Rabindranath Tagore is at the centre of two out of seven productions at this year’s Old World Theatre Festival starting in New Delhi on 10 October. Co-written by Dwijottam Bhattacharjee, director Manav Kaul and actor Kalki Koechlin, Colour Blind is an exploration into the life and philosophy of Tagore, his perspective on death and his relationship with the Argentine writer Victoria Ocampo.

Kaul, who has previously staged popular plays like Peele Scooter Wala Aadmi and Shakkar Ke Paanch Daane, says: “Of course we know Tagore as the great writer and artist. But it took five-six months of intense research into every aspect of his life, from his childhood to writings, to show him at his most vulnerable, to show him as a normal human being (in Colour Blind)."

The second Tagore play in the line-up at the 13th edition of the festival is Isheeta Ganguly’s Three Women, which brings together Tagore’s sister-in-law and muse Kadambari Devi and fictional creations Bimala and Charu in a conversation about women’s freedom.

Two of the performances at the festival are about transformations: New Delhi-based Yatrik theatre group is putting up Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, which adapts for stage Ovid’s classical stories that are by turns farcical, tragic, heart-warming and thought-provoking. Lillete Dubey’s Boiled Beans On Toast about modern-day city living touches on a different kind of transformation in six characters based out of Bangalore.

There are revivals of two children’s classics—Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Satyajit Ray’s tale about the transformation of village bumpkins Goopi and Bagha into musicians par excellence—in the Dastangoi form of storytelling in Urdu. And Jug Jug Jiyo, with veteran actors Dolly Ahluwalia Tewari and Meeta Vashishtha in the cast, centres around two strong women characters.

To be sure, festival organizer Old World Hospitality Pvt. Ltd (OWH) didn’t intentionally select the plays to fit a theme or even this pattern of twos.

“All the plays have been recommended to us by theatre persons, or are made by theatre people whom we know to be good," says Vidyun Singh, programme director of OWH, which operates the India Habitat Centre and Epicentre performing arts venues in the National Capital Region. The idea, says Singh, is to bring “the best plays of the past year" to Delhi. The theatre festival has over the last 12 years brought plays like Anuvab Pal and Rahul da Cunha’s Chaos Theory, Where Did I Leave My Purdah, written by Mahesh Dattani, and Nothing Like Lear by Atul Kumar’s The Company Theatre to the city.

For Delhi audiences, it might also be an interesting experience to see the transformation of the Stein Auditorium stage during the festival—to accommodate a small water pool. Yatrik’s Sunit Tandon says it is a logistical nightmare. “It’s horrendous," says Tandon, who will act in, and has designed the music for Metamorphoses. “We have to construct a water tank on the stage, put planks around it and then get such a quantity of water on to the stage. But water plays an important part in the play—it is a metaphor for all the transformation in people."

The Old World Theatre Festival starts on 10 October at the India Habitat Centre, Lodi Road, New Delhi. Timings vary. Tickets, 350 and 500, available at the venue and on in.bookmyshow.com. Jug Jug Jiyo and Colour Blind will also be shown at Epicentre, Apparel House, Gurgaon. Tickets, 500, 600 and 700, available on in.bookmyshow.com. For the detailed schedule, visit www.oldworldtheatrefestival.com

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