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Fly Away Home

Rang Virasat’s new production Palayan brings on stage issues of migration and displacement.

Written by Parul |
March 4, 2013 3:47:53 am

Rang Virasat’s new production Palayan brings on stage issues of migration and displacement.

For several years,playwright and director Asif Ali has been trying to find a link between development and displacement. His new play,Palayan,looks at the issues concerning immigrants,such as the crisis of identity,conflict,migration and a longing for home. Ali,who won the Bismillah Khan Yuva Puruskar for playwriting in 2007,weaves together fact,fiction and a historical context into the storyline.

Palayan stays true to Ali’s penchant for staging Hindi plays that reflect new idioms and contemporary issues,with socio-political themes dominating the subjects. At the core of Palayan (written,directed and designed by Ali,with music by Kajal Ghosh),is the system of indentured labour. “There was a need for cheap labour in the dominions of the British Empire,and Indian labourers fulfilled this need. The play is about Indian tenant farmers working in a sugarcane plantation in Fiji as indentured labour. The historical and political repercussions,Gandhi’s agitation against the system and how CF Andrews was sent to study the conditions of Indians living in Fiji form part of the play,”

says Ali,adding that the system of indentured labour was finally abolished in 1920.

The play,says Ali,has many layers. “There are many things these people lost when they left,and they also found some things there. They contributed to the economy and society in these colonies,” he says. His narrative emerges through the story of Bhikha,who goes to work in a sugarcane farm of Fiji. He has no idea about how far he’s going. He leaves his wife behind,and is never able to come back. He meets a woman and falls in love,but she leaves him when she realises that he has a wife.

Ali adds that many parallel stories run alongside Bhikha’s — suicides,murders,loneliness and rights movement. The play deals with many issues,including the conflict that we see around us,be it in the Northeast,Maharashtra or Kashmir. “The play had to be written in today’s context of us going global and cosmopolitan. It has references from history,politics and my own personal experiences. I come from Bihar and moved for education and work,so I have co-related it,giving the audience a glimpse of information as well,’’ explains Ali.

The play will be staged at the open air theatre of the Punjab Kala Bhawan (Sector 16),and Ali has

extended the stage using the architecture of the place. He has also experimented with domestic lights to lend a new design to the concept. “We hope the live music,innovative lighting and a cast of 20 actors will make the production a grand affair,’’ says Ali.

Watch Palayan on March 5 and 6.

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