Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival: Out of the city

This year’s festival showcases plays set outside urban areas— including plays from Jaffna, a Mahasweta Devi adaptation and Assamese folk-tales


A scene from the play ‘Katha Sukavi Suryamal Ki’
A scene from the play ‘Katha Sukavi Suryamal Ki’

Irish writer Oscar Wilde regarded theatre as the greatest of all art forms because he believed that it was “the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being”.

Bengaluru-based Ranga Shankara’s theatre festivals have always aimed to tell multidimensional, universal human stories. This year’s theme, “Not The Metros”, focuses on plays set outside cities. According to Arundhati Nag, managing trustee of the Sanket Trust, which administers Ranga Shankara, there is too much focus on urban areas in India. “You know the sort I mean,” she says. “International airports, underground trains...eats up most of the country’s budget.” This extends to theatre too. “There are plenty of creative, intelligent people staying outside these big cities,” she says. “We need to create platforms that showcase their work, and I urge people in the city to come and take a look.” She adds that this is not folk-theatre, but “cutting-edge, contemporary theatre that many people in cities have stopped doing”.

A scene from the play ‘Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla’
A scene from the play ‘Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla’

The plays include Shivaji Underground In Bhimnagar Mohalla, an allegorical take on how political parties have wrongly used Maratha warrior Shivaji to gain mileage, Koumarane Valavane’s One Third, set in the Tamil region of Sri Lanka, Sukracharjya Rabha’s To’ Paidom, based on an Assamese Rabha folk tale, and Alok Gagdekar’s Choli Ke Piche Kya Hai?, a dramatic take on Mahasweta Devi’s Stan Dahini.

The plays, in multiple languages, are culled from “places where theatre exists but does not have the facilities most urban centres have”, says Suri Surendranath, Ranga Shankara’s trustee. The lack of facilities does not impede the vibrancy or relevance of their art, however. In fact, it makes it more appealing, says Surendranath, pointing out that the themes captured by suburban and rural plays were very contemporary, with no compromise on content. “The way they work and the aspirations they have is amazing,” he says, adding that most of these groups carve out performance areas in any available space.

The “Not The Metros” theatre festival will be held from 6-13 November at Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar, Bengaluru. Tickets, Rs150, available on Bookmyshow.com. Click here for more details.

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