Hello Farmaaish preview: Broadcast from outer space

Dur Se Brothers’ Hello Farmaaish marries realism and sci-fi, and is set against the backdrop of rural community radio stations

July 31, 2019 05:34 pm | Updated August 05, 2019 03:52 pm IST

Three misfits — a radio jockey and two teddy bear makers — in a neglected hamlet use their community radio to follow Kalpana Chawla’s voyage to space. It is a historic moment for them. As two women report the news with grit and passion, they find their radio show, Hello Farmaaish evolving into a village favourite. However, absurd questions and bizarre calls from the public follow.

Soon enough, they find themselves in uncharted territory, like outer space — and what ensues makes Hello Farmaaish a ride peppered with elements of fantasy, comedy and drama, without being devoid of poignant and poetic moments. The play, which will be performed in Chennai as part of The Hindu Theatre Fest 2019, is brought to stage by Dur Se Brothers and directed by Yuki Ellias, and has completed over 20 shows since 2018.

Edited excerpts from a conversation with Yuki:

The premise is unusual and hence, intriguing. Can you take me through the inception of the concept?

I wanted to make a play with women protagonists. One of the composers of my earlier play was talking about a newspaper article on these rural community radio stations in India, which are predominantly run by women. Simultaneously, after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival , I was on a bike ride across Scotland — and felt like I was in outer space. Then the idea struck me — why not tell a story about these women jockeys who are obsessed with space. I came back and started researching on these radio stations. The first radio station that I came across was in Haryana; Kalpana Chawla was also from Haryana — why not tie all of this up into a story?

Did you come across any interesting anecdotes during your research?

There were two radio stations — Radio Mewat and Alfaz-e-Mewat [in Mewat, Haryana]. We met lots of villagers who regularly listened to these shows. Some of them spoke about how voices are being heard about gender, health, and how that can cause a shift in the status quo within the villagers. Others were skeptical about the technology. We also spoke to two young girls who were radio jockeys. They said that people would call asking very funny questions like ‘ machar ke kitne dant hote hain? [how many teeth does a mosquito have]’ or ‘can cows fly?’. We have used a lot of this humour in the play as well.

How have you manifested the fantastical elements/ sci-fi aspects visually, on stage?

Lighting and music are a big part of what we do. Music, I would say, is a device for transportation — for both actors and the audience. We have also used a lot of stylised theatre. The stylisation is in the form, the rhythm of the play and moments of choreography. And there are instances in the play, established by the actors, that act as a code for the audience to quickly take a leap into outer space. It’s a combination of realism, physical theatre and absurdism.

You have also incorporated scientific facts within the script. How did you arrive at them?

A lot of these programmes in rural radio stations talk about science for children, general knowledge and so on. So we definitely wanted the protagonists to create broadcasts based on these. It also feeds into our curious nature — the story is a test of to what extent we can be curious: not just in villages, in any set up. Science is one of the media we have used, to explore imagination and encourage questions.

Hello Farmaaish will be staged on August 18 at 7.30 pm at Museum Theatre in Chennai. Tickets available on Paytm, www.insider.in and www.hindu.com/theatre-fest

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