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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I Wanted To Remove The Language Of Gender: Hindi Adaptation of Lorca’s “Yerma”

Mahesh Dattani explores the symbolism, futurism and surreal influences of Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca by directing a Hindi adaption of Yerma. The Drama School Mumbai’s annual production, which showcases their current batch of 14 students, is a take on Federico García Lorca’s Yerma, rechristened Maati in this Hindi adaptation by Neha Sharma, directed by noted playwright Mahesh Dattani. In conversation with The Hindu, Dattani talks about the queer themes that he has explored in the play. Why did you select Yerma? Jehan (Maneckshaw) had suggested we do a classic this time. He was keen to do Karnad’s Taledanda, but I was really struck by Yerma. I had caught...

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Moulting Of Traditions

Staged at the ongoing 8th Theatre Olympics, Sabir Khan’s Doodhan mirrors the hardships of Kalbeliyas, the traditional protectors of snakes. We tend to believe that we are moving forward but sometimes a little anecdote or observation jolts you out of complacency. You realize that the march of modernity is not a straight line and that many traditions and customs that we left behind were not as atavistic as we were made to believe. This is precisely what happened with veteran director Sabir Khan whose Rajasthani play Doodhan was staged recently at the ongoing 8th Theatre Olympics. The story follows the life of...

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Amit Sharma Of Graeae Theatre On Staging A Production With A Hundred Disabled Artists In Chennai

It’s an incredibly hot day for February, and as I look across the vast grounds of Lady Willingdon College that sits opposite Chennai’s Marina beach, my eyes glaze over. In the middle of the ground is a blue-and-white tent. Some 20 people, about half of them in wheelchairs, are gathered there. They are being taught dance movements by members of the U.K.-based Graeae Theatre that works almost exclusively with disabled artists and has staged large-scale productions, many to critical acclaim. On Saturday, the group will stage a massive production called Aruna and the Raging Sun that involves about a hundred...

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The Focus Is On The Power Of Those On The Margins: 33 Performances, Representing 14 Countries

The 10th edition of ITFoK touches upon diverse themes such as gender, identity, displacement, and sexuality among other subjects. Those living on the margins are not always powerless. Neither are their lives empty. They often come up with powerful statements of their existence and their voices are strong and sharp. And they find expressions through all forms of creative expression, especially theatre. The 10th International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK), organized by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi (KSNA), brought to the theatre audience of Kerala a fine cross-section of the voices from the margins that seek their expression through the...

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The Complexities of Consent

Even when catapulted into public discourse in inglorious fashion, a la Aziz Ansari, our conversations on sexual consent and coercion, especially in a heterosexual context, remain woefully inadequate. This is not a well-studied area in the very least, despite the fact that our understanding (limited or otherwise) of these concepts can inform our lives in countless ways. In contemporary theatre, survivors of sexual assault have found powerful and compelling voices in a profusion of artistic explorations. Quite fittingly, there are no ambiguities of consent to be considered in narratives that deal with egregious situations such as rape. Yet, the everyday...

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“Miruga Vidhushagam:” Contemporary Theme And Haunting Idioms

S. Murugabhoopathy’s Miruga Vidhushagam is a comment on civil society that stands mute spectators to fellow brethren struggling for life in war-ravaged countries S. Murugabhoopathy stands out from his fellow theatre exponents with his distinct presentation. In Miruga Vidhushagam he once again uses the tribal imagery and sounds to create that eerie feeling. Presented by Manalmagudi Theatre Land and staged in association with the Arul Anandar College, the play talks about how people in war-ravaged towns suffer not only physically but also mentally. “Vidhushagam means clown. A clown is a person who can travel from past to present and vice versa. I thought...

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How The Nirbhaya Protests Made Young Women A Symbol Of Resistance

This week marks five years since the nationwide Nirbhaya protests sparked off in the country, with the first public demonstrations taking place in the Capital at India Gate to a reception of water cannons and tear gas shells. The date of the incident, December 16, is now increasingly etched in common consciousness as a national day of shame, rather than just Vijay Diwas (a day of remembrance for martyrs of the 1971 war). Unwittingly perhaps, the young woman became an international symbol of resistance and bravery, and the epithet coined to symbolize her fortnight-long struggle took on the garb...

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Showstoppers That Ran The Show: Top 14 Stage Performances Of 2017 in India

As the year draws to an end, Vikram Phukan lists 14 of his favorite performances from the stage. It isn’t the easiest of tasks sorting the grain from the chaff when it comes to live theatre, one of the most ephemeral of art forms. When a performance is done, it is gone forever. Yet, in the collective memories of those who have witnessed it, it lives on long after the arc lights have dimmed. Lists are often purely subjective, but the actors featured in this one do give us a sense of the good work being done by many in...

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The Fusion Dance and Theatre: What’s Required in Successful Intercultural Collaboration

Australian theatre-person and actor Trevor Jamieson on finding parallels between Indian and Aboriginal cultures, with an aim to create a dance performance drawn from the similarities. Trevor Jamieson could well pass off for a native, with his swarthy features, his wild and bushy grey beard, and summer casual attire of a vest and harem pants, with a ratty pair of flipflops, to complement the look. Until you hear that distinct Australian twang, that is. “When I’m out on the road here in the city, people automatically think I’m Indian. They talk to me in Tamil/Malayalam and they’re quite taken...

