A look at some of the winners of the Yuva Puraskar for theatre, music and dance.

The theatrical works of the practitioners who received the Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar — featured at the award festival in New Delhi this past week — broadly depict a new vision and new approach to create a distinct creative path for themselves. Most of the productions reveal social concerns and a passion to reflect them through the theatrical idiom. The works exude the flavour of the region to which the directors belong.

The concluding piece of the festival was “Kino Kaon” (What to say), a multi-lingual play which was written and directed by Pabitra Rabha — recipient of the Puraskar for Direction — and presented by Dapon —The Mirror of Tangla Assam. Dapon is said to be the world’s only dwarfs’ theatre group. This is basically a socio-cultural organisation and Khi-Khilkai is one of its branches, whose function is theatre in education aiming at the socio-cultural development of children.

“Kino Kaon” is not a well-made play in the normal sense of the word. It projects a number of slices of life of dwarfs, who constantly face indignities at the hands of an insensitive society. The director creates a variety of choreographic patterns formed by his mainly dwarf cast. There is an element of spontaneity and enough room for improvisation. Humour, satire, irony and pain of social alienation grip our attention. The dilemma of the dwarfs to lead a meaningful life and be a part of the mainstream society is resolved in a suggestive way in the denouement by composing a visually attractive stage composition.

The drama section of the festival opened with “Hibakusha” (Phir Aao Na), presented by Banjara Theatre Group, Mumbai, under the direction of Rashi Bunny Bhatnagar (also awarded under the category Direction). It has been translated into Hindi by Sanchaiyata Bhattacharjee from Ernest Ferlita based on the original “Mask of Hiroshima”. The play highlights the power of human love in the midst of hopelessness and destructive forces. It captures the mood of the aftermath of the holocaust caused by the nuclear bombing of Japan by America in the Second World War.

Rashi has imaginatively designed her production with an impressive chorus playing a vital role to reiterate the predicament of humanity and its deep rooted sense of fear to resist power hungry politicians who indulge in war mongering. Humanity must unite against these destructive forces. Another highlight of the production is to give collective expression to the tragedy of a family through stage compositions. These compositions are presented in different spaces of the stage which acquire intensity with the device of music and subtle lighting effects. The images are also used to enact flashback scenes. Her stress is on physical movements that lend vitality to the production.

The core of the play is a father of a family, his pregnant daughter and her husband. She is in an advanced stage of pregnancy. They are all holocaust survivors suffering the side effects of the bombing. Their life span is short. The pregnant daughter is in advanced labour pain. Her death is imminent as soon as she delivers the child. She has a chance of survival in case the baby is aborted. The husband of the woman and her father debate about the choice they should communicate to the doctor. They both love her intensely. The success of the production lies in its power to assert the supremacy of love in the midst of the destructive forces of war and the debris it has left behind.

Rayanti Rabha, awarded in the category Acting, featured in the leading role of Sati in H.S. Shivaprakash’s play of the same name presented by Kalakshetra Manipur and Machalengka, Goalpara, Assam, under the direction of H. Tomba. The production is remarkable for its poetic intensity and inner motivations of the characters. There are few dialogues. The entire concentration is on bringing to the fore the inner anguished life of the characters. In fact, the performers’ body becomes the vehicle of total expressive means. Music, light effects and décor are all kept to the minimum. It is indeed the theatre of the actor.

Though S. Murugaboopathy received the Puraskar for his notable talent in playwriting in Tamil, he is a multi-faceted creative person which is reflected in the production of the play “Kugaimaravaacigal” (The Dwellers of Hunger Caves) featured at the festival, which he has written, directed and scored the music for. This is an experimental work echoing the suffering of hungry people displaced by war. They are refugees who belong to no country and their ultimate fate is to die of starvation. The absurdity of the situation is revealed through the compositions formed by men and women in weird clothes — some half naked, yelling, crawling, fighting and gradually getting feebler to meet a slow death. There are a lot of physical movements to the accompaniment of musical tunes to intensify the hunger and suffering of the dispossessed and alienated humanity. The play ends with a song that aspires to create a new world of equality and freedom.

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