digital Theatre

Street play ‘Sheher-e-Naqab’ brings awareness about Coronavirus

A scene from the play

A scene from the play

A scene shows a man with a mask reading news related to Coronavirus news in a newspaper... His son walks in excitedly to show the college letter informing him of scholarship from Barcelona University to study MS. The father is not happy though, because of the corona pandemic across the world. When the son says this is a lifetime opportunity, the father quips, “We only live once.”

In Pune-based Swatantra Theatre’s new play Sheher-e-Naqab (City Under Mask), COVID-19 is a character with a voice. It comes silently, begins destruction and says, “I have had many friends like swine flu, Ebola, Nipah and Dengue. I have captured cities, countries and now the world. You cannot take me lightly. There can be consequences if precautions are not taken seriously.”

Directed by Abhijeet Choudhary, the play unravels the connect between Nature and mankind. “Mankind has destroyed Nature from many centuries. It is about what we have been doing to the planet. If we had heard Nature’s signs, we would have been able to curb the disease before it caused thousands of deaths worldwide. We paid a big price for this ignorance,” says Abhijeet. The 17-minute play was originally planned as a street play but once travel restrictions were imposed, the group launched it digitally, bringing in elements of street and stage theatre.

Actors during rehearsals

Actors during rehearsals

The play blends both mediums by using a black backdrop in most scenes while keeping the street feeling intact with minimum musical instruments. “My team — Dhanashree Heblikar (creative director), producer Yuwaraj Shah — and a team of actors have created a different style of approach to perform. The voice was toned down to create a street form on the stage easily. The actors clapping and snapping fingers became the set, voice and music sung live with help of minimal instruments. Colourful dupattas have been used to create images. We had to create time and space through content and delivery.”


With eight actors wearing masks, the aim of Sheher ... is to bring multi-fold awareness. The play deals with the virus, past pandemic situations, people’s casual attitude, rumours and how even virtual marriages can be done so that huge gatherings can be avoided. The play also talks about the blackmarketing of fake sanitisers and selling masks at an unreasonable price. “Many rumours are being spread on WhatsApp. We want to bring awareness on how fake sanitisers have become a business and if sanitisers are not available, cleaning hands with a good soap and water is also enough.”

Co-founded by Dhanashree Heblikar, Yuwaraj Shah and Abhijeet, Swatantra Theatre was launched in 2006 and now has 55 members. In its 14-year journey, the group working mostly in Hindi has done a lot of thought-provoking and experimental theatre. “We work mostly on social issues. Some of the themes were on swine flu, trafficking, water conservation and saving the tiger.”


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Printable version | Jun 29, 2022 12:12:26 pm |