When the three witches of Macbeth spoke about hurly burly and rain, the reference wasn’t to a March evening in Delhi. Yet, the scene at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) night, held at Taj Mansingh on Sunday was typically Shakespearian — a storm bellowed and raindrops splattered the stage as a cash-strapped director realised he had suddenly become a part of theatre royalty. M.G. Jyothish, selected Best Director for his Malayalam adaptation of Macbeth, discarded his borrowed jacket and arrived in his shirt sleeves to receive the award. “We entered the competition only after discussing it among troupe members. We believe that the arts are not meant for competition but, on the other hand, we were being offered a fee of ` 75,000 to perform. We could pay our actors with that money,” he said.
This was the most that Jyotish (“not shy, just not comfortable with English”) spoke the whole evening. Indeed, his one-liners as he received prizes turned the packed gathering into fans. Picking up the prize for lighting, Jyotish said, “For me, lighting is the use of darkness”. The next award, for Costume Design, too went to him. “Costumes are not just clothes,” he said. Macbeth also won the choreography award for its portrayal of psychological trauma through physical movement.
The awards, by the Mahindra Group, is in its sixth year. It is among the most coveted in the industry with more than 300 entries this year. Eight shortlisted plays were staged in Delhi between March 4 and 8, judged by stalwarts such as Shabana Azmi, Sushma Seth and Kulbhushan Kharbanda.
The other big winner was Mumbai-based Company Theatre’s rollicking adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, titled Piya Behrupiya. The Best Supporting Actor (Female) nominees, for instance, were all from this play, with Neha Saraf taking home the trophy for her role as the jester. Two actors tied for the META for Best Supporting Actor (Male), Gagan Riar as a drunk nobleman and Amitosh Nagpal, who shone in — as he constantly complained in rhyme throughout the play — the smallest role in Piya Behrupiya, of the heroine’s brother Sebastian. Before the evening ended, Nagpal would win another award — The Special Jury Citation for Script, for his translation of Twelfth Night into Hindi. Director Atul Kumar won the award for Best Ensemble Performance and returned to the stage with his troupe for Best Play. C Sharp C Blunt won for Best Actor (Female), Best Original Script and Best Innovative Sound-Music Design.
Girish Karnad won the award for Lifetime Achievement. Liju Krishna, from the play Moment Just before Death, cradled his META for Stage Design, and stuttered, “Great feel. I love my job. I love theatre, and I am just 23.”