Friday, February 27, 2009

Charandas revisits Kerala to rob the hearts again…

Information and Public Relations Department of Kerala opens up a new vista of cultural extravaganza, National Theatre Festival, to the art aficionados of Kerala, which is scheduled from March 2-12, 2009 in Thiruvananthapuram. ‘The fifth episode of the festival highlights the theme- Modern-Contemporary Theatre will be a unique experience with the presence of up-to-the-date drama techniques, a real light and sound show without losing the essence of drama’ says the website of PRD of the govt of Kerala.

The festival showcases plays of famous directors like Habib Tanvir, Neelam man Singh Chaudhary, Kanaihalal, and Rajiv Krishnan, along with Jyothish M.G,  Shanmugaraja , Zuilekha Choudhary, Pabitra Rabha, Maya Krishna Rao, Sankar Venkateswaran, Santanu Bose and Veenapani Chawla.

Most of the plays belong to the Post-Globalization Era; with Fragmented, Mutilated, Multilingual, Inter-textual, Intercultural experiments with technical extravaganza….

Macbeth (Malayalam) - Jyothish MG- Abhinaya, Thiruvanathapuram (2nd March)

Jyotish MG’s adaptation of ‘Macbeth’ speaks a language of its own. The 65-minute play focuses on key incidents in the lives of the main characters —Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Banquo. Realising that the audience would be well aware of the plot, the director has shifted stress on emotions and internal conflicts.

Kuthirai Muttai (Tamil) – Shanmugaraja- Nigazh Madurai (3rd march)

M. Shanmugaraja’s play ‘Kuthirai Muttai’ (Horse egg) of Constantine Joseph Beschi, an Italian Jesuit Priest, who was popularly known as ‘Veeramamunivar’., who had learnt Tamil language with an intention to befriend and inspire Tamil-speaking public and in turn got inspired and fell in love with the language itself. The play captures the essence of humour depicting the sage and his whimsically humorous journey in pursuit of disciples.

On Seeing (English) – Zuilekha Choudhary –Performers at Work, Delhi (4th march)

Sangathi Arinhya! - have you heard (English, Malayalam, Tamil)- Rajiv Krishnan – Perch Chennai (5th March)

''Sangathi Arinhya! (Have you heard!)’ is an adventurous mix of seven stories by Basheer, all different, but with a common vein of love, humor and pathos running through them. A connecting link in this heady concoction is the character of Basheer himself, who plays narrator, participant and witness in turn. These stories are blended together in a non-linear narrative that reveals the extraordinary range of Basheer’s writing and experiences. Paul Mathew who was with Lokadharmi during the early nineties has written the script and also acts in the lead role as Basheer.

A Chik A –Song (Garo) – Pabitra Rabha – Dapon, Assam (6th march)

Pabitra Rabha’s Garo a young NSD graduate in his  play A-chik A song, the first ever play in Garo language depicts the culture of the Garos and dealt with the Garo community’s socio-political history and an episode of their armed resistance against the British. The director uses elements from the rich Garo folk tales, traditional costume and music.

Sahyande Makan- The Elephant Project (Malayalam-Japanese) - Sankar Venkateswaran - Theatre Roots & Wings- Thrissur (7th March)

Based on the poem by Vyloppilly Sreedhara Menon, the play depicts the conflict between internal and external realities as symbolized by an elephant reminiscing and hallucinating about his childhood. Set against the Temple Festivals of Kerala this turn out to be a multi-sensory and multi-lingual, inter-cultural construct, with the elephant portrayed by Japanese performer, Micari; Micari used her eyes, lips and body to animate many an unsaid emotion and the silences seemed more powerful than the intermittent Japanese or Malayalam. Sankar who was featured in the last year’s edition of the same festival, uses instruments from our mizhavu to the Australian didgeridoo, to fireworks to Recreating the feel of the Thrissur Pooram. Remember Sankar was featured in last edition of the festival with his technically precise ‘Quick Death’.

