Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tagore Festival @ kadambazhipuram, a village in palakkad, Kerala.

Kadambazhippuram is a remote village in Palakkadu district Kerala, almost 6 kilometers from Srikrishnapuram the nearest town and about 25 km from the district headquarters Palakkadu. In this typical village space a national theatre festival on the literature of Rabindranath Tagore is to take place. And the productions include works of Late Habib Tanvir, Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, Anuradha Kapoor, and Neelam Mansigh Choudhary. Actors like Seema Biswas, Gopi Sopanam are performing.

It is heartening to see that theatre of this magnitude and quality happens in a remote village, where most of our theatre is decided by a few cities; it can be said that the present scenario of Indian theatre is such that its predicament is decided by the city based sensibility and the concerns and pre-occupations of the urbanite. The major landscape of the Indian rural reality is sidelined and, marginalized in its physicality, aesthetics, and content, mode of operation and in all realms of its existence. It is at this context this festival become important. it is not just a festival, it is the continuity of the village based theatre movement named Natyasastra, which organizes workshops, produce new plays and perform it, organize seminars and festivals and all allied activities in connection to theatre, ably lead by Dileepan and a host of his friends, dear and near ones. Kudos to him and his team.

The theatre festival is scheduled feom 24th of December to 28th of December. The plays included are

24 December 5.30 pm Inaugural session. Ms Anuradha Kapoor inaugurates the festival ; Neelam Mansingh Chaodhary releases the festival book. The keynote address is given by Ms. Maya twen berg from the theatre academy of Finland, Helsinki.

7.00 pm Play Jeevit Ya Mrut dir Anuradha Kapoor, by Vivadi New Delh

jeeit ya mrit..seema biswas, anuradha kapoorVivadi’s Jivit ya Mrit, dramatized by Geetanjali Shree from the short story in which a widow Kadambini . People think of her as dead while she is alive all the time. To prove that she was indeed alive, she has to die in the end.
Seema Biswas performs this solo, less realistic and more a mental landscape of imaginings that displayed her marvellous speech range from high screams of fear to bass rumbles entertaining her young nephew.

The play was directed by the director of National School of Drama Anuradha Kapoor.
Sunday, December 25
10.30 a.m.: Meet the artists
7.00 p.m. "A Wife's Letter,' (Adaptation of Tagore's play, 'Streer Patra'), dir. Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry, for The Company, Chandigarh
a wifes letter, neelam mansigh chaudharyThe protagonist of the play is a child bride Mrinal who secretly writes poetry to assuage the listlessness of her routine and mundane life. She finds companionship with the cows and buffaloes in the house while fulfilling the routine chores of her household. In this monotonous universe enters Bindu, the orphaned sister of her older sister-in-law. This simple event becomes the trigger which unravels layers of experiences that are then shared and collectively explored. The two characters become the pivot and everything revolves around their beautiful and haunting relationship, fraught with ambiguity.

The director has  used teo actors two play Mrinal - one is participating in the physical action on the stage and the other who is taking the narrative forward. ‘The male actor who is playing Mrinal is not constructing the role as a female impersonator nor is he playing androgynous. He is creating a de-gendering of his role, leading perhaps to a more egalitarian approach to performance’ says the director.

Monday, December 26
10.30 a.m.: Meet the artists
6.00 p.m.: Tagore Sketches (Short Plays) presented by Thrissur Natakasangham, Dir: C.R.Rajan, K.B.Hari.
7.00 p.m.: 'Bali,' (Malayalam adaptation of Tagore's play, 'Bisarjan,') presented by Natyasastra, Dir. Narippatta Raju.

Gobindamanikya, Tripura’s monarch, on realizing the futility of blood sacrifices, issued a ban on these unnecessary slaughters at the altar ofthe Goddess. Undoubtedly, this caused a general discontent in the state that was encouraged by high priest Raghupati, who held himself supreme in the matter of religion. He felt that by prohibiting the ritual, the king had definitely committed a grave crime and to punish and humiliate him, he tries various means to drive everyone against Gobindamanikya.

