Archive for January, 2013

January 23, 2013

15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 14: 18th Jan 2013

The Colonial, the Convict & the Cockatoo

Script & Direction: Arjun Raina

A very intensely researched production always holds its own when it comes to what it wants to say, and where it is headed. This play was as much a crash course on Aboriginal histories with regards to colonialism as it was an art piece mocking the ‘blind’ bourgeois India. The three characters charted their own odyssey through power, agony and ‘who gives a fuck’ respectively. So much so that in the end it was hard to believe that a law such as the Native Title Act was in place!

The use of film (interacting with actor on stage), music and songs was interesting.

Arjun Raina did a brilliant and unique thing by breaking the fourth wall and explaining the audience what he was really going on about. This not only informed the uninitiated but also made sure that the ultimate goal of the performance, to add to the discourse of native inhabitant’s life, had a better chance of realization.


Dafa 292

Based on: Life and works of Saadat Hasan Manto

Adaptation & Direction: Anoop Trivedi (NSD Repertory Company, Delhi)

We all know Manto by now. At least we all should given the explosion of Manto-based performances throughout the whole of last year. This play was a dramatized representation of many of his short stories, letters and snippets of his documented life. The inherent problem with doing a biopic kind of a play is that audience has expectations. They cannot be surprised or awed easily. And Dafa 292 failed to inspire at all. Some of the stories chosen were not popular (which might have been a good thing if they were better stories). Some nuances got lost in the over complicated light schemes. And the overzealous ending with a ‘candle march’ to pay a tribute to Manto would have made the man laugh.

The idea of showing Manto on stage (or film) is a very inviting one but it has to be remembered that such satire is not suited to live action for the simple reason that the inherent irony is in the words that he weaved and not in the actions of his characters. So, it is better to read out his prose rather than enact it on stage, verbatim. No point in being redundant. Or better still, create a better way to show the empathy, the irreverence and the politics of the world’s greatest short story writer.


DAY 15: 19th Jan 2013

Anecdotes and Allegories by Gulbadan Begum

Script: Choiti Ghosh

Director: Anurupa Roy (Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust, Delhi)

Forgotten histories are so interesting that they compel one to ask questions and derive alternate scenarios, changing history as it were. This performance piece tried to accomplish this by adapting the forgotten writings of Gulbadan Begum, daughter of Babar, half-sister of Humayun and aunt of the greatest Mughal king Akbar. The voice of Gulbadan Begum was an overpowering narrative of her text that simply failed to capture the oddities and sounded more or less like a history lesson which we are all familiar with. But what was lacking in text was more than made up for in the visuals and sounds. This group is an object theatre practitioner and it was made evident as they used different techniques to show Babar, Humayun and Akbar. Babar was represented with toilet paper puppets through a web cam that was floated around and inside miniature sets (ala Hitchcock!). The reason was obvious as there is a lack of visual reference available for that period. Next came the opium intoxicated Humayun who was represented through shadows (cast by the now extinct OHPs) of psychedelic lights and images. And lastly the well documented Akbar-era was captured through a technique called paper theatre where cut-outs of images were projected on screen.

All in all, a formative exercise but one well worth watching.

January 22, 2013

Top 50 songs- Part 4

2012- Top 50 Hindi songs
(Part 4/5)

This has been a challenge to pick a few good songs (believe me it is a damn tough thing to do) and create a list of the best songs in a year. Following is the Part 4 of the best songs that managed to stick in the head over the year. This is purely a personal choice and no science or mathematics has gone into the selection.

20. Pani da rang (Vicky Donor)
Music: Ayushman Khuranna, Rochak Kohli Lyrics: Ayushman Khuranna & Rochak Kohli Singers: Ayushman Khurana

Ayushman is multi-talented and has a presence on screen. With the music and the voice, he has shown that he has a presence behind the scenes too.

