Old is not gold always, when it comes to the stage, audience lap up anything that is new, writes Prabalika M. Borah
In the recent past the ‘culturally rich' crowd of Hyderabad found a reason to rejoice. From song and dance to theatre: a buzzing calendar of live events kept the weekends and at times the weekdays occupied. And not just the live shows, each time the organisers had something new and innovative to keep the crowds glued to their seats.
The humble setting of table, chair and cardboard separations with bed sheets gave way to venues with historical importance. Qutb Shahi Tombs, Taramati- Baradari and Chowmallah Palace have been explored to create the ‘real' feel in the plays. Sets now mean massive props which are sturdy enough to withstand the weight of actors fighting and jumping. And each time the venue and theme changes, the crowd simply gets bigger.
Mayakkam-Oxymore which was an artistic collaboration between Franch and Indian creative artistes, combined dance, painting and music further strengthened the belief of the audience on live shows.
Puritans might cry foul and attribute the attendance to free drinks and attractive venues. But organisers of theatre have a reply, “We beg to differ. My audience come for the subject. Audience is not dumb to accept a shoddy play in a VIP venue. The free-drink theory is a myth. When I staged Taramati at Taramati-Baradari the audience had to walk down for everything to a bottle of water to using the restroom. It was the grandeur that drew crowds. Same with Resham ki Dor. My cast too comprises legends and I am sure if they are not sure of my theatre they wouldn't be a part of it,” reasons Mohammed Ali Baig.
Mohammed Ali Baig in his ‘Celebrating 100 years of theatre' has brought in new aspects to the stage. From conversation with stars to talk by actors to budding actors on theatre as a profession, to the very recent Pankhudiyaan the swelling crowd motivates him to come up with something better and new. “Mohan Agashe was a part of my celebrating theatre event where he conversed with budding actors. The aim is to give something new to the city's theatre lovers,” Baig adds.
It is not just Baig who is making an attempt to give theatre lovers something new. Sutradhar has been instrumental in not just popularising theatre to the young but has also constantly made an attempt to promote regional theatre besides staging plays in Hindi and English. “Youngsters are now well-travelled and are accustomed to the world stage. Staging an hour-long monologue a few years wouldn't have been a great idea. But after I experimented with the show Main Rahi Masoom, in the city, I got a great response. Now I am taking the show all across the country,” says actor Vinay Verma.
To actors and directors the stage no more means a platform to spread social message. “Every script has a storyline and we leave it to the viewers' discretion to carry the relevant message home.”
However, it is not just theatre that has adopted a new technique to attract crowd. The city has also seen some new themes of live entertainment. A site-specific promenade performance at the Qutb Shahi tombs, co-produced by the Attakkalari Center for Movements Arts, Bangalore and the Goethe Institute in homage to the late German dance choreographer, Pina Bausch left the crowd awe-struck.
“This seems to be a positive aspect for those who complained about Hyderabad having to drag its feet when it came to good stage shows. Me and my dad makes it a point make the best of these events. I no more miss Delhi's theatre scene,” says businesswoman Monica Malhotra.