Of drama, experiment and diversity


Drama was redefined as interpretations and treatment took the multi-lingual short plays and theatre productions staged as a part of `Theatremania,' during the Prithvi Theatre Festival (November 3-11), beyond barriers. For example, the Complicite's `Measure for Measure,' was a treat for theatre lovers in Mumbai. (Prithvi managed to bring this British theatre company to India after seven years). Difficult to categorise, the play had dark humour, drama, dilemma, and a sharp incisive look at human behaviour. With several hi-tech aspects and modern adaptation in parts, the innovative direction of Simon McBurney did keep the audience riveted.

The first one was Manoj Shah's `Maestro-Master-Swami' in which the director presented different short pieces from the repertoire of Samuel Beckett. It was done entirely in Gujarati. However, the next one on the schedule attracted the most attention. Called `36 ghante' (36 hours), it was presented by Rage. `36 ghante' was loosely based on the British concept of the 24-hour play.

Shernaaz Patel, actor and founder member of Rage, said, "When Sanjana Kapoor called to discuss short pieces, this idea came to me. I had heard about it and thought it would be a funky thing to do. We had 12 playwrights, 12 directors and each one was given 4 actors. The play had to be written in [the] first 12 hours, directed and rehearsed in the next 24 hours. So the concept of 36 hours! It was a great experience."

While many explored interesting aspects of the man-woman relationship, others experimented with the concept of seven stages of man in varied ways.

One of them was Chetan Datar's `Ajuni Yeto Vaas Fulana' directed by Vijay Kenkre. Exploring the theatre artiste's fear of losing creativity or recognition, the short play had Satyadev Dubey as the central character.

Another interesting play was Ramu Ramnathan's `All The World's A Share-a cab,' directed by Rehan Engineer. A bumpy cab ride, three passengers and a driver depict sites of the city, at times funny, and the irritating quirks of human beings, aspirations, hopes and warmth of relationships.

As `36 ghante' explored different aspects of the city, relationships, life, human emotions, one did get a taste of diversity that is Mumbai.

Then there was an experiment devoted to just this. Called `Loving Bombay' and directed by Naushil Mehta, this English play was sprinkled generously with Gujarati, Marathi and Bombaiyya. Though it could boast of excellent performances, there were too many issues it wanted to address. As a result, some serious aspects failed to touch the audience.

Apart from the `Theatremania' experiments, one Sunday was reserved for radical playwright Vijay Tendulkar. The heartening aspect was his presence throughout the day.

That day saw the different manifestations of theatre ranging from Makrand Deshpande's `Sakharam ki khoj mein hawaldar,' inspired by the legendary Sakharam Binder; reading from Tendulkar's only English play, `His Fifth Woman'; presentations of Tendulkar's long articles about his father and sister; and Alyque Padamesee's presentation of a part of `Vultures.' Most of these productions were originally part of the `Ten Festival' organised by Amol Palekar in October.

There was order in this seeming madness and what came across was the multilingual and accessible nature of the festival. While talking about `36 ghante,' Shernaaz Patel said, "I am so proud of the talent that exists in our country. This gave me an opportunity to interact with different theatre groups. And I saw them closely. There were no language barriers. This cross-cultural interaction should just happen naturally." And this is what the Prithvi Theatre Festival is all about.