Ak's Various Thoughts

TEA, TRAVEL AND THEATRE

Jokes apart, I’m writing this article surrounded by 18 rowdy theatre practitioners, on board the Kashi Express, which is hurtling towards Bareilly from New Delhi station. Which we got to after a 17-hour train journey from Mumbai. Two shows are lined up in the harsh Bareilly winter for a horde of theatre hungry doctors. The lead actress of one of our plays, however, is getting her cousin married back home, and will brave foggy skies to make it to the show only minutes before its scheduled start. Meanwhile a twenty-minute duologue is being prepared by two co-passengers, to buy her some time, if the need arises. The stuff we do for the sake of theatre.


2010 has started on a pretty busy note for us. After a successful show at IIT Powai (the most giving audience in the city) and a surprisingly good run at Prithvi, some members of the group communed with various members from the theatre fraternity for a multi-city corporate theatre event. As someone quipped, four or five Mumbai theatre groups came together with much joy to sell tea to North India.


Anyhow, a fifteen-minute song and dance routine was rehearsed and readied. By two separate teams, for simultaneous events. The teams set off. One to the chill of Patna. The other to the greater chill of Lucknow. And then all hell broke loose. Weather played foul. The main event lined up the next day in Bhopal got seriously jeopardized. To cut a long story short:


The Patna team flew back to Mumbai and minutes later flew off to Bhopal.


A new crack team from Mumbai flew to Bhopal as Plan B.


The Lucknow team got into a rickety jeep and tried to brave zero visibility and the vicious Chambal ravines, by night, to make it in time. They didn’t. Not till 10 hours after the event finished.


Eventually, the show went on, as it must. And much tea was spoken about and drunk.

Another fraternity building exercise took place in Mumbai. Seven directors, ten writers and several actors were brought together by the Rage trio (Rahul, Rajit, Shernaz) for an evening of short plays titled One onOne. The plays covered a wide range of subjects: Indian bureaucracy, homophobia, widowhood, air travel, and the many aspects of politics, and Bombay… sorry, Mumbai. I got to direct one of the pieces, and was very fortunate to get a fantastic text, and two gifted actors.


In the midst of all this mayhem, I managed to watch two plays. First, I finally managed to catch Geli Ekvees Varsha. It had featured in the top five plays of 2009 in my little poll last month, and I’m glad to sayit rightfully deserved that place. It featured a strikingly insightful script, visionary direction and a riveting performance by Amey Wagh, an actor full of pleasant surprises. I also managed to catch Manav Kaul’s latest, Red Sparrow. A stylish, high-energy production densely populated with literary references (from the works of Nirmal Verma to The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), most of which were too obscure for the average audience member. As such, a lot of people walked out dazzled by the design, but baffled by the content.


So January has been jam packed, and February promises to be fairly full for us too, what with Bareilly, the Kala Ghoda Festival, Kolkata and more shows in Mumbai lined up. Opening in February, among other plays, is Ranga Theatre’s new production (after Karna – The Generous Warrior and The Life of Pi) – their take on Dharmvir Bharti’s timeless classic about the Mahabharata – Andha Yug – directed by Bijon Mandal. Featuring Trishla Patel as Gandhari, this could be the cream of the February theatrical crop.