Ahh Delhi, it was going to be a long cold month of December for me. I was invited to partner a friend for a choreography project there. Leaving Bombay in the best month of the year was going to be a tough choice to make. As a consolation I was looking at things-to-do in Delhi in December like a typical firangi tourist. And voila, what have we here, I stumbled upon the National School of Drama Theatre Festival christened as Bharat Rang Mahaotsav. A surge of excitement passed through me.
I didn’t know how big this was going to be till I actually got there. The best word to describe Delhi, especially since I hail from Bombay, is sprawling, and that’s exactly how the festival was. Spread over six auditoriums, a food hub and a lawn for stalls and other festive activities, I was in the middle of a crazy vibe. People scampering from one performance to the other, planning and scheduling shows, catching a glimpse of an open air performance while making their way to other acts; basically art-starved people trying to fit in as much as possible. People from all strata’s of life were among them: musicians, bollywood actors, theatre personalities, students, regular office-goers, toursits and even politicians.
The shows were all packed to the brim with ticket prices set very reasonably at Rs 30, 50 and 100. I checked out about 15 performances over 6 days, all exceptionally well performed. The festival started off with a powerhouse performance of a play called Charandas Chor. The play, directed by Anup Hazarika and written by Habib Tanvir, was in Asamese and sported a screen hanging on the ceiling with subtitles translating the dialogues into English. This was a bit of a distraction in the beginning but eventually I got mesmerised by the fact that the actors were flawlessly conveying every dialogue with only their acting talent. The power of acting effectively melted the barriers of language.
Another amazing thing about the festival was the sheer number of countries represented here. There were theatre groups from Chile, Albania, Korea, Germany, England, Japan and Egypt delivering their best to an audience equally bewitched by their talents. My most memorable performance was by the Chilean Theatre Group of a play called Santa Maria de Iquique : Revenge of the Ramon Ramon. I still get goosebumps when I think about it. This was a non-verbal Physical Theatre performance, with surreal props and make-up. The actors exploited the simple yet powerful emotion of revenge so well that you could feel every fine detail of this abstract feeling. Technically too, this play was very superior not just with the sets but also the surprising entries and exits of the performers.
Outside the atmosphere was always electric, with the food hub playing host to indie bands playing their tunes, activists generating awareness in Garbage disposal and a mural wall where people could leave their own little artistic impressions. Also there was the ‘Exhibit Celebrating The Actor’ which was a collection of cubicles on the sprawling green lawns of the NSD celebrating the life and work of its luminaries like Prithviraj Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah etc. There were some awesome AV’s in there for their die-hard fans.
All in all, it was like Disneyland for a theatre lover. Coupled with that the dilli ki sardi and all awesome things that come with the winter, be it food, chai, fancy winter-wear made this experience something I would treasure for the rest of my life. And more than anything else I have this feeling of immense patriotism to see more than 25 nationalities putting their best foot forward to impress the Indian audience. India is truly making its mark as much in arts as in industry.