The eight-day national theatre festival showcased a cross-section of Indian theatre.
Is there a thing called Indian theatre or is it a mixture of theatre traditions from various cultures and languages? The eight-day national theatre festival organised by Rangachetana, Thrissur, in memory of the late theatre thespian G. Sankara Pillai posed this question in the minds of theatre buffs gathered for the event. The festival that was held at Regional Theatre was the grand finale of the one-year-long Silver Jubilee celebrations of Rangachetana.The festival was inaugurated by Rathan Thiyyam, a Manipuri theatre director. The inauguration was followed by a play of his, `Nine hills, one valley.' A poetic play, it had brilliant backdrops. The play looked into changing values and the deterioration of ethnic arts and culture and the rise of terrorism the world over. `Karnabharam,' a Malayalam play directed by Shibu S. Kottaram, was noteworthy. The play, which was held at the theatre of the School of Drama, made optimum use of space, including a pond.
`Jatra,' an Assamese play directed by Baharul Islam, narrated the story of Rabiya, whose husband falls for a younger woman, and divorces her while the Tamil play by R. Raju, `Nandan Kathai' which was performed on the fourth day, portrayed the lives of Dalits. `Rashmon,' a Kannada play directed by K.G. Krishnamoorthy, was based on Akira Kurosowa's film script on a murder that took place in Putto city that was destroyed during a civil war.Nilima Chakroborty from West Bengal told the story of how poverty and ill treatment by the zamindar drives Dukhiram to kill his wife during an argument. To save Dukhiram's life, his younger brother Chidam accuses his wife of killing Dukhiram's wife. This play is based on a short story by Tagore. The play ends with the court sentencing Chidam's wife to death. The Hindi play ` `Rang Darbari' by Vijayakumar was a political satire that was laced with humour. The festival's finale was a Malayalam play `Maya,' by the Thiruvanthapuram-based Sopanam group. The play, directed by Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, vice-chairman of Sangeet Nataka Akademi, has been adapted from the third act of Shakthibadran's Sanskrit play, `Ascharyachoodamani.' Some of the presentations, especially the Bengali and Hindi plays, had long dialogues and less of theatrics.
However, both portrayed two different faces of India; the Bengali play depicted the social set-up during the early twentieth century and the Hindi play held a mirror to the contemporary political situation that prevails in many places.What made the festival stand out were the seven national seminars on Indian theatre held simultaneously. The seminars explored the status and state of theatre in the seven languages represented in the festival.