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Pathos Of The Oppressed

At the ongoing Theatre Olympics, Kishore Sengupta’s play Nuraldiner Sarajiban highlighted peasants’ exploitation during the British rule. The ruthless exploitation of rural India by the predatory policies of the East India Company caused immense distress to Indian peasants which led to famines. The great famine in 1770 in Bengal is one of such case of man-made human sufferings resulting in the death of millions of impoverished peasants. Based on this tragedy, Syed Shamsul Haq, Bangladeshi poet and playwright, wrote a play titled Nuraldiner Sarajiban which was presented by Kalyani Natyacharcha Kendra, Kalyani at ongoing 8th Theatre Olympics. The play focuses on the...

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Six Must-Watch Plays At The Theatre Olympics In Mumbai

The Mumbai tour will be its final leg, with the closing ceremony slated for April 8 at Worli’s Nehru Centre. Finally, the juggernaut hits Mumbai. The eighth Theatre Olympics, organized by the National School of Drama, and supported by the Ministry of Culture, opened last month in Delhi with much fanfare and equally, manifold murmurings of discontent. Past editions have been organized in cities like Shizuoka, Seoul, Beijing, and Wrocław, and this year’s slate of productions is certainly humongous, spanning 17 Indian cities with 465 performances (almost a mind-boggling ten-fold increase from the Beijing edition in 2014) from more than 35...

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World Theatre Day: How Theatre Is A Means To Educate

Clowns in hospitals, strangely dressed men in aeronautics class, and dance and music in a grim prison. On World Theatre Day, we explore how theatre is becoming a means to educate. Did I just hear complex laws of aerodynamics being taught through theatrics and movement? And, body shaming boldly addressed through performance? While a clown artiste charms his way into the hearts of patients in a hospital. And in an apartment, there is a bohemian charm, as a play by Stray Factory unfolds. Conventional methods make way for interesting theatrical motifs in not just education, but also in combating...

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World’s Largest Theatre Fest Comes To Mumbai

On the road for 36 days, the 8th Theatre Olympics reaches the city later this month for its last stop. Mumbai: After traveling the length and breadth of the country since February 17, the 8th Theatre Olympics comes to Mumbai for its final stop. Plans for the drama extravaganza were unveiled in Mumbai on Friday. By the time it concludes on April 8, the world’s largest theatre festival, the 8th Theatre Olympics, being held for the first time in India would have covered 17 cities with over 25,000 artists performing 450 shows, 600 ambiance performances, and 250 youth shows. Professor Waman...

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Interpreting The Epics

The Tenkutittu and Badagutittu traditional theatre styles of coastal Karnataka come alive. The casual observer might well consider most traditional theatre forms of India to be monolithic institutions whose tenets have been passed down centuries. While the provenance or historicity of these forms are never called into question, the variations and nuanced diversity innate to a performance style is often glossed over by the pervasive exoticisation of our times. For instance, the catch-all Yakshagana, or the traditional theatre of coastal Karnataka, conjures up images of archetypal performances in all too familiar regalia that are scarcely indistinguishable from each other. Yet,...

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Unfulfilled Dreams, Stunning Portraits

Bharatmuni Rang Utsav saw some moving productions highlighting moral dilemmas and disturbing truths of our times. For over a decade or so, Rajnarain Dixit has been exploring to adapt to stage significant contemporary Hindi novels by Kashinath Singh, Bhisam Sahni, Vibhuti Narain Rai and Rahi Masoom Raza. He is equally fascinated by the works of Ismat Chughtai, which are bold and progressive, indicating conservative Indian society. Once again, he has presented a new production based on her life and fictional characters titled Kaagazi Pairahan which was presented at Bharatmuni Rang Utsav at Shri Ram Centre organized by the Sahitya...

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