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.

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