Theatre

Words have power and meaning

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The third edition of Kommune’s Spoken Fest will celebrate diversity and democracy as a performative art

Mumbai-based Megha Rao didn’t have the best college experience. In fact it was pretty traumatic dealing with bullies. Her only solace was in the form of writing poetry. When Kommune, a collective of storytellers, poets and writers, introduced Rao to the catharsis of performative art, it was a match made in heaven. The stage has now become Rao’s ‘safe space’ and she’s one one of many who will be performing at the third edition of Kommune’s Spoken Fest, this weekend. Rao, who took part in Spoken last year as a painter, will present an eight-minute take on the objectification of women in post-feminist media culture. “It’s super aggressive and beautiful and I can’t wait to put it out there,” says 24-year-old.

For the last two years, Spoken Fest has been a stage for vibrant voices from different fields, enabling and empowering people to express themselves though music, rhymes, comedy and a passion for the arts. Last year’s edition saw more than 10,000 attendees engage in the exchange of ideas and words. This year’s line-up boasts of some impressive names such as comedian and script writer, Varun Grover; poet and storyteller, Gaurav Tripathi; author Annie Zaidi; musician Samar Mehdi; Canadian poet Shane Koyczan; activist and singer Aamir Aziz among many others. Roshan Abbas, Festival Director and one of the founders of Kommune, says that the third edition of the festival, wants to make a statement about the importance of hearing all kinds of voices. “There is a very deep understanding in our curation team to believe that we must value our democracy, freedom of opinion and we must be able to give a voice to everyone,” says Abbas, referring to the diverse line-up that ranges from traditional storytelling to modern voices.

Personal journeys

With each edition, Spoken Fest presents several debuts. A few highlights this time include Kahaani Ki Dukaan, a collection of stories from parts of Himachal Pradesh; and the integration of the podcasts into the line-up. Each session is a celebration of the spoken word. “We are also doing a poetry clothesline where all the artistes are hanging their favourite pieces of poetry and everyone is invited to do the same,” adds Abbas.

The journey of Kommune is perhaps best summed up by lyricist and screenwriter Kausar Munir, who has been with Kommune since its conception. She quotes Urdu poet Majrooh Sultanpuri: ‘Log saath aate gaye aur karwaan banta gaya’ (people kept joining and we kept growing). “It’s been a personal creative journey,” says Munir. “I write many things but most of it is commissioned or for films or corporate. Before attaching myself to Kommune or Spoken Fest, I had rarely explored my own voice. So, even for a professional writer like me, it’s helped me discover my own voice and expression.”

Meeting and interacting with other storytellers, poets and creative people has also opened her mind to myriad views and ideas. “The exchange of ideas makes you look at one thing in ten different ways,” she says. “The beauty of our country and arts is that it’s so varied and vast. That diversity, unfortunately, is being silenced today, but it should be celebrated. That’s why Spoken is truly a democratic and syncretic celebration.” she adds.

Abbas brings draws attention to how “Hum kaagaz nahi dikhayenge(we won’t show our documents) has become the voice of a generation. “The spoken word is the voice of this generation because it’s authentic, purposeful, flawed and wholesome,” says Abbas. “Words have power and meaning. Otherwise, there is so much noise around.”

Spoken Fest 3.0 at JioGarden, Bandra-Kurla Complex on January 11-12. Tickets priced at ₹ 1,199 onwards; insider.in

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 12:29:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/words-have-power-and-meaning/article30536914.ece

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