March began with my second visit to the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards in Delhi. Scheduling resulted in me reaching near the fag end, and as such I managed to catch a mere 20 minutes of a play from Assam called Guti Phulor Gamusa. I was instantly struck by a few things. All three Assamese plays I had ever seen had a few things in common:
- The theme / dilemma of a barren married woman
- A medicine woman prone to making lewd jokes
- Great aesthetics (always including a tree on stage)
- A constant use of fitting folk music
- Tremendous amounts of energy
It seemed to me to be more than just a coincidence. Anyhow, there’s no real mystery I solved. Just an interesting observation I made. This particular production had a particularly fine actress playing the medicine woman. She was a bundle of energy, had an infectious laugh, great stage presence, and I later realized, was the director of the play. Her name, to the best of my memory, is Bidyawati Phukan. She is an NSD pass out and went on to share the award for Best Director. In other META news, actress extraordinaire Shernaz Patel won Best Actress for Blackbird, the play we went with.
Another play that was nominated there was White Lily ani Night Rider, a Marathi play written by and starring Rasika Joshi (seen often in Priyadarsan movies) and Milind Pathak. I missed it in Delhi but managed to catch it here at Dinanath Mangeshkar Natyagriha recently, in a packed house at 4pm on a weekday! It is an immensely enjoyable and brilliantly performed piece and I recommend it very strongly to anyone who is reading this. The language used is very easy to follow, for those who find that a deterrent. Please keep an ear to the ground for more shows. Rasika Joshi is delightful to watch on stage and creates a wonderful character. She mentioned that they are currently penning the Hindi version of the same so as to reach out to more audiences.
This month I was involved with two new productions. I acted in the first – a Hindustani comedy called Ishq Naam Ke Guzre The Ek Buzurgh, directed by Imran Rasheed, a talented actor and friend, who plays the title character. Designed as a commercial production, it premiered in big auditoriums with opulent sets, costumes and song and dance. It was my first experience of it’s kind, and I enjoyed it, especially having to wear a beard and pathanis on stage. The second – Classic Milds – was a collection of short plays that were, generally speaking, classics, that is, written between 1885 and 1985. Featuring pieces by Chekhov, Pinter, Tom Stoppard and Neil Simon, I directed a piece by Noel Coward. The production opened to packed houses at Prithvi and received mixed feedback, as is somewhat expected for this format. Audiences tend to leave with a couple of favourites, and these choices vary greatly. As such a consensus is seldom possible, but it makes for great discussion.
One of the highlights of my Ishq experience was the chance to share the stage with legendary actor Sanjay Dadhich. While we only had one shoulder-shaking dance together, I did notice that he was a little iffy with his lines. When I spoke to him about spending some more time with the script, he quickly replied – “Who cares about the script? Whatever I say on stage becomes the lines”. I couldn’t help thinking there was a valuable tip in there, somewhere.