Tuesday, December 27
10.30 a.m.: Meet the artists
6.00 p.m.: Tagore Sketches (Short Plays) presented by Thrissur Natakasangham
7.00 p.m.: 'Chandalika,' presented by Sopanam, Thiruvanathapuram, Dir. Kavalam Narayana Panicker

Tagore's Chandalika (Untouchable Girl), which was modeled on an ancient Buddhist legend describing how Ananda, the Gautama Buddha's disciple, asks a tribal girl for water.

8.00 p.m.: 'Khud our Khuda,' presented by Sopanam, Dir. Kavalam Narayana Panicker, performed by V. Gireesh. 
Through the highly inventive imagery and rich and thought provoking ideas contained in the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, a dramatic text is created to highlight their subtle, but powerful theatre potentials. The basic theme envisaged in the production, as the name Khud and Khuda suggests is the inevitable relationship between the individual and the universe, the man and the God, the micro and the macro. Tagore’s poetry celebrates the time immemorial theme of the struggle of the human spirit, its continuous search for the ultimate, its expectations and failures, sorrow and joy all described in the subtle and gross perspective. Following the path of the classical poets of the yonder past like Valmiki and Vyasa, Tagore also contemplates on dharma and nurtured the grand vision of the ultimate liberation of man. In his lofty message, the constant chase or the hunt that man is engaged in within and without for his own identity proves that the hunter and hunted for are one and the same.

khud or khudaThe text for the performance consists of selected jewels from Tagore’s short poems and Gitanjali as well as certain essential excerpts from Raja and other plays to do justice to the theme. The vocal rendition is in four languages, Sanskrit, Malayalam, Hindi and English.

Talking about the play, ‘Khud aur Khuda’, Panikkar described how the play in four languages and yet the most effective was the fifth language i.e. the language of theatre. The Director ensured smooth transition from one language to the next.

Wednesday, December 28
10.30 a.m.: Meet the artists
3.00 p.m.: Seminar . Noted journalist Venkitesh Ramakrishnan will present the paper and the participants are Raghuthaman, Chandradasan, Gramaprakash, Ramesh Varma, Ratnakaran, and Sreeja.

5.30 p.m.: Tagore Festival Valedictory Function
Inauguration: Kavalam Narayana Panikker
Keynote Address: Prof. K.Satchidanandan

7.00 p.m.: 'Raj-Rakt,' (based on Tagore's 'Bisarjan,' and 'Rajarshi,') presented by Naya Theatre, script, design & direction, Habib Tanvir.
Tagore’s Visarjan is one of his most powerful and most flawed plays, based on a clash between the priest of a kingdom and his king over whether animal sacrifice should be banned. Tanvir’s instinct was to go back to the far stronger novel, Rajarshi (1887) on which Visarjan was based, and meld the play and the novel. Raj-Rakta is one of the last productions directed by Habib Tanvir, and he has utilised minimalism as the theatre language. He has insisted the actors to control and restrict the gestures, movements, and be specific and sharp so that the idea and politics behind the performance will be crystal clear. This work is a classic example of how to write an adaptation. I remember watching Habib doing the rehearsals and insisting on the specificity of each moment, the clarity of the political connotations he tried to bring up in this production. This play is about the religious fundamentalism taking over the nation, and its system. The political power being manipulated by the religious fundamentalists this is a highly contemporary situation.

raj-raktaBeneath the umbrella of political intrigue, the play deals with religious and social issues. Central to the plot is the moral confrontation between the King and the Purohit. A child's simple query makes the King question the validity of bloodletting. After an animal sacrifice, a young girl asks the King, "Itna khoon kyun?