Charandas Chor (Chhattisgarhi) – Habib Tanvir - Naya Theatre Bhopal (8th march)

This classic masterpiece play by Habib Tanvir returns to Kerala again. The tumultuous life of a petty thief Charandas, who makes four vows to his Guru, that he would never to eat in a gold plate, never to lead a procession that is in his honour, never to become a king and never to marry a princess, thinking all of them are far out possibilities for him. Later, his guru adds a fifth one - never to tell a lie and sets him of on his life's journey which leads him to a kingdom, where the turn of events make him famous, and eventually he is offered the seat of political power which he has to refuse. The local princess gets enchanted by him, and proposes to marry him. This is when his refusal costs him his life. As he is put to death, he illustrates the inherent paradox in human existence, where truthful existence becomes impossibility.

An exciting production, with the exuberant wit and energy of the Chhattisgarhi village performers of Naya Theatre, with improvised dialogue, music, songs and dance is the play that redefined Indian theatre. Habib Tanvir's adaptation of this comic folk tale has been acclaimed throughout India as one of the outstanding contributions to New Indian Theatre.

But this time, we miss Habib Tanvir with this illustrious production since ill health prevents him travel with the group.

Antigone (Bengali) – Santanu Bose – Saltlake Monirath Group Theatre Kolkota (9th march)

The play is based on the Greek legend of Antigone, who takes on the establishment for not granting her permission to perform the last rites of one of her two brothers who died fighting on opposite sides of the border. The tale of confrontation between the individual and the establishment was portrayed in the present context with politics of division, violence and people turning inhuman. Santanu says the inspiration is drawn from the recent Nandigram and Singur incidents and to showcase how human beings have learnt to live with violence around; the play has Kolkata's chicken market in the background.

The Hare and the Tortoise – (Malayalam- English) - Veenapani Chawla - Adishakti Theatre Company Pondicherry (10th march)

For Veenapani Chawla, theatre is a ‘synaesthesis’ of the arts that allows the transition from one form of expression to another aimed to have a powerful and sensorial impact on the spectator. She attempts to contemporize traditional knowledge and create a theatre that does not restrict itself to literary connotations. It  involves other forms of art like dance, music, movements, puppets and craft ;the boundaries set by each form blends to bring out, a new contemporary theatre -- the result of engaging in dialogues between different times, cultures and spaces, and genres. In The Hare and the Tortoise, the race between the archetypal competitors such as Ganapati and Kartik, Ekalavya and Arjuna, and Arjuna and Hamlet is performed in a non-linier narrative with body movements, the light, the word and the music…


Daak-Ghar (Manipuri) – Kanhailal - Kalakshetra Manipur (11th March)

This play is directed by Heisnam Kanhailal, which multilingual is a multilingual production in Manipuri, Bengali, Assamese, Rabha, Bodo and Tripuri, that explores the workings of one's soul. This play is an adaptation of Rabindra Nath Tagore play that describes how a child – striving to escape his stuffy confines – ultimately “falls asleep”. Kanhailal’s adapted version of the Tagore play has 60 year old Sabitri Haisnam playing the lead role of young Amal, with her extraordinary expressive ability – through physical, non-verbal theatre. The production uses lyrical Manipuri dance and H. Tomba’s music.

Heads Are Meant for Walking Into (Multilingual) - Maya Krishna Rao – Vismayah Delhi (12th march)

Heads Are Meant for Walking Into is, a non-linear, non-narrative, and non-sentimental construct — in a typical Maya Rao inspired from a short story by Saadat Hasan Manto, where a father is in search for his lost daughter in a crowd of fleeing people. The performance seeks not to tell this story, rather to develop a range of physical actions and emotions that grows in intensity and depth to a point where he begins to find her in himself, in his body; and finally, in the heightened world of dance. This production, with intersecting music and percussion, live and recorded video feeds, and amplified live speech has a minimal verbal text. The solo actor’s body hovers between being a ‘character’ and a ‘presenter’ without sharp delineation, -- a production so technologically ‘constructed’, tends towards a fragmented abstraction.

The Suit (Punjabi) - Neelam Mansingh (12th March) – The company Chandigarh

Neelam Mansingh’s “The Suit”, a play in English and Punjabi, based on a theatrical fable written by South African writer Can Themba. This play explores the man-woman relationship in all its depths without being judgmental, and offers neither explanation for the betrayal by the wife who is discovered in bed with her lover by her husband nor any justification for the subsequent behavior of the husband.

The husband decries that the suit left by the lover be treated like an honored guest and ensures it “sits” on the dinner table with them, even goes out for walks and is treated like a guest at a party thrown by the couple.

