Change of Scene

The city is witnessing a slew of theatre festivals and new acts.

Written by Parul Bajaj | Published:April 19, 2013 3:32 am

The city is witnessing a slew of theatre festivals and new acts.

The invite for theatre group Abhinet’s new productions has a new plot. The city’s oldest theatre group is experimenting with two short plays,to be staged on a single evening. Directed by Vijay Kapoor,the two plays to be staged today are Money Order,written by Kailash Ahluwalia,and Handi Meat. It is sheer passion and commitment to theatre that keeps Abhinet going strong since 1974,having produced over 75 plays by eminent Indian and international playwrights including Kalidasa,Rabindranath Tagore,Mohan Rakesh,Girish Karnad,Shakespeare,Samuel Beckett and Arthur Miller. “We are a group of like-minded people with a passion for theatre,and have reinvented our performances,making way for new talent and keeping the group intact with experienced theatre people,” says Kapoor — actor,director,poet and secretary of the group.

Money Order is about an ordinary man bogged down by routine affairs and a small mistake that leads him into a tricky situation. Handi Meat is about a long-suffering wife who devices a radical alternative to deal with her marital problems. Abhinet’s professional approach to theatre has earned its productions many accolades. “It’s been a fulfilling experience. From a few plays in a year to virtually one a week now,we have been part of the change,” says Kapoor. He mentions how Wing Commander Chandra Prakash,a theatre veteran,will carry Money Order on his shoulders,as Dr Vijaya Singh,the protagonist in Handi Meat,will take up a new challenge.

Kamal Tewari,Chairperson,Sangeet Natak Akademi,and also a renowned theatre music director and actor,is all set to introduce to the city the concept of locality theatre. As many as 12 local theatre groups will take socially relevant plays to various localities,creating new audiences. “We need to reach out and can’t limit ourselves to the Sector 17 Plaza or Tagore Theatre. If audiences can’t reach us,we will,” says Tewari.

With his efforts and the Akademi’s support,the Chandigarh Theatre Festival,which began in 2005,has grown bigger and better,with new groups from across the country staging plays here. The upcoming Chandigarh Heritage Festival will also see some experimental plays and also new emerging forms in theatre. “We have as many as 12 festivals in a year now,and all are free shows. Young actors and directors are able to create audiences who are hungry for theatre,” says Tewari.

In 1999,a group of theatre enthusiasts formed Theatre for Theatre (TFT),and five years later,they held their first festival with three local plays. “We had to gather people from parks,roads and colleges to come and see our plays,” recalls Sudesh Sharma,one of its founders. Now,Sharma organises as many as four festivals in a year,with the upcoming Baisakhi Festival to be held from April 26 to 28. “Now,each play is houseful,and the audience is happy to even stand and watch our plays,” says Sharma,adding how the consistent effort and interaction with other theatre groups of the country have infused them with new energy. “TFT has participated in more than 10 festivals around the country,and our constant endeavour is to bring new theatre here,” he adds.

Looking forward to create a festival exclusively for children is Chakresh Kumar,who works extensively with the children of NGOs Hamari Kaksha and Vatsal Chhaya,and also does independent street theatre. Kumar’s play with the children of Hamari Kaksha,Jee Aaya Saheb,which is based on child labour,will be part of the National Children’s Theatre Festival in Patna. He is also working on productions that will have famous cartoon characters as part of the plot.

“From collecting raddi and selling it to stage plays to asking the audience to pitch in with funds,we have created Katha Manchan,our festival of short stories. We are now set to take it to other cities,” says Vijay Machan of Mask Theatre.

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