This play is performed by the seasoned artists of Naya Theatre.
This festival is going to be truly meaningful tribute on the 150th birth centenary celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore. A festival set in a village atmosphere for a poet and dramatist who was searching for the villages of India for the cultural identity and the spirit of the nation. many of his characters dreamed to travel to the villages and the peaceful serenity of the rural nature, its people that can cure many diseases caused by the urban chaos.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kalamandalam Gopi, Chandrasekhar Kambar, Kanhailal, KM Raghavan Nambiar, Alakhnandan honoured by SNA

The General Council of Sangeet Natak Akademi, the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, New Delhi at its meeting held on 13-14 December 2011 elected eleven (11) eminent personalities in the field of performing arts, including Kalamandalam Gopi, Chandrasekhar Kambar and Heisnam Kanhailal. Others include Mukund Lath(musicologist and writer), Hariprasad Chaurasia,(flute), Shivkumar Sharma (santoor), Amjad Ali Khan(sarod), Umayalapuram Sivaraman (mridangam), M Chandrasekharan(violin), R K Singhajit Singh(Manipuri dance), Padma Subrahmanyam (Bharathanatyam), as Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellows (Akademi Ratna). The Fellowship of the Akademi is the most prestigious and rare honour, which is restricted to a very limited number at a given time. Presently there are only 40 Fellows of the Sangeet Natak Akademi.

Kalamandalam Gopi (born 1937) is the living legend of Kathakali who blends the solid body grammar of the highly stylised Kalluvazhi tradition in which he was groomed with the more flexible, part-realistic, emotion-laden southern style techniques he acquired later in his career. Gopiyasan is known for the romantic and dramatic portrayal of the virtuous pachcha roles in Kathakali, including Nalan, Karnan and Rukmangadan. He is equally adept in essaying the choreographically denser roles like Bheeman (of Kalyanasougandhikam or Bakavadham), Arjuna (Subhadraharanam) and Dharmaputrar (Kirmeeravadham). He also excels in the yellow-faced pazhuppu roles such as Balabhadra, and the anti-heroic Kathi (Ravana, Keechaka and Duryodhana) black-bearded Kaatalan (Kiratham), red-bearded Bali (Balivijayam) and even the semi-realistic looking Brahmanan in Santanagopalam.

kalamadalam gopiHe was initiated in Kathakali by Guru T.Ravunni Nair and later trained as a disciple of Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair and Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair, at Kerala Kalamandalam Shoranur. Before that, he had a brief career as a practitioner of Ottamthullal.

The duo of Kalamandalam Gopi as the male protagonist and Kottakkal Sivaraman, in the female role was great to watch and attracted great a fanfare.

He was awarded with the Padma Shri awardee, and ia recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award.

Chandrashekhara Kambara (born January 2, 1937) the prominent poet, playwright, folklorist, film director in Kannada language and the founder-vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi is selected as the fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi. .

Dr. Kambara's plays mainly revolve around folk or mythology interlinked with contemporary issues, a blend of the folk and the modern theatrical forms.

He has been conferred with many prestigious awards including the Jnanpith Award in 2011 for the year 2010, Sahitya Akademi Award, the Padma Shri by Government of India, Kabir Samman, Kalidas Samman and Pampa Award. After his retirement, Kambara was nominated Member of Karnataka Legislative Council, to which he made significant contributions through his interventions

kambarDr. Kambara has to his credit 22 plays, 8 anthologies of poems, 3 novels, 12 research works and several scholarly write-ups on folk theater, literature and education..[15]

He has written 22 plays including the much acclaimed Jokumaraswamy, Sirisampige, (for which he was conferred with the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1991) Alibaba and forty thieves. He other plays are Rishyashringa , Chalesha , Jasisidanayaka , Kaadu Kudure , Naayi Kathe , Harakeya Kuri , Sambashiva Prahasana , Huliya Neralu , Mahamayi , Nela Sampige and Shivaratri

Kambar With his rural upbringing and scholarship in folklore, he introduced folk motifs, themes and myths into Kannada literature. Kambar's work is imbued with a poetic sensibility, laced with earthy humour