Finally the wife transforms into a woman of her own by going on to wear the suit with an endearing quality of a woman who is proclaiming “it (the suit) is my skin”.

Mansingh, with a set, ideal for domestic squalor, distorts stage space and time for a complex narrative in which there is simultaneous action in two spaces and uses the setting for multiple locations; her theatrical idiom uses minimal music, lights and sets. Neelam uses all her favourite images - water, fire and smoke from the stove, bathing, food in a tiffin box, and lipstick.

The theatre activists of Kerala are looking forward to this event in anticipation. But the festival can be organised at different venues of the state other than Thiruvananthapuram, (last year also it was held in Thiruvananthapuram) or at least take few of the productions to the other cities to organize a satellite festival.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

META Fest 2009- On Transformations and Spaces in Indian Theatre

The curtain for Mahindra festival is up again…And the list of the ten plays selected for the festival is announced. It includes Kalivesham (Malayalam directed by Kavalam Narayana Panikkar), Ayussinte Pusthakam (The Book of Life, in Malayalam adapted and directed by Suveeran from the novel with the same name by CV Balakrishnan), Madhyabartini (Assamese play directed by Bahrul Islam) and Layla Majnu (Urdu directed by Ram Gopal Bajaj). As a welcome change all the ten directors of the selected plays are nominated for the best director award.

The other plays selected and the directors are Afsaneh - Bai Se Bioscope Tak (Akarsh Khurana), Absent Lover (Preethi Vasudevan), Hamlet - The Clown Prince (Rajat Kapoor), Aao Saathi Sapna Dekhein (Swanand Kirkire), All About Women (Hidaayath Sami), and Shakkar Ke Paanch Daane (Manav Kaul).

Kalivesham –on an Actor Possessed by the Character

This play written and directed by Kavalam Narayana Panikkar based on Nalacharitham, has Nala as its protagonist who gets possessed of Kali, the evil character. The text of this play provides a context in which there is interaction of three characters Nala, Kali and Natan (actor) of which Kali has no physical existence. His presence can be manifested only through the Natan (actor). Here when the Kathakali theme makes its renewed passage to the modern theatre it presents to us a thought process which forms the very basis of the art of transformation in theatre.

Ayussinte Pusthakam- On Sin and Sexuality

Contextualized against the intense emotional lives of a father, son and grandfather living in a small village in Kerala, this play offers an inter-textual theatrical experience dealing with the concept of ‘sin’. The play directed by Suveeran, deals with the themes of sexuality and sin against the backdrop the dogmatic religious concepts among priests and with its dynamic but semantically loaded scenes boldly tries to deconstruct the oppressive religious attitude towards sex as sin. The constructs like family, marriage, priesthood, incest, and pedophilia are being scrutinized, problematizing philosophical grand-narratives, using the simple but powerful images and medium of theatre.

Madhyabartini – Adapting Tagore

The play is a dramatization of Tagore’s classic short story Madhyabartini staged by Seagull, Guwahati. Rare Tagorean touches of the grotesque, in which a childless wife Harasundari nags her devoted husband Nivaran to remarry. He does, most reluctantly, but then gradually becomes besotted with his young new wife, leading to complications, one after another. The use of the Assamese folk form of Kamrupiya Dhuliya circus, with its clowns as narrators makes relate to the modern day flux of conflicting lives and interests.

Layla Majnun - A tale of timeless love and separation

Ram Gopal Bajaj, the actor-director who made a name with his spectacular plays as “Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak”, “Asaad Ka Ek Din”, “Qaid-e-Hayat”, “Skandagupt” and many more directs Ismail Choonara’s play “Layla Majnun. The story begins with the chorus comprising women introducing the characters and informing that people are obsessed about Majnun as he wanders around lost in Layla’s love. All along, the chorus and a pair of story tellers appear and the incredible tale of love, pain and separation is unraveled in action and narration. The cast, except Banwari Taneja who played Majnun’s father are former students of NSD. The back stage workers include Amba Sanyal as the costume designer and Rajesh Singh, as the music director.

