“Wake up Call” by Chilsag Chillies uses theatre to initiate dialogue and discussion. Nandini Nair

The power of the play is that it prompts people into thought

While the play hopes to launch a movement, it did succeed in creating a stir. Chilsag Chillies, formed in 2003, by Sachin Gupta, once again brings to Delhi a fresh script and youthful energy. “Wake up Call” successfully dissolves space and role boundaries. The well and the stage are used equally well. The audience is also made part of the action. Its script determines that the play is not merely a play but a forum for discussion and an initiative for action.

Something different

The audience realises they are in for something different from their entrance itself. The austere well of New Delhi’s Sri Ram Centre is converted into the melee of Janpath. Hawkers advertise their wares and beggars demand money with equal aggression. Policemen swagger with a strut and a stick. In its opening minutes the play sets up different vignettes of people on a Delhi morning. Laced with humour and enacted effortlessly tender relationships and special moments between people are created.

But the contentment is swiftly destroyed with a bomb blast. The curtain rises to reveal a scene of carnage and suffering. The red lighting immerses the scene with horror. But the choice of music is unfortunate. Chants set to a heavy beat do not create a sense of destruction or sorrow. In a media saturated world, creating a bomb scene on stage is difficult. Initially, the scene seems only a sub-standard set. But when the music and effects give way to the acting, the audience is convinced. The actors’ authenticity is proved by the audiences’ reaction – hankies are taken out and eyes are dabbed.

Society’s reaction

Using this situation, the play raises questions on society’s reaction. Society’s callousness comes through a journalist’s question to a grieving mother, “Aapko kaise lagta hai?” A young girl who loses her friend wonders, “What was her fault?” and feels that suicide might be the only solution to ease the pain. Interestingly, the script ends here.

The plot is brief and essentially only a spur for the unscripted next act. Two mediators on the stage then encourage a “break between the audience and actors”. Initial reservations slowly melt.

The members of the audience voice their thoughts on the malaise in society and possible solutions. The power of the play is that it prompts people into thought.

Here, theatre became drama. While theatre is oriented towards ‘performance’, drama is self exploration and a spontaneous act of creativity. Individuals come to share their experiences on how society can be improved. Industrialists to teachers to students come on stage to inspire and instruct.

However, this play is best suited for vast and spontaneous venues. Chilsag Chillies intends to take it to schools and streets. Structured at just over an hour, the play packs in both action and “audience in action”.

It received a standing ovation from the small yet enthusiastic audience. It moved people emotionally and it is to be seen if it will succeed in moving people to action.