Kambar argues that the Indian cultural sensibility was marked by its non-linear notion of time: ‘Time is not a controlled sequence of events in our minds, but an amalgamation of all events, past to present’. Against the Western notion of “history”, Kambar posited a view of “many ages and many worlds including the mythic, constituting the Indian sense of present reality. “We imitated the West in creating museums to house the relics of our past, whereas traditionally we had lived with our past in our daily present. This British notion of history forced us, Kambar said, to see our own literature through a distorted perspective. “We are obsessed with the ‘original’ nature of historic texts and with the need to separate them from later interpolations. Instead of swallowing the Western notion of the integrity of a text and its sole author, we ought to celebrate the way in which Indians continually told and retold the Mahabharata, adding to it and modifying it. It is a matter of pride, Kambar declared, ‘that an entire country has collectively created the epic over a period of 10,000 years’.

From Alibaba written by Kambara directed by ChandradasanIt is this idea of continuity of culture and tradition, its organic relationship with the present day reality makes the works of Kambar distinct. Even when narrating the story of Alibaba Kambar can very well place it inside a temple (where thieves also can be hiding) and place Ganesha as one of the important characters.

I remember my interaction with his Alibababayum Nalpathu Kallanmarum which I translated into Malayalam, (yet to be published), designed and directed for our children’s theatre group Mazhavillu.

Heisnam Kanhailal (born 1942)is a noted art theatre director from Manipur. He is the founder-Director of Kalakshetra Manipur, established in 1969, a theatre laboratory that explores a new vocabulary in the existing language of theatre.

Dakghar directed by KanhailalKanhailal , a drop-out from the National School of Drama in New Delhi, Identified himself in his early years with the ‘Third Theatre’ tradition of Badal Sircar. He explored non-verbal, physical, ensemble acting in numerous theatre pieces, steeped in the indigenous myths and conventions of Meitei culture. After experimental plays like Tamnalai (Haunting Spirits) and Kabui-Keioba (Half-Man, Half-Tiger), Kanhailal created a sensation with his sharp and lyrical retelling of a popular folk tale Pebet (1975), in which Mother Pebet, a mythical bird, succeeds through subterfuge in reuniting her children, who have been abducted by the Cat. Thinly disguised as an allegory of neocolonial domination, with the Cat masquerading as a Vaishnavite monk, the play was condemned as ‘anti-Hindu’ and ‘anti-Indian’, even as it was hailed as a theatrical masterwork.

Seeking a less ethnically determined idiom of protest to depict the violence of everyday life in Manipur, Kanhailal dramatized L. Samarendra Singh's poem Africagee Wakhanda Gee in another memorable evocation of the survival of the human spirit in Memoirs of Africa (1985). His wife, the actress Sabitri, was central to both productions, performing with the power of a contemporary shaman. More recently, Kanhailal has attempted to deepen the communitarian and ritualistic dimensions of his theatre in the context of suffering. His plays have also begun to move outwards from their inner lyrical resilience towards a more verbal, layered, and ironic reading of myth and history, as in his reinterpretation of Karna (1997), the tragic warrior from the Mahabharata, and his adaptation of Mahasweta Devi's story Draupadi (2000). He has written 15 plays and directed over 35 plays.

He was awarded Padma Shri in 2004 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1985

Thonnakkal Peethambaran was born on Dec 2, 1939. After his primary education upto 12th he began to learn Kathakali under Pirappankode Kunhan Pilla. After his first performance he continued his studies under Oyoor Kochu Govinda Pilla for 2 years, after which he was trained at RLV College Tripunithura under the legendary Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair. He performs almost all the roles in Kadhakali , and excels in the role of Raudrabheeman in Duryodhanavadham.

thonnakkal peethambaranIn the field of Theatre, eight eminent persons have been selected for Akademi Awards 2011. They include Alakhnandan and Kirti Jain for Direction, Amitabh Shrivastav, Vikram Gokhale, Neena Tiwana and A R Srinivasan for Acting, R Nageswara Rao (Babji) for Major Traditions of Theatre – Company Theatre, Andhra Pradesh and Kamal Jain for Allied Theatre Arts (Lighting).