19. Dil ye bekraar (Players)
Lyrics: Ashish Pandit Music: Pritam Singers: Mohit Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal

Horribly shot in a horrible film with horrible actors. Thankfully songs are never about these things. Pritam and Mohit rule the song.

18. Sun lo zara (Ekk Deewana tha)

Lyrics: Javed Akhtar Music: A.R.Rahman Singers: Rashid Ali, Timmy, Shreya Ghoshal

There are a few songs which you tend to like and never know the reason why you like them (No, its has never happened with any of Reshamiya’s songs). This is one such song. Just strikes a chord.

17. Madari (MTV Coke Studio)
Lyrics: Manoj Yadav Music: Clinton Cerejo Singers: Vishal Dadlani, Sonu Kakkar

Clinton, where had you been? The song is a dedication to his/her creator. A great blend of music and lyrics that is full of energy. Vishal and Sonu’s most honest performance to date.

16. Jiya lage na (Talaash)
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar Music: Ram Sampath Singers: Sona Mohapatra, Ravindra Upadhyay

Partly sung in raag Desh, the sould of the song lies in the maturity of the voice of the singers.

15. Jiya tu (Gangs of Wasseypur-1)

Lyrics: Varun Grover Music: Sneha Khanwalkar Singers: Manoj Tiwari

This song is the gist of Gangs of Wasseypur. More Dabangg than anything even in Dabangg. What energy. Check out the recording of this song here and you will feel the energy and the craze behind this song. Manoj goes on for 20 mins of madness.

14. Kyun (Barfi!)

Lyrics: Swanand Kirkire Music: Pritam Singers: Papon, Sunidhi Chauhan

Never been a great fan of Pritam but he got under the skin of Barfi to create his best efforts till date that is worth its weight in gold. Papon is a national treasure. Handle him with care.

13. Shedding Skin (MTV Coke Studio)
Lyrics: Karsh Kale, Shruti Pathak Music: Karsh Kale Singers:  Karsh Kale, Shilpa Rao, Shruti Pathak, Monali Thakur & Apeksha Dandekar

4 lovely voices and a master, Karsh extracts the best of these female singers. The song about transformation is transormed and taken to another level by the keyboards at 1:25 seconds. Hear it to believe it.

12. Nirmohiya (MTV Coke Studio)
Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharaya Music: Amit Trivedi Singers: Devender Singh, Harshdeep Kaur

The song about young love, the love of anyone. The young 17 year old Devender is the one to be watched out in the near future. What maturity in voice.

11. Kho jaane de (Vicky Donor)

Lyrics: Juhi Chaturvedi Music: Abhishek-Akshay Singers: Clinton Cerejo, Aditi Singh Sharma

First love or the feeling of falling in love all over again- for such a moment, this is the song that you would love to hear in the background.

January 18, 2013

15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 12: 16th Jan 2013


Inspired by Blindness

Based on: Blindness by Jose Saramago

Adaptation & Direction: Sathya Bhama (Individual production)

The novel has an apocalyptic plot where an epidemic of blindness has spread throughout and is a perfect metaphor for the degradation of society while seemingly evolving. This production was a solo performance piece that incorporated movements, some vague dialogues and a harsh sense of devilish anarchy. The play tries to explore ‘blindness’ in all its forms but if it succeeds in doing so is a seriously personal matter of cognizance.


DAY 13: 17th Jan 2013

A sad day for Indian arts today; Pakistani productions were called off due to the on-going stir with regards to the LoC. NSD must feel that it is responsible for the safety of its audience as well as the performers – fair enough. But what about the Indian state? Is this the right political face to put forth? Isn’t India really foolish in bending over backwards, to hatred, of all things? If you aspire to shine and be a superpower akin to the United States then at least show the hate-mongers the middle finger, build a serious propaganda and allow sharp talk to be staged, sung, written, drawn or filmed (ZD30 is an example; promoting anti-Islamic thought while ostensibly ridiculing the state).

