Costume Drama

Expect theatre to walk the ramp as thespian Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry designs five theatrical sequences for Ritu Kumar’s upcoming show,Paanch Vastra.

Written by Parul Bajaj | Published: January 1, 2012 12:53 am

The setting is dramatic and the movements are intense. Black paraats filled with water,murmuras,lighted incense sticks,a white shroud,wind chimes,prayer bowl,chimta and a lota — the wooden stage at thespian Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry’s home-studio in Chandigarh is a flurry of activity as she is directing main actors Raman,Rocky and Gick for a ‘fashionable’ performance.

Chowdhry is creating a unique dialogue between fashion and theatre for Ritu Kumar’s show titled Paanch Vastra,to be held in Delhi on February 2,with five images and theatrical sequences for the designer’s new creations.

“Ritu (Kumar) has often come to see my plays and she wanted to have a new look for her show — one that was different and in this case,dramatic as well,” says Chowdhry. Although the theatre veteran admits she’s not too familiar with fashion,the idea of creating a new blend on stage interested her.

By drawing upon five women characters from the epics — Ganga,Draupadi,Kunti,Amba and Gandhari — Chowdhry has created an absorbing juxtaposition of music,performance and text that will blend with Kumar’s new collection in five colours — white,red,cobalt blue,saffron and black. The five images will also contain text,which will be screened and not verbalised .

Live music will add to the actors’ powerful movements.

Each image has a philosophy that the actors will communicate through gestures and body movements,with music and other elements adding to the effect. So while Ganga denotes water and life,and has Raman ‘playing’ with water on stage,Drapaudi depicts desire,for which Raman and Rocky will create a sensuous performance by smearing murmuras on each other’s body. Kunti is a symbol of birthing,Amba stands for revenge and exile and Gandhari symbolises death.

“The show will have two stages or ramps,and the models will walk the ramp to showcase the costumes once the actors make an exit after each of these sequences,” says Chowdhry. Actors Kiron Kher,Seema Biswas,Sushmita Sen,Diya Mirza and dancer Anita Ratnam,along with many top models,will display the costumes.

The challenge,says Chowdhry,was to create a context and connect between the actors,clothes,models and music. “Ritu has seen the rehearsals and is excited about the drama. We have more and more people from different worlds coming together to create absorbing relationships between various art forms and this is one such attempt,’’ says Chowdhry,shifting her focus back to the stage.

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