Alakhnandan has worked with eminent directors like B.V. Karanth, Fritz Bennewitz and K.N. Panikar. He discovered modernity in Indian playwrights instead of imitating Western dramatists.

Born in 1940 in Arrah district of Bihar, he spent his childhood in Jabalpur where he used to watch Jatra and acted as a child artiste during religious celebrations. Inspired by Karanth, he explored various folk theatre forms of Bundelkhand, including Bundelkhandi Swang form. Using these elements, he made his productions colourful, lively, fresh and meaningful.

Alakhnandan started his own repertory in Bhopal in 1987 called Nata Bundela. Recently Alakhnandan made theatrical performance of Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry

Alokhnandan -nat-bundele- poem of tagoreAn M.A. (Hindi) and a Postgraduate Diploma holder in Public Administration, Alakhnandan’s directorial artistry ranges from stark realism to black comedy to folk theatre, from serious adult theatre to children’s theatre. The plays he has directed included Sanskrit and Hindi classics, translations from regional dramas, his own plays and European avant garde dramatic works. A poet himself, he has infused in his productions a distinct poetic and political sensibility. Alakhnandan has a special flavour to combine ingenuity and skill to create black humour in situations like death and mournful last rituals. A playwright and Hindi poet of repute, Alakhnandan, is also a master in the field of children’s theatre.

He was awarded the Shikhar Samman for theatre by the Madhya Pradesh government in 2006. Alakhnandan’s publications include Chanda Bedni, Ujbak Raja Teen Dakait, Swang Shakuntala (plays), Budhdhi Bahadur, Murkha Shiromani, Narad Ji Phanse Chakallas me (children’s plays) and Ghar Nahin Pahunch Pata (collection of poems)

Kirti Jain (born 1949) is an MA in English Literature, and has a diploma in theatre (direction) from NSD under the tutelage of Abrahim Alkazi. She was teaching theatre History in NSD and later became the director of it.

She has directed many productions including Baghdad burning, Lehron Ke Rajhans, (1992), Holi, Subarnalata, Tinka Tinka, kaun Thangwa nagariya Lutal Ho, Aur Kitne Tudke. The processes that precede a performance, of giving space to others, of working through consensus are all integral to Kirti's understanding of theatre. She says she is more lured by structures and shapes rather than scripts and scenes.

KIRTI_JAIN_NDSKA_62200fShe has travelled to many countries including Pakistan, UK, USA, Japan, China, Germany, France, Poland, USSR, Philipines with her productions and for giving lectures. She has extensively written about theatre in englishg and also in Hindi.

She is associated with Natrang Pratishtan, a theatre Archives and Documentation Centre.

Amitabh Srivastava graduated from the National School of Drama amitabh srivastava(Acting) in 1979 Soon after, he plunged into theatre in Delhi where he associated with major theatre directors E. Alkazi, B. V.Karanth, Fritz Benewitz, Ranjit Kapoor, Barry Johnn, Amal Allana, Prasanna Devendra Raj Ankur. He visited the U.K, Germany, and Poland with the National School of Drama Repertory Company. For the last twenty-five years he has also been active with TV and cinema as writer, director, and actor and has been performing in numerous stage plays, T.V. serials, telefilms and films.

He has always considered writing and scripting to be his forte and has adapted world classics of drama such as The Tempest, Good Woman of Schetzuan, The Visit, Hedda Gabler, The Odd Couple, Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can’t Pay! Won’t Pay! to name a few. He has also written screenplays for feature films such as Hey Ram, Abhay, and White Rainbow.

Vikram Gokhale is a well known film, television and stage actor, vikram gohkalenotable for his roles in Marathi theatre and Hindi films and television. He is also a renowned, director, consulting film editor and much more. He is a trained actor and director who learnt under the guidance of Mrs. Vijaya Mehta, He has acted in key roles in more than 30 professional Marathi and Hindi theater productions.