We went and wrote LoC (repeatedly, in bold) on one of the omnipresent print-outs that stated that the plays were cancelled due to ‘unavoidable circumstances’ and within an hour, it was removed. And a guard stood to guard the notices. Hilarious! Sad!


The Knocking Within

Script: based on excerpts from Shakespeare’s works

Directors: Wendy Jehlen & Pradhuman Nayak (ANIKAI Dance, USA)

A dance piece more than anything, this performance was an experiment. For me, the play turned up against itself because at the very beginning, during the introduction it was revealed that it is based on excerpts from Shakespearean text. But at the same time the performance was meant to be seen in a context-less setting. Sure there was no Othello to blame his woman, or the ominous presence of a Lady Macbeth but it is Shakespeare after all and many know the context by heart. The dance was monotonous and charms of body movements dissipated after a few minutes. And the disjointed nature of this seemingly fluid act was another put-off. Too many lights out in a short piece designed to challenge the audience are jarring to the senses.

January 16, 2013

15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 11: 15th Jan 2013

Subtitles are a must for non-English productions. Even Hindi plays must come with subtitles to aid people who do not know the language. There are many foreign participants at the festival to merit this. And if at all subtitles are not present for whatever reason, it should be clearly mentioned in the schedule pamphlet so that people avoid wasting money on tickets. Come on NSD, these are the basics of festival curation!

Yaar Banaa Buddy Bang on… Dhamaal Tigdi

Script & Direction: Nadira Zaheer Babbar (Ekjute Theatre Group, Mumbai)

What was this play about? Was it about relationships and friendship? Was it a personal tale of three friends who try hard to recreate their old days of fun and freedom? Was it a tale of skewed perspectives when it comes to relations and understanding fellow humans? Or was it a desire to shun unnaturalness and be ‘yourself’ (read Indian)? I am utterly confused.

Such writing is akin to ill-informed or mis-analysed notions of human behaviour. The idea that the so-called Indian-ness is lost when one becomes an art appreciator is ridiculous. And the ability to break into whole-hearted laughter is the sign of being ‘Indian’ is even more misplaced. This is the kind of moral bias that we must shun in order to accept humanity as one. We are all individuals and there is no black and white. Passing judgement on human emotions is the worst variety of violence.

Yashpal Sharma has immaculate timing on stage.

January 15, 2013

15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 10: 14th Jan 2013

The Pakistanis are coming! And they have Manto on their mind. The last leg of Bharangam is looking bright with anticipation and plays like Mantorama, Dafa 292 and Kaun Hai Ye Gustakh will be staged. Hopefully we can learn a few new details about the greatest short story writer ever, and his politics.

Drops of Poetic Vibrations

Based on: poems of Tamizhachi Thanga Pandian

Adaptation & Direction: Prof. S. Ramanujam (Arangasree, Thanjavur)

Poems are difficult. They are too devoid of images. This production was, in my opinion, an exercise to capture the process of poetry and give it meaning through images and visuals. Each poem (8 in all) had a germ that needed play acting – humour, violence, love, sex, cries and idleness. Some segments showed skill and novelty like the one where shadow puppetry was involved, or the dance of the elephant. But on the other hand there were a few segments which were treated rather stereotypically, failing the poems they were referring to.

Miss Julie

Script: August Strindberg

Director: Sohaila Kapur (Katyayani, Delhi)

What a waste of a play! The subject deals with class, gender and the power thereof. A flirtatiously maddening Miss Julie walks up to her manservant and orders him to kiss his shoes. He does. They flirt and reach a climax with the carnal act being committed conveniently off-stage (why? Isn’t the whole point to highlight the shift of power through this one act of ‘negligence’). And then Miss Julie asks the manservant to give her the right ‘orders’. Even class takes a quick nap in the face of gender dominance.

Performances were bad. The shrieks of the protagonist were more suited to the throats of Macbeth’s witches. And needless to say, the play was almost director-less.

