Category Archives: Theatre

Kala Desh Ki Seva Mein

The Prithvi Festival’s tagline this year is – Kala Desh Ki Seva Mein [Art in the service of the nation]. It’s quite an interesting tagline. How can art serve the nation?

– I suppose art holds a mirror to society, and often tells us what we have become – sometimes criticising, and sometimes celebrating humanity.
– Art helps us reflect on, and influence our responses to the world we live in.
– I suppose art does provide employment too (though I doubt that that is the import of the tagline)
– Art certainly helps unite cultures, and helps us understand each other. We live in a world that is fragmented more than ever before by religion, terrorism, and war. Art is the underlying common thread across civilizations that helps us appreciate a ghazal, a classical raga, and hip hop at the same time.
– Art speaks an honest voice, uncluttered by rhetoric, political correctness, and cheap tittilation.
– Art helps us get away from our constructed urban realities, from the mundaneness of making a living, and gets us closer to humanity – ourselves.

I guess it was a good tagline to pick after all!

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Sufiana – Doppelganger

On Friday, I watched ‘Sufiana – Doppelganger‘, a play by Salim Ghouse (whom you may recognize as the voiceover on NDTV). The play centered around Mullah Nasiruddin – the sufi mystic cum jester, whose numerous escapades we have all read about as kids. The interesting thing though, is that while all those stories seemed to be structured like ‘jokes’, on a more careful analysis they reveal themselves to be much more than that, offering insights into the nature of reality, man’s search for meaning in life etc. The encoding of profound truths in unlikely metaphors is a common concept in sufi literature, and poetry.

This particular play though used the central structure common to a typcial Mullah Nasiruddin story, yet made it contemporary through references to the war in Iraq, WMD etc. The metaphors and underlying themes probably did not make sense to a lot of people sitting in the audience (Prithvi ), causing a few to leave midway through the performance.

The performances by Salim, and his wife (who plays his wife in the play too) were quite good, though nothing spectacular. On Saturday, Troubadour, another play centered around Sufism (this time, Rumi’s poetry) was staged. I missed this one though.

More on Salim Ghouse

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Katha Collage II – [Directed by Naseeruddin Shah]

The Naseeruddin Shah directed ‘Katha Collage II’ is playing in Mumbai these days. The play is essentially a collection of stories (or rather social commentaries) by Harishankar Parsai that are weaved together with the only underlying similarity being the satirical view on human behavior and the observational humour. The biggest strength of the production is the extremely talented cast of actors who make the occasionally hard to follow ‘pure’ Hindi dialogues come alive. Like another Naseeruddin Shah production that I had seen last year, The Prophet, the director (in this case Shah himself) chooses to stick to the original script with no attempt to simplify the language to suit the modern audience. It was a pleasure to listen to the rich Hindi of the dialogues. I was transported back to those CBSE Hindi textbooks that I had read through school.

Two of the ‘stories’ really stand out – one on the merits and demerits of having bath regularly and the other on the practice that some people have of keeping others waiting for them. Both these stories manage to stand out thanks to the passionate performance by an actor whose name I do not know. Another interesting piece is the one about the ‘girl’s father’, this unusual species who comes in the way of most budding relationships. The show had the audience in splits and by the end of it all, the cast got a sincere standing ovation from all us. One thing that was going in favour of the play was the uniquely Indian nature of all the situations presented in it. The audience really identified with most of what was happening on stage.

The satire and sharp observational humour in Katha Collage is nothing new, but the rendition in Hindi is something that makes it a novelty. I think the play should be on in Prithvi till the weekend. Don’t miss it if you are in Mumbai!

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Evam Indrajit – playing in Mumbai

Been addictively watching plays at Prithvi Theatre. Managed to catch a play called Evam Indrajit last night. Must say, its one of the better Indian plays that I have watched. It tells the story of 3 stereotypical modern day Indian youngsters and their mindless, random and circular lives (much like the most of us). The play (by Badal Sircar), supposedly an Indian classic, managed, to capture the Sisyphian concepts of absurdity and existential depression(?) quite well. The ending though was a bit of disappointment for a play whose tagline was “Your life in three acts.” While the play raised questions on such themes as the meaning and purpose of life, it failed to give many answers except “walk the road of life, regardless”.

Still, a decent play. Though originally written in the 60s, its been adapted quite deftly by the theatre group, which incidentally calls itself Evam. Catch it if you are in Mumbai. The play moves next to Bangalore. Here’s a more detailed review if you are interested.

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