Neena Tiwana An actress from Punjab who was instrumental in ATT : Regional Desk / Punjabi Tribune/ Dainik Tribune
Neena Tiwana (L) plays the role of Sardarni while Nirmal Rishi is in her element as Gulabo in the stage performance of the movie 'Laung da lishkara' during the Patiala Heritage Festival at the Old Moti Bagh Palace at Patiala on Sundat night. Photo: Rajesh Sachar

establishing the  Punjab Kala Manch alongwith her husband Harpal Tiwana at Patiala to promote local artists. Neena Tiwana is a graduate from National School of Drama. Neena Tiwana and his son Manpal Tiwana are now playing a key role in promoting the theatre in Punjab, after the demise of her husband in a road accident in 2002.

A R Srinivasan (ARS) is a veteran Tamil actor from Chennai who has ARSclimbed the ladder of success both as an actor and as a high ranking officer because of a clear vision for himself. He has been an part of many stage plays, tele-serials and cinema – three dimensions of acting career accomplished successfully, while being employed full time as a high ranking officer of a company. He is fondly known to his fans as ARS

R. Nageswara Rao — Babji the secretary of the celebrated company theatre Surabhi is selected for this years award. Over 125 years, a theatre legacy has trickled from one generation to another of a family. Surabhi today lives on through five troupes spread over Andhra Pradesh, held together by over 3,000 family members. The productions thatturned out as Surabhi masterpieces include “Maya Bazaar”, “Srikrishnaleelalu”, “Chandipriya” and “Bhaktha Prahlada” R. Nageswara Rao — Babji for everyone — runs the Hyderabad-based Sri Venkateshwara Natya Mandali, the biggest among the Surabhi troupes. . “We are born to the stage, educated here. We rehearse, cook, sleep here.” Theatre is at the core of these lives, points out Babji. “From a three-month-old baby to an 80-year-old are here.” Together they make costumes, create sets and backdrop, play music and arrange lighting. Babji asserts the audience never deserted Surabhi, “We depend on ticket and audience.”

surabhiWhat began with a “Keechaka Vadham” performance in 1885 at a wedding, today survives with a bit of government help and the zest of the audience. “I belong to the fifth generation of artistes. The sixth and seventh generation family members are already part of the group,” says Babji Babji's ancestors moved from puppetry to theatre performances with “Keechaka Vadham.” An assortment of mythological, folklore and plays based on women's issues make Surabhi theatre which are laced with stunning visual effects , Huge sets, intricate backdrops, elaborate costumes and tricks

Legendary B.V. Karanth conducted workshops and evolved three plays with them — “Bhishma”, “Chandipriya” and “The Good Women of Setzuan” an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's play. If “Bhishma” did away with Surabhi tricks and splendour, it did not do too well. So when it came to “Chandipriya” in 1997, Karanth left it to the Surabhi artistes to select the play, have “their tricks” yet ventured into in a modern way. I remember Karanth paying his tribute to the Surabhi tradition by saying that, “ I was not teaching the Surabhi artists, but was always studying from them.

Kamal Jain (Lighting) is the only one selected this year for the award from among the artists of the technical side of theatre.

Kashiram Sahu for Folk Theatre (Chhatisgarh), Mipham Otsal for Traditional Theatre (Jammu & Kashmir), Bellagallu Veeranna for Togalu Gombeyatta, Puppetry (Karnataka), Gopal Chandra Das for Putul Nach (Tripura) are also among the awardees.

KM Raghavan Nambiar  Important Malayalam Playwright, KM Raghavan Nambiar who wrote plays like Swathanthryam Thanne Jeevitham, and the former vice Chairman of Kerala Sangeet Natak Akademi Trissur was selected for the Tagore Puraskar, a one time award instituted in connection with the Tagore centenary celebrations.