“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 a 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.