The country’s most popular sport—and perhaps only binding religion—has gone from the languid five-day to the frenzied Twenty20 format, and communication has gone from the electronic to the 140-charactered. So is the 3-hour, full-length play going to sit quietly and watch the world zip by?
As two theatre festivals—the nine-day Short & Sweet that started on Thursday in Delhi and The Great Indian Blogalogues, scheduled for Saturday in Chennai—would indicate, perhaps not. The Australia-born Short & Sweet, the largest festival of 10-minute plays, has made its India debut (the productions are all Indian), the Blogalogues festival is adapting blog posts into plays that range from 5-20 minutes. In both cases, the idea is to reinvent drama and serve it up to audiences in bite-sized portions.
Alex Broun, festival director for Short & Sweet, a concept that was born in 2002 in Sydney, has seen the 10-minute module win appreciation across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Europe and the US, and expects a similar response in India. “Life has sped up and things aren’t the same as Shakespeare’s time where audiences would watch 3-hour plays (often standing). We live in an age of Twitter and YouTube, and the attempt of this festival is to give the audiences a story that jumps to the climactic knock-out punch, without the grinding build-up,” says Broun.
The plays address issues from the clash of religions in modern India (Interface), to the intricacies of online gaming (Key to the Mysticals of Time). While there is, of course, a lot of new talent working in these miniature productions, veterans such as Sita Raina, Sohaila Kapur and Arvind Gaur have also joined the 10-minute party.
Raina, whose play Global Se Gandhi Tak is not her first attempt at Twenty20-ized theatre, has previously directed a 15-minute play called Feel Good. “I wouldn’t do a play for more than 40 minutes, because people don’t have the time, patience or ability to hang in there for beyond that. This format is very challenging, the script has to be tighter, the performer has to be brilliant and timing has to be superb,” she says.
The Great Indian Blogalogues, a collaborative effort between Chennai-based theatre group Stray Factory and Indibloggers, began as a challenge to the notion that there was little original writing in Indian theatre. Using blogs, and thereafter adapting them for stage, became a natural extension of the idea, says Mathivanan Rajendran, creative director of Stray Factory. Some of the pieces have been formed by condensing regular blogs, others have used pieces of flash-fiction (500-word pieces). All the stories are Chennai-based and the group has also added interesting devises to the production to make it more relevant for generation YouTube. A mime group is used to depict Chennai traffic, and television screens, placed on either side of the stage, sometimes double up as characters.
“Audiences have little patience for 2- to 3-hour plays any more, and formats such as ours are about instant gratification,” says Rajendran. The stage is set for generation quickie.
The Great Indian Blogalogues, 13 November, at Shivagami Petachi Auditorium, Alwarpet, Chennai. For tickets, Rs150, Rs200, Rs300 and Rs500, log on to www.indianstage.in. Short & Sweet, till 19 November, at India Habitat Centre, Delhi, and Epicentre, Gurgaon. For tickets, Rs200, log on to www.bookmyshow.com