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Change of Scene

As the curtains go up on two theatre festivals in the city,we look at the playground that is likely to create new opportunities for young talent.

Written by Parul |
March 11, 2013 3:23:54 am

As the curtains go up on two theatre festivals in the city,we look at the playground that is likely to create new opportunities for young talent.

A teacher in the day and a theatre activist by evening,Vijay Kumar’s role reversal is almost effortless. As the young actor-director and his collaborator Ravinder Kumar get set for a new chapter of “Katha Manchan”,an annual theatre festival known for bringing dramatised short stories on stage,the two reflect on the plot of their journey. “We are passionate about playing against all odds to reach out to new audiences,” says Kumar as he reads aloud the tagline of “Katha Manchan” — ‘a festival fully organised with the help of artistes and art lovers’.

The group is an interesting mix of professional theatre artistes,students and professionals,who after their day’s work,get together and enact stories on social issues in the city and rural areas. “Katha Manchan”,was conceived with a thought “to see if theatre was possible with the help of people”,and this is its fifth edition. “We have no financial support from any quarters. Earlier,we would finance the festival with raddi (scrap paper) collected from city residents,as this contribution made them a part of the festival and relate better,” explains Ravinder,who adds how they would distribute envelopes at the end of the show for the people to contribute their bit to theatre and keep piggy banks at the venue. “The effort is to involve people in the process,” he says.

This year’s festival has a young brigade,which has contributed its personal savings to the festival. This,Kumar hopes,will travel to different cities next year. How to be creative with less resources,give new talent a platform to express,experiments with new techniques and idioms to offer the audience something new and a commitment to say something meaningful on stage are the integral aspects of the festival. On at the open air theatre of the Punjab Kala Bhawan,Sector 16,till March 11,the festival will stage plays such as Munna Ki Wapsi,Prem Ka Uday,Katha Collage,a puppet theatre workshop and a performance by Puppet Theatre,Chandigarh. The idea is to involve children and get them closer to theatre. “We want to create new audiences and therefore,have a new endeavour,” says Kumar.

Not too far away,in Sector 18,rehearsals are on for Samvaad Theatre Group’s second edition of five-day theatre festival,which began on March 8 at Tagore Theatre. It’s an exciting time for the 20-member group,who are known to present “Ram Leela” in a contemporary way,apart from satires on social issues. “It took a lot of effort to get the resources in place,with personal contributions of members too,” informs Mukesh Sharma,who adds that most of the aspects of staging the play are taken care of by the members,as it gives everyone a chance to learn something new,and maximise resources. Dedicated to women empowerment,Sharma adds that three plays have women-oriented themes,with the recent Delhi gangrape and the beating up of the young women in Tarn Taran by police personnel becoming issues of grave concern and shame.

The festival will begin with a short documentary by the group on the physical,mental and spiritual abuse of women,with newspaper cuttings highlighting incidents across the country. “Be it Do Kabrein,Jivit or Mrit or Taj Mahal Ka Tender,corruption in every aspect of our society is highlighted,” says Sharma. He adds how young talent is involved in their nukkad nataks and the festival is a step ahead in this direction.

Asif Ali of Rang Virasat,whose new production Palayan was staged this week and received a resounding response,agrees,with the emerging trend. The award-winning playwright believes that the city needs a new language in theatre. Ali had recently organised The National School of Drama Repertory Company’s festival of plays here,and encouraged by the full house,is all set for an experimental festival of plays this year. “I like to work with new actors and unique themes,and a theatre festival gives you more scope to experiment and also view changes in the theatre scene,” he says.

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