The play note reads that ‘Miss Julie throws up issues of class and gender that are debated even today – a century after Strindberg’s death – giving it a contemporary ring.’ Well Miss Kapur, the issues of class and gender will be under debate till the sun explodes but that does not mean that the play strikes a contemporary chord. It has to be manipulated, strangled and given a thorough work-over to make sure that the audience understands what these ‘issues’ are.

January 14, 2013

15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 9: 13th Jan 2013

A very promising day was on offer with Badal Sircar and Shakespeare at the helm. And to top that, the extra tickets we had because of a certain someone who chooses only the best-play-days to remain absent, were sold even before we reached the auditorium. People love watching Hindi plays here at NSD, and you really cannot blame them because the non-Hindi ones have such shoddy subtitles.

Teesveen Shatabdi

Script: Badal Sircar

Director: Avneesh Mishra (Rangshila Cultural & Development Society, Mumbai)

This play is more or less an interesting history lesson about the atomic bombings in Japan. The plot pans out as an investigative ‘court room’ drama where the dead American army men, their family members, Japanese doctors of the time, and even Einstein are called from their graves to explain, interpret and retrospect their actions. The 20th century tries to tell the 30th century that they were not devilish, at least not completely so, and were acting out of duty/beliefs of the time.

Use of multimedia was impactful but sound needed an equal fervour. The stageplay was repetitive and the actors did not really do justice to the intensely written roles. Even veterans like Tom Alter looked jaded, but then maybe it’s just the age.

Call it a personal opinion but no Sircar play should be typically proscenium (even his earlier work, like this, which was intended for the proscenium stage). He was not a poet. His plays are the most suited to interpretation and must be ‘played’ around with.

Piya Behroopiya

Based on: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (text)

Adaptation: Amitosh Nagpal

Director: Atul Kumar (The Company Theatre, Mumbai)

Shakespeare has become redundant. Theatre can very easily live without him, and better for it. There are millions of theses on him and his work, there are films and plays in every language and form imaginable (even Godard has made a King Lear), there are courses and theatre schools designed around him and like celebrities of today he has even been accused of plagiarism.

The man is as popular today as he was in the 17th century.

No. He isn’t.

The biggest achievement of Shakespeare’s was that his productions were so popular with the masses. The people loved his creations. With all the genius of word-play and political allusions, he still made a connect with his audience. Piya Behroopiya did exactly that. It created an atmosphere of triumph inside the vast Kamani auditorium and the people were hooting, whistling, clapping and even singing with the actors. And the meaning of the play was not lost on anyone. The absurdity of the twins, the buffoonery of the ‘fool’ and the tug-of-war between ignorance and sophistication were all present. It was a spectacle that at times derided Shakespeare and at other times borrowed from some of his other works (the ‘what’s in a name’ routine followed by Olivia’s loving laments of Cejario was particularly clever and hilarious). It was casual and free-spirited, agreed, but then this was Twelfth Night not Macbeth.

This is at least a 10-15 stagings old production but the actors, each one of them, were refreshingly spontaneous. Music was exceptionally detailed, and live. The singing was according to the requirement, at times funny and in jest but at other times steady and fine.

Adapting a Shakespeare into another language is always difficult because of the simple fact that the original prose and poetry is far too good. Amitosh Nagpal was helped a great deal by the inane nature of the original text but that does not take anything away from his marvellous effort (Looking forward to his future adaptations/creations).

Badal Sircar proposed the concept of ‘third theatre’ wherein the action is more realistic and the audiences are more involved. Atul Kumar managed to present a play that struck really close to this thought of Sircar’s. If such a form of popular, acceptable and Bharatiya/Indian theatre can be taken beyond the slapstick, into the realm of the contemporarily political, it might just herald a movement. And with such an excellent team, The Company Theatre can surely work in this direction, but only if they are not restless, like the rest of the world, for rapid evolution.

