“My plays are an artistic response to the change I see around me,” says Ram
Ganesh Kamatham, the Bangalore-based playwright and director, about hiswork over the last few years. Three of Kamatham’s plays, Dancing on Glass (2004), Creeper (2007) and Bust (2010), will be shown over three days in New Delhi and Mumbai as a trilogy, with the city of Bangalore as their connecting thread.
“I haven’t been consciously working on creating a body of work that is based on this city,” he says, “but when we finished working on Bust, I realized that they are, in a way, interconnected.” The plays are being produced by the Actors Ensemble India Forum, an artists’ collective established by theatre professionals and enthusiasts in Bangalore.
All three plays are set against the backdrop of Bangalore as a changing city, and the 29-year-old director is confident that audiences in Delhi and elsewhere will be able to relate to the themes. “Plays are an interactive medium so, of course, someone who lives in Mumbai will infer and take away something entirely different from what a Bangalorean takes away,” he says.
Dancing on Glass, written during the peak of the BPO (business process outsourcing) explosion in Bangalore, examines the flip side of the fast-paced life led by two young IT professionals in the city. The characters experience a gamut of emotions, including anger, joy and utter confusion, that become a part of their corporate lives. In an attempt to keep the emotions honest, Kamatham warns that the language in his plays often verges on the explicit.
“Young artists like Ram (Kamatham) and Abhishek Majumdar (who acts in two of the plays), in their work reflect the angst of the younger generation and that is a sign that the city is screaming out in protest,” says theatre personality Arundhati Nag. Kamatham’s latest production Bust—a play in which three women set out to look for an ancient relic—is just three shows old and still a work in progress. The project was supported by a grant from the Robert Bosch Foundation, which supports emerging artists, and this gave Kamatham the space and time to research the city’s history and experiment with the sets onstage. “I have taken some visual risks with this one,” Kamatham says. “I’ve used a 30ft drop in the stage; the actors climb and then drop. There are all kinds of things happening and after every show and rehearsal, we add or drop something.” He says that the actors and he trained in rock climbing ahead of the rehearsal.
Actor Mallika Prasad, who is cast in two of the three plays, has been associated with Kamatham since 2007 when Actors Ensemble India Forum was formed. “Having lived in this city myself, I brought in some personal experiences to the stage and my characters,” she says. Prasad agrees that the plays reflect a changing city. “We are not saying that change shouldn’t happen, rather we are seeking to negotiate with this change.”
Both she and Kamatham say an increasing number of works are tackling the theme of constant change in Bangalore. “Most cities have large amounts of literature and art that is based on the city,” says Kamatham. “That Bangalore’s artists are reacting to the pressing need to create that body (of work) is great.”
Trilogy by Actors Ensemble India Forum will show at the India Habitat Centre, Delhi, on 16, 17 and 18 July, and at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, on 20, 21 and 22 July.