What do you get when you take two weeks of assumed and lost identities, political turmoil, action and inaction, cultural imperialism, melodrama and technological experimentation, and present them under one banner? A festival that is “quite an eyeful”, says National School of Drama (NSD) chairperson Amal Allana.
Starting 7 January, Mandi House, New Delhi, will play host to the NSD’s 11th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, arguably Asia’s largest theatre festival. This year, the Rang Mahotsav will also travel to Lucknow, with 18 productions scheduled to be performed there from 11-19 January.
Fifty-nine Minutes Sixty Seconds
In the Capital, the festival will feature 65 plays—51 from India and 13 international productions. The festival will open with a performance of Awagha Rang Ekachi Zaala, a Marathi play directed by Ashok Samel, about Appa Velankar, a well-known kirtankaar (singer of religious songs) and his family. The play highlights the rich tradition of the kirtan form juxtaposed against the growing popularity of fusion music.
Of the foreign plays in the festival repertoire, some make great use of video and lighting. Allana specially mentions The Painted World, a production from the Czech Republic that works with black light, and Black Tie, a German play “with very interesting use of lights and video”.
“There is a lot of political theatre. With India also coming into the spectrum of terrorist attacks, people have focused on maybe not the 26/11 but earlier attacks, then the lack of democracy, etc., are all reflected in the plays,” says Allana. She recommends Days of Adel, a production from Israeli director Isaac Benabu, set in the psychiatric ward in a Jerusalem hospital.
The Painted World
There will also be plays from Japan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Germany, Nepal and Poland.
This year’s festival focuses on youth, and 10 young and emerging directors have been invited to present their work. These include Mohit Takalkar’s Matra Ratra from Maharashtra, NSD alumnus Jyoti Narayana Nath’s Enai Lok Kotu Dekha Nai (which is about a person’s priorities in life) from Assam, and Asif Ali Haider Khan’s Fifty-nine Minutes Sixty Seconds (about the last hour of the lives of six Naxalites). Also, 10 established directors such as former NSD director Ram Gopal Bajaj (who has remade Laila Majnu), B. Jayashree (who has revived grandfather Gubbi Veeranna’s company play, Sadarame) are among those invited to present their plays. There are also several plays based on stories by Rabindranath Tagore.
Commenting on the changing styles of theatre, Allana talks about a new approach to acting these days, “with acting being less realistic, more abstract. The era of the stars has gone and theatre is presented as an experience with the entire group… Technology such as video and experimental lighting is also being used very differently these days”.
Days of Adel
11th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, 7-19 January.
Venues: Kamani Auditorium, Shri Ram Center, Meghdoot (open air), LTG Theatre and the three theatres on the NSD premises —Abhimanch, Sammukh and Bahumukh.
Tickets: Rs100, Rs50, Rs20 and Rs10 for Kamani, Shri Ram Center, Abhimanch and LTG; and Rs30 for Sammukh, Bahumukh and Meghdoot.
For timings, play synopses and other details, log on to www.nsdtheatrefest.com