January 13, 2013

2012- Top 50 Hindi songs
(Part 3/5)

This has been a challenge to pick a few good songs (believe me it is a damn tough thing to do) and create a list of the best songs in a year. Following is the Part 3 of the best songs that managed to stick in the head over the year. This is purely a personal choice and no science or mathematics has gone into the selection.

30. Badri Badariya (MTV Coke Studio)
Music: Amit Trivedi Lyrics: Kausar Munir Singers: Mame Khan, Mili Nair

A song about romance during the rains, it has a Rajasthani folk feel to it while Mili provides the western touch to the song.

29. Maula (Jism 2)

Lyrics: Arko Pravo Mukherjee & Munish Makhija Music: Arko Pravo Mukherjee Singers: Ali Azmat

Brilliant use of Cello and Azmat’s voice, the song catches hold of the sound of pain. A year that saw new talent come to its own, Arko could be another name to reckon with.

28. Mar Jaiyaan (Vicky Donor)
Lyrics: Swanand Kirkire Music: Abhishek-Akshay Singers: Vishal Dadlani, Sunidhi Chauhan

A staple from Vishal-Shekhar, the winner from the song are the vocals from Vishal and Sunidhi who have sung the romantic song with great passion.

27. Ishaqzaade (Ishaqzaade)

Lyrics: Kausar Munir Music: Amit Trivedi Singers: Javed Ali, Shreya Ghoshal

Kausar Munir’s words are superbly put to the tunes by the vocals of Javed Ali, who changes the flow of the song from rustic to romantic undertones and back with effortless ease.

26. Main kya karoon (Barfi)

Lyrics: Swanand Kirkire Music: Pritam Singers: Nikhil P. George

The essence of the time when one about falls in love and the ode to garner attraction from the special one, that is what the crux of this song is. Superbly put by Swanand.

25. Chhalla (Jab tak hai jaan)

Lyrics: Gulzar Music: A.R.Rahman Singers: Rabbi Shergill

With Rahman, Gulzar and Yash Chopra coming together, one would have expected this album to be the best of the season. However, on all the three fronts this was the biggest letdown. This is the only song which is saved by Rabbi. However, listen to his version of Chhalla from his album ‘Aavengi ja nahi’ which is way better. Find the link to the song here:

24. Lagan Lagi re (Trishna)

Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya Music: Amit Trivedi Singers: Kavitha Seth, Shreya Ghoshal

The combo of Amit Trivedi and Amitabh Bhattacharaya has given us some of the most memorable musical moments in recent times. Add this one to the list for Michale Winterbottom’s film. Nothing to take away from Kavita Seth and shreya who have sung this effortlessly.

23. Saathi Salaam (MTV Coke Studio)

Lyrics: Manoj Yadav Music: Clinton Cerejo Singers: Sawan Kahan Manganiyar, Clinton Cerejo

Rarely do you come across a song that is over 10 minutes long and keeps you engrossed for the entire duration and even beyond it. Clinton Cerejo has been a revelation with his music sense and Sawan Khan is a rare gem.

22. Kala re (Gangs of Wasseypur 2)

Lyrics: Varun Grover Music: Sneha Khanwalkar Singers: Sneha Khanwalkar

The color of this song is Black, albeit with the many shades of black. A song that is black inside out. This is something that can’t be explained. Hard to put in words, put your ears to work and listen to this over and over again.

21. O Womaniya (Gangs of Wasseypur 2)

Lyrics: Varun Grover Music: Sneha Khanwalkar Singers: Khushboo Raj, Rekha Jha

From where does Sneha Khanwalkar find such singers and what propels her to create such songs is beyond me, albeit in a good sense. This one is for you O Womaniy!

January 13, 2013

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies


A very informative lecture by David Bordwell on early cinema and how it shaped the movies we see/make today.

