AK's Various Thoughts

My third article of the year is being typed in Kumarakom, couple of hours away from Kochi. Backwaters and all that. No, I’m not here for theatrical purposes. Well, not exactly. I’m here attending a cousin’s wedding. And these usually turn out to be quite dramatic. Also, Megha Sriram, the wonderful vocalist of our play Afsaneh: Bai se Bioscope tak is here on special request, performing for the wedding. So there’s a strange sense of déjà vu. And this afternoon, the first thing she said on the mic was “Akvarious presents”. I love her for it, but I’m now being ragged by lots of drunk relatives for ‘shameless self promotion’.

So while February ends for me in Kerala, it began in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. The leading surgeon there, Dr. Brijeshwar Singh, has for four years now organized a theatre festival at a local hospital’s auditorium for the benefit of doctors, dignitaries and the general public. The festival runs a week, plays from Mumbai, Lucknow, Kanpur and Delhi come down with huge troupes and stay at large army guest houses, private dinner parties are organized every night, an auditorium with a capacity of 400 seats 600, and close to a 1000 people are turned away daily. Add to that a warm, receptive, giving audience that cherishes every spoken word. All in all, a very heartening experience for performers. Business Standard recently covered this festival, deservedly, and said that other small towns should learn from this and start similar movements of their own.

We returned from Bareilly, did a couple of shows at the Kala Ghoda Festival (which was particularly wonderful this year and which I hope doesn’t shut down as per the word on the streets), and headed off to Kolkata for a few shows. A good time was had, much shopping was done, much food was consumed, and much too much foul language was used on stage given that the auditorium was right below a huge temple.

In the midst of all this, the nominations for the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards were announced. Two plays from my poll results for The Script made it to their top ten – Sex, Morality and Censorship (which had featured in our top five) and Blackbird (which had featured in our ‘bubbling under’ section). Two Marathi plays – Garbo (Aasakta, Pune) and White Lily ani Night Rider have also made the cut. More details at www.metawards.com.

Before I left town, I managed to catch Andha Yug – a fusion, which is Bijon Mondal’s take on the Dharmvir Bharti classic set in the Mahabharata. An intense and difficult undertaking, handled bravely by a young team, with a very interesting and well thought out design, populated by many innovative elements. Perhaps a tad long for today’s audiences, but then again, the production did not have the permission to edit or tamper with the original text.

As I sit here, by a lake, surrounded by palm trees (in the sweltering heat), sipping coconut water, with no large construction visible for miles, my team back home is preparing for our first ever show in a building under construction. Have always thought that construction sites would make great venues. Also, we have an ample amount of those. So here I am, visualizing actresses in hard hats. Nice.