Theatre

From the fringes

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Jaipur’s Jairangam brings its stage to Mumbai with plays that take on bigotry, family drama and queer issues

A new addition to the city’s cultural calendar brings with it echoes of an ethos of theatre patronage all the way from Jaipur. Jairangam (or as it is known, the Jaipur Theatre Festival), whose local edition took place in November this year, has launched a satellite festival, dubbed the Jairangam Fringes Theatre Festival, to be held for the first time in Mumbai over three days from Sunday, followed by a Kolkata edition in January.

The opening plays at the festival are Shiv Subrahmanyam’s The Way I See It, a contemplative one-actor piece performed by Divya Jagdale, and Makrand Deshpande’s Pitaji Please, yet another heart-warming family drama from the prolific theatre-maker. Swanand Kirkire and Zahan Kapoor (in what is his stage debut) play a father-son duo precariously perched at the edge of an ideological divide, so much so that the son’s Muslim love interest (Aakanksha Gade) must play-act a Hindu in order to win favour with the father. Underneath a frothy comedy of errors, is a tart meditation on bigotry and reconciliation, replete with Deshpande’s trademark wit and eccentric style.

Queer and here

Also in the line-up is one of the many queer-themed plays staged in Mumbai this year — Five Senses Theatre’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, directed by Hardik Shah and adapted by Prateek Srivastava from the play by Manuel Puig, itself an adaptation of the Argentine author’s acclaimed 1976 novel. Mukti Das and Shah play, respectively, a guarded revolutionary and a flamboyant ‘government agent’ who share a prison cell. As the latter expansively recounts the story of a fantasy film he had once watched, in which a shape-shifting woman in the guise of a serpent attacks men at night, the differences of ideologies and sensibilities between the two men are slowly bridged. Shah takes on a ‘gay martyr’ part for which William Hurt picked up an Oscar for the 1985 film version. As was the case then, the problematic optics of cis/hetero portrayal of queer characters plays itself out glaringly in Shah’s turn, balanced only by the empathy for the ‘other’ that he generates through Das’ character.

Although the festival has programmed only productions from Mumbai, at least one has a Rajasthani connection. For those who were regaled by Kasumal Sapno’s recent riotous outing at Prithvi Theatre, Niresh Kumar’s Baanswada Company presents yet another edition of Shakespeare in the desert, which is usually a marriage made in comic heaven. Improvised by a spirited ensemble, the play concerns itself with an amateur theatre troupe’s ill-starred attempts to stage the bard’s immortal tales, but ultimately provides a reflection of the world of theatrical smoke-and-mirrors and those journeymen (actors, directors, technicians et al) irrevocably betrothed to it.

Best of both worlds

One wouldn’t ordinarily classify an all-out commercial play as a fringe venture — but Atul Satya Koushik’s Ballygunge 1990, whose display of opulence might be more at home in a larger theatre, has made the Jairangam Fringes cut. It speaks of how the Mukkti Cultural Hub, cast in the mould of an intimate venue with a proscenium stage, might cater to both the experimental and the conventional, depending on the leanings it might cultivate with time. Koushik’s play is a suspense thriller top-lined by television actors Annup Sonii and Nishtha Paliwal Tomar, and set in the Kolkata of the 1990s, and follows the tempestuous arc of a star-crossed affair.

The second performance on the closing day is Sadiya Siddiqui’s Hum Gunahgar Aurtein. The title is from the compelling poem, ‘We Sinful Women’, by Kishwar Naheed, and the event itself is billed as a reading of women-centric Urdu plays.

The Jairangam Fringes Theatre Festival will take place from Saturday, December 14 to Monday, December 17 at Mukkti Cultural Hub, Andheri West at 4 p.m. onwards; see insider.in

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 4:39:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/from-the-fringes/article30288659.ece

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