A snapshot of the three playwrights and their plays shortlisted (from a longlist of nine) for The Hindu Metro Plus Playwright Award 2013, which carries a prize of Rs. 1 lakh for the best unpublished and unperformed script. the winner will be announced before May 15.
Nobody Sleeps Alone
Mumbai is a breeding ground for all sorts of gangsters, big gangsters, small gangsters, girl and boy gangsters, and that’s the story the playwright narrates in Nobody Sleeps Alone. Of gangsters who laugh, do the mujra, and fall in love and when it’s time to do the dirty business, shoot people.
Deepika says it was Bollywood among other things that allowed this play to develop, “And because I’ve been brought up on a steady dose of Hindi cinema, growing up, they began to occupy a space we’ve encountered several times in films: that of the underworld. A plot unfurled as a result of this. Many conversations (some with myself) later, I decided to put them onto paper. I think their names had a huge bearing on who they would be.”
Arwind is a writer and has won awards and fellowships for creative writing and has had experience as a theatre writer. And as far as performance is concerned she has been involved with theatre since her days in school, more recently she was seen in Black Coffee Production’s The God Of Carnage and Rafiki’s The Memorandum.
Nobody Sleeps Alone gives you a lot of room to imagine, may be a basement in the south Bombay of Grant Road, a burly and matter of fact Godfrey Singh Joseph, and Sarayu may be a dark-skinned goddess with a penchant for the edge, Wazir, under confident, seeking approval and may own a gun. Supported by a plot that shakes it up, head to head, and rolling for a win.
Catherine Rhea Roy
The Mountain of Bones
“There was food in the fields, babu. There were fruits on the trees. Why didn’t they snatch it and eat? Because they really believed in their society, babu...”
Manjima Chatterjee’s The Mountain of Bones is a grim commentary on the attitude to food, the deprivation of which is not so much a result of depleted resources as is a combination of misguided policies and misplaced priorities.
The narrative simultaneously occurs in three spaces — a village in which an old woman is telling a young girl a strange fable; a flooded area where a man stranded atop a tree with a young boy awaits rescue; and another where the whole theatre of State machinery, bureaucracy, well-meaning Communists, yes-men and the large, faceless entity called the ‘The Hungry Crowd’ plays out. There are no speeches, and truths are cloaked in the exaggeratedly ridiculous.
“The State is made up of us; we are the State. This blindness towards something that is so vital to us is something that I find very frustrating, something difficult to deal with or understand. Perhaps that is what’s reflecting there,” says Manjima. There was another ironic angle that she sought to explore but finally chose not to include — the directly proportional relationship between wealth and disdain for food.
Manjima, who is based in Noida, where she teaches theatre, was previously shortlisted for the MetroPlus Playwright Award 2010 for Limbo, where she looked at marriage through the interactions of three couples. For The Mountain of Bones she says P. Sainath’s articles on famine and the farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh set the course. Research on the subject led her to Bengali writer Manik Bandhopadhyay’s short story Chhiniye Khaynee Keno? (Why didn’t they snatch and eat?) from which the concept of ‘The Hungry Crowd’ originated. The old woman’s story about the blind prince and the mountain of bones (from which the play draws its name) is the playwright’s interpretation of a tale from Thakurmar Jhuli (Grandmother’s Bag), the collection of Bengali folktales.
Under the Chestnut Tree
“Good Evening and welcome to news at 7. Today’s headlines. Theatre director, Joanna Nawang was executed in front of a firing squad at dawn.” Akash Mohimen’s Under the Chestnut Tree is not about gentle beginnings. Drama is evoked right away, the reader robbed of warm-up time and all along fed those little dramatic doses.
What began as an idea for a short film for this “prematurely balding and seemingly malnourished writer” who works as a film editor to pay his bills, finally found its full voice in the format of a play. Under the Chestnut Tree travels through art censorship, artistic rivalry and notions of morality, but does so with a touch of wit. Here colours are rebellion, so each artist’s canvas is play in black and white. And each in his/her own way works around this censorship on creativity. The subject is vastly different from what Akash has done earlier. The 28-year-old from Jamshedpur studied Political Science in Mumbai before settling for creative writing. The playwright has done children’s plays before taking a different step with Mahua — a love story that opened the Writer’s Bloc 3 Festival last year.
Under the Chestnut Tree, a satire that teases the idea of a physical context or a time frame, is a new attempt from Akash. “I was just creating a world taking inspiration from actual and historical events and seeing how people behave in a totalitarian State. I was also motivated to develop the idea of betrayal,” he says.
The Mountain Of Bones — Manjima Chatterjee
Nobody Sleeps Alone — Deepika Arwind
Under The Chestnut Tree — Akash Mohimen
Guru G (The Birth, Life, Death, And Legacy Of Frowny Baba) — Nandini Krishnan
The Return Of The Sultan — Basavaraj Biradar
Reading Kafka In Verona — Tushar Jain
The Unblinking Eye — Ajay Krishnan
The Lifting Of Imtiaz Khan — Vithal Rajan
Identity II — Ajit Saldanha