The festival of plays from the fourth edition of Writers’ Bloc, an initiative to groom new Indian playwrights, kicks off at Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre on April 1 with Naqqaash. The play’s director Rajit Kapur, one of the key intiators behind this workshop, gives a lowdown on the journey so far.
For the previous edition of Writers’ Bloc, you directed a powerful play called Mohua, and this time Naqqaash.What made you pick up this play?
It was Shernaz Patel who suggested that I should direct Naqqaash, written by Asad Hussain, and our theatre company, Rage, should produce it (Kapur along with Patel and Rahul da Cunha founded Rage, which organises Writer’s Bloc). This is the third play at Writers’ Bloc that I am directing. I have also directed Epilogue by Maia Katrak, for the second Writer’s Bloc. Set in a village without men, Naqqaash raises the question: who is the oppressor, who is the oppressed?
In Hindi, it is very difficult to come across new writing that focuses on the text. I was impressed by the language of Naqqaash and its richness. It flows beautifully. When you read a part of it, you are instantly attracted to the play. Each character in it is finely etched out.
Being one of the organisers of Writers’ Bloc, how was the experience of watching the plays take shape?
After going through the process of creating new plays along with the playwrights — watching them move from a concept to a scene to writing an entire play — one can almost feel where the play is headed. One also gets an impulsive feel of the writing and
First Writers’ Bloc was held in 2004 with the aim of nurturing young playwrights. How effective has this step been ?
In college, we had come across several plays of literary value written in Hindi. However, we need to have a new crop of good Hindi playwrights, who are fewer in number compared to their English counterparts. We offer this one-of-its kind platform, in collaboration with The Royal Court Theatre, London. Once the plays are ready, we organise a festival to reach out to a larger audience. The idea has also been to encourage writing of plays in different Indian languages. This time, we are staging two plays each in Hindi, Marathi and English apart from a Tamil one for the first time. We will also have the reading of Nandita DaCunha’s play Side Effects at Prithvi House.
How did you select plays for the upcoming festival?
We decided that in consultation with The Royal Court. Last time, Rage produced three plays out of 12 that were staged for the festival. This year, we have invited other groups to direct and produce the plays. The idea is to involve the theatre community.
A couple of years ago, you directed The Glass Menagerie. What excites you more — classics or new writings?
It is always fascinating to balance the two. Whether it is new writing or a classic, I look at what I can offer as a director. If I feel I can’t do justice to a certain play, then I don’t touch it. In case of Mohua, I decided to direct it when I read its first draft.
A number of plays in Writers’ Bloc seem dark and talk about social issues.
If something bothers writers, it reflects in their work.
Will you be taking the Writers’ Bloc festival to other cities of India?
After its run at Prithvi Theatre, April 1-10, five of the plays will be staged at Mumbai’s National Centre Performing Arts (NCPA). The shows of the remaining two are scheduled in Bangalore’s Ranga Shankara. We are also planning to hold an off-shoot of the festival, with three plays, in Delhi.
Shows and Tale
Writers’ Bloc has lined up a series of events related to writing during its upcoming festival at Prithvi Theatre.
Plays: The festival opens with Asad Hussain’s Naqqaash on April 1. It will be followed by Shardul Saraf’s Janak on April 2, Rahul Rai’s Outer Delhi on April 3, Saggherr Laodhii’s Tutak on April 6, Swati Simha’s Flypaper Trap on April 8, Shivam Sharma’s Given on April 9 and Sunandha Ragunathan’s Mundhirikkotte on April 10.
Play readings: On April 6 evening, two staged readings produced by Rage — Rona Munro’s Iron and Anupama Chandrasekhar’s Disconnect — will be held at Prithvi Theatre. The reading of Nandita DaCunha’s Side Effect will take place on April 2 at 7.30 pm at Prithvi House.
Workshops: In ‘See for Critic’, Arshia Sattar talks about critical analysis of plays. Anmol Vellani’s workshop, ‘How to Seek Support in the Arts’, is for those who want to apply for a grant, scholarship or residency for an arts project. In ‘Words in Music’, Namit Das and Anurag Shanker teach how songs tell a story. Anand Tiwari’s (pictured) ‘In the Web of Fiction’ is for those interested in writing fiction for web. Anuvab Pal will conduct a workshop on ‘Writing Satire’.
Special act: On April 5, Ali Fazal and Atul Kumar will enact the play White Rabbit Red Rabbit, written by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, at Prithvi Theatre. The play does not involve any director, set, or rehearsals. The actors will get the script for the first time after the third bell has been rung. Soleimanpour, who can’t leave his country, requests the audiences to mail him photos and their thoughts, after the show.