Afsaneh: Bai Se Biscope Tak-Revisiting Nautanki

Akash Khuranna is bringing back the age-old form of Nautanki and Baithak (a form of Kadhak). The story centers around two characters, Gulab Bai who danced for the masses with her Nautanki, and Beni Bai who catered to the elite with the more refined Baithak style. And now, they are old, and are reflecting on the glory of their past life in a surreal space where they sit and talk about their experiences. The play has Kathak, music and a spirited cast.

The Absent Lover –the International collaborative.

This dance theatre is inspired from Kalidasa’s Vikramorvishyam. The play begins when a wandering story-teller, the Sutradhara, inviting the audience into a mysterious forest…and story begins to emerge...Pururuvas, has lost his lover - Urvashi in this forest and he struggles through the forest encountering strange and wonderful manifestations of nature. His ordeal becomes a metaphor, an intense crucible of self-examination as, through the pain and longing, he journeys towards redemption and true love. The original script for the play was written by Bruno Kavanagh, with costumes and sets designed by Paris-based Delphine Ciavaldini, lighting designed by Les Dickert from New York, and music composed by U.K.-based Ben Foskett. Preeti Vasudevan the director of the play performs the role of Urvashi, alongside French-born dancers Celine Pradeu (tree spirit) and Gilles Chuyen (the king and the narrator) in the cast. It will also feature the music of Bengali Baul singer, Raju Das.

Hamlet – The Clown Prince

The play, (in gibberish and English) is a hilarious version of Hamlet -- a company of clowns presenting their version of Hamlet along with multiple doses of digressions to share their own lives and personalities. Clowns being clowns, the play is not only funny; it’s filled with contemporary influences which manage to present the classical tragedy with a modern feel. The actors shoulder the show with impromptu dancing and breaking into songs to dumb-sharads (father’s ghost who by the way is not allowed to talk… being a ghost and all) and through the stories of the clowns and their relationships with each other. Rajat Kapoor is the director.

Aao Sathi Sapna Dekhe – a Musical all set to Entertain

Swanand Kirkire’s play is a musical set in the Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi - a romantic musical with elements of suspense and comedy in good measure. A Romeo-Juliet love story has the two fathers adopt the garb of feuding parents. When the fiction gets unmanageable they struggle to unscramble it to arrive at a happily-ever-after conclusion. The first part of Aao Sathi Sapna Dekhe takes place in moonlight, that magical time in youth… that strange innocence that bestows seeing rainbows even when it didn't rain… The second part is in face to face with the brightness of day, that painful transition to the harsh glare of reality. The play operates at the intersection of folk theatre and popular Hindi cinema.

All about Women – Stories Interwoven

Well-known light designer and actor, Hidaayat Sami makes his directorial debut with this Croatian play penned by Miro Gavran. The play has an unusual structure in which five life stories; alternate and interweave. One story concerns two sisters who are at loggerheads because of the man they both love - and there is also the question of their mother. The second story is also about two Women who are exceptionally close, until their relationship undergoes a crisis when a third woman comes into their lives. Then there is the story of secretaries working for the same firm; about three little girls who go to kindergarten together; and old ladies living in a retirement home.

Shakkar Ke Paanch Daane –the One Actor Show

Shakkar Ke Paanch Daane by Manav Kaul is a one actor play- with Kumud Mitra as the actor- discusses the life of the central character Rajkumar, a small-town simpleton. The play, which begins with a poem, does not have a conventional beginning, middle or end. The simple stage design with a lone chair, and a small space left in the middle by the four surrounding blocks, acts as his small world from which he springs with funny surprises…The light and sound design also help in creating an impression of a road, possibly of a highway, which is very close to where he lives. At various times, the road to an unknown land seems to beckon him but he appears to be content in his small space.

The plays selected seem to be an interesting mix of what is happening in contemporary Indian theatre. I am especially happy to see two plays are from Malayalam in the list of ten.

Ayussinthe Pusthakam - The Book of Life is nominated for best Ensemble, Script (CV Balakrishnan), Direction (Suveeran), Lighting (Suveeran) Scenic Design (Sunil CR), and costume Design (Priya).The nominations for Kalivesham are for best choreography (Kavalam), best ensemble, Direction (Kavalam), Lighting Design (Harikrishnan) and for sound design (Harikrishnan).

And we cherish our memories of the last year Meta where our production of Karnnabharam was selected for 3 awards, for best play, best costume design, and for best scenic design.

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