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.

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