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The Innocent Joys Of Theatre: Tifli-International TYA Festival-2017

Suffused with humor and message, the plays staged during the Tifli-International TYA Festival-2017 attracted children in all age groups. The seven-day Tifli-International TYA Festival-2017, which ended this past week at Bal Bhavan, New Delhi, evoked a tremendous response from children of different age groups who enjoyed themselves a great deal watching plays produced by seasoned directors and performed by adult actors from India as well as abroad. In this greatly enriching theatrical event, 35 public schools, eight NGOs, and a large number of children with their parents attended special evening shows. A total of 15 plays were staged with...

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A Matter Of Grave Concern: The Oldest Theatre Group in Delhi Stages “Kafan” and “Kafan Chor”

Reinvigorating socially-relevant theatre, M.K. Raina’s recently-staged Kafan and Kafan Chor awakened the audience to dark forces that endanger human freedom. Three Arts Club formed in 1943 is one of the oldest theatre groups in Delhi which had attained popularity for regularly staging plays which entertained the audience and conveyed moral overtones. The plays produced by the group attracted a large number of emerging middle class as well as won over the patronage of leading political personalities like Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Zakir Hussain, and Hindustani theatre pioneer Prithviraj Kapoor who often attended its shows. After staging shows uninterruptedly for 40...

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The Cage Within: Adaptation of Amrita Pritam’s Celebrated Novel “Pinjar”

Kanchan Ujjal Singh’s adaptation of Amrita Pritam’s popular novel, Pinjar, does justice to the content and context of the times it is set in. An adaptation of Amrita Pritam’s celebrated novel Pinjar presented by LTG Repertory this past week at its auditorium brought alive vividly the social turmoil and the traumatic torture inflicted on women by their abductors in the wake of the Partition. A renowned poetess and fiction writer of Punjabi, Amrita Pritam’s novel Pinjar, written in 1950, is considered a definitive work on the tragedy. It was adapted into Hindi film of the same title, which won National...

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Immersive Theatre On A Silver Platter: “The Hungry Hearts Supper Club”

Earlier this year, as a whimsical Valentine’s Week Special targeted the blissfully single rather than the cheerlessly coupled, the Delhi-based Crow, one of the country’s rare immersive theatre outfits, presented The Hungry Hearts Supper Club at Oddbird Theatre. It was a gastronomical experience that allowed diners to dive into a smoky forbidding world of mythical deviants and an outré cuisine replete with a sultry hostess (the Siren) and an Impish (quite literally) maître d’ who served up copious quantities of the “Cream of Nightmare” soup. The storytelling was typically interactive in nature, which could lead to quite unexpected turns of affairs—each...

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Kalayan, One Of Bangalore’s Oldest Hindi Theatre Groups, Is Ready With Their Annual Offering

For a theatre group to survive 29 years in today’s times is a big deal. Kalayan theatre group in the city has earned that distinct achievement. The theatre outfit was started by Mathura Kalauny in 1988 and ever since then, it has come out with one Hindi play annually. They are ready with a production this year as well. On November 26, the group has dug out one of the popular comedies–Kayapalat from its treasure trove. The play was written and directed by Mathura Kalauny, revolves around an inventor who invents a magical cap. His identity gets switched with a long lost...

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Interpreting “The Mahabharata” With Puppets

Anurupa Roy’s contemporary retelling of the epic uses a melange of cultural influences to focus on 14 characters. Located on the banks of the winding river Meuse that flows northwards from France, the two historically distinct communes that make up the French town of Charleville Mézières were once connected only by a suspension bridge. Now conjoined, they share a common cultural identity. In late September, the town celebrated the 19th edition of its international puppetry festival—the Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes, arguably the largest gathering of puppeteers from all five continents, which attracts an audience in excess of...

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Ramlila at Prithvi Theatre: Rambunctious and Unforgettable

Far from the creaky floorboards and blazing arc lamps of the makeshift prosceniums of Faridabad, the Shri Shraddha Ramlila Committee quite possibly found their recent outing to the bourgeois settings of Prithvi Theatre much more onerous than they may have bargained for. The final Sunday at the venue’s annual theatre festival was dedicated to the group’s much-vaunted Ramlila, now in its tenth year of production. Its selling point is a script that features Urdu as its linguistic mainstay alongside Hindi and a smattering of Punjabi. This is a tradition that goes back to pre-Partition India, although its adherents had...

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Theatre Of The Real: Bengali Playwright Manoj Mitra’s New Work on Socrates

Six decades of writing, acting and directing often inspired by the changing milieu — Bengali playwright Manoj Mitra has a new work on Socrates. When the applause had given way to a hum of voices, playwright Manoj Mitra looked around the room, trying to gauge the response of his sixty-year-old group to the new play he had just read. Lucky to be at that first reading, my mind was bristling with questions. What does it take to write over a hundred plays like this? Full length and one-act, each play unique and original. Plays that had been translated into...

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Tale Of A Wounded Soul

This year’s winner at Mohan Rakesh Samman Evam Natya Samaroh, Ghanshyam Kumar Devansh’s Hastinapur Ki Nirwasit Stree, invests the mythological character of Ganga with a contemporary sensibility. Mohan Rakesh Samman Evam Natya Samaroh annually organized by Sahitya Kala Parishad, Government of NCT of Delhi has acquired a significant place in the history of contemporary Hindi dramaturgy and theatre. Every year an expert committee selects four scripts on the basis of merit submitted by playwrights from different parts of the country. In this process some noteworthy plays have been discovered which are being staged by different directors with varying success, the...

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