For more interesting stuff by DB, visit

January 13, 2013

15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 7: 11th Jan 2013

9 Days Newspaper

Concept & Direction: Joy Maisnam (Treasure Art Association, Imphal)

A very well-conceived script from the actual news items published in 9 consecutive days in a newspaper. This play was a mix of strong content and improvised stageplay. The performances were not up to the mark but all is forgiven when the text and the environment can move the audience to tears. The repetition of the civil society and the political class regarding the absurd AFSPA, Sharmila’s eternal hunger strike and omnipresent guns is an argument that needs to change now. There has been enough talk, but the time has come for some action. Almost anarchist in its meaning, this production urged the audience to wake up and acknowledge humanity.

A special mention is essential of the woman who wailed her child’s death for 5 minutes straight. It was heart clutching and painful beyond measure.

This is Joy Maisnam’s first play as a director and we hope that he has more things to say in the future.

Dhawala Bheeshana

Based on: Jean Paul Sartre’s Men without Shadows

Director: Dharmasiri Bandarnayake (TrikonE Cultural Foundation, Srilanka)

It was sad that there were no subtitles because the play was sounding very interesting and deep in meaning. The existential philosophy of Sartre was well captured in the plot where every character questioned his or her own reason for doing what they were doing, and acting in a certain way. Though the performances were typically theatrical, and the set grandiose; it in no way means that the production was any less because of it.

Having being introduced to Sartre’s play, this might be a masterpiece if adapted to an Indian political context.

DAY 8: 12th Jan 2013

The food hub is a very good place to discuss future projects, especially in the morning. It is quiet. No one bothers anyone. And there is no compulsion to buy food. So us perennially broke masses of the world have a comfortable place to sit and chat about the next film, play or anything else that is productive.

Prem Ki Bhoot Katha

Based on: novel by Vibhuti Narain Rai

Script & Direction: Dinesh Khanna (Pehchan, Delhi)

Assistant Director: Kritika Pande

An eerie, foggy atmosphere welcomed us as we entered the auditorium, seconds before the play commenced. The environment was set to scare, intrigue and charm us with the tale of ghosts, their love and a whodunit thrown in for good measure. But the plot failed to capture attention.

It is a dangerous move to adapt a Hindi novel into a play script and keep the language as is. The problem is that the chaste dialogues create a sense of humour which is unwarranted (this is sad, but true). Even the performers deliver lines in a way that is stereotypical of such language, which adds further woes. Prem ki Bhoot Katha needed to be thought of from the perspective of the audience for it to be truly successful. To take the viewers beyond the obvious, and into the underworld of ghosts and shadows, it was essential that they connect with the characters and the plot. A few must have, but many didn’t, as was evident by the laughter and chuckles at inappropriate times during the play.

The set design, light design and character movements reminded one of German expressionism with everything heightened and unnaturally ‘perpectived’. The angular rooftops, lights illuminating romance, sex, grief and imprisonment, and the movement of actors on stage all are examples of this line of thought. But in all this effort, one might argue that the set designer went overboard as the stage looked cramped (or the design might have been imagined keeping in mind a bigger stage).

January 11, 2013

15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 6: 10th Jan 2013


Watching back to back performances, few good, many poor, is an arduous task. The brain freezes with overwhelmed sensations. I hate getting up in the middle of a play/film, no matter how bad it is. But in a festival like this, you just cannot help the urge.


Based on: Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses

Director: Kusum Haider (Yatrik, Delhi)

It is decent of Yatrik group to mention in their play hand-out that this production has been primarily directed by Mary Zimmerman herself. Not to say that she flew to Delhi to direct the bunch of convent accented English speaking actors, but that this play is similar to other productions that have been staged before in other parts of the world.

Obscene, using a word overheard after the play, is the best description. The fact that the myths of Ovid are relevant in today’s popular context is the only thing that a production of this play must explore. There is no point enacting scenes for the text. This is no Shakespeare or Tendulkar that such offense might be pardoned. Why does the NSD pantheon select such plays?

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