January was a cruel month. The bitter cold and thick fog would challenge theatre lovers who wanted to watch evening shows of the Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM). The annual theatre festival of the National School of Drama (NSD) has been moved by a month this year — one of the many changes that the festival, sassily being called BRM 17, boasts of in its 17th edition. For the first time, it will include rock shows by college bands, lec-dems with photographer Raghu Rai and Kathak maestro Birju Maharaj, as well as shopping. The NSD back office is trying to finalise a classical concert with Ustad Zakir Hussein. “The theme is ‘Breaking the Borders’ and we have tried to break creative and national boundaries,” says Waman Kendre, Director, NSD, about the varied calendar.
The 82 plays — with a repeat performance of the inaugural production Gazab Teri Ada, a musical with an anti-war and feminist message — have been selected from more than 500 applications. The stars on the roster include Naseeruddin Shah, director of Kambakhat Bilkul Aurat, which is a collection of three stories by Ismat Chugtai, Soumitro Chatterjee, who has directed Kurbani, about events at a police outpost on the India-Bangladesh border; and Sunil Shanbagh, whose Club Desire deals with an obsessive love set in the glittering world of nightclubs and poetry. Anupam Kher presents his popular solo titled Kuchh Bhi Ho Sakta Hai about his journey as an actor, fraught with struggles, failures and rewards. The crowd-pullers are also expected to include the critically acclaimed story of homosexual love, A Straight Proposal, and The Bird’s Eye View, a non-verbal play that uses an array of objects to tell the story of a pigeon during World War II.
BRM is one of the closest Delhi gets to a festival of foreign plays. This year features plays from the US, the UK, Bangladesh, China, Poland and France among others. Israeli play Postal Delivery to God delves into a contemporary concern about religion through personal stories of the play’s Jewish creators and cast. Reality Show from Sri Lanka revolves around a group of actors who turn up at an abandoned theatre for an audition. Trapped, they are at the mercy of a voice that orders them to rummage through their dark secrets and create the “Ultimate Reality Show”, based on their own lives. The American play Stage Directions of O’Neill Vol 2 is a follow-up of a Drama Desk-nominated play by the New York Neo-Futurists. The play eliminates dialogue and strips down to pure action and thus, with rip-roaring results, enters into the controlling subconscious of American theatre legend Eugene O’Neill.
What’s a festival without shopping? Theatre Bazar, a new initiative, is a mall where one can pick up objects related to the stage. Check out masks and make-up, costumes and puppets. Walk into NSD’s Mandi House premises and you can’t miss the location of the Bazar.
Salute the Stars
The birth centenary of two stalwarts, thespian Shambhu Mitra and ghazal queen Begum Akhtar, will be marked with a series of performances, exhibitions and lectures. Bohurupee from West Bengal brings Tomare Smaran Kori Rupokar, a collage of Mitra’s productions presented through acting, dances, songs, play readings and clips of his voice and visuals. Eminent artiste Rita Ganguly will deconstruct the magic of her guru, Begum Akhtar, in an event titled “Jamal-e-Begum Akhtar”.
It is a pet peeve of theatrewallahs that the food court of the BRM often attracts more people than the auditoriums. Under a canopy of umbrellas in rainbow colours, stalls will sell delicacies from across India. The wazwan and other tidbits will be priced reasonably compared to outlets elsewhere in the city, so expect a rush.
Back to the roots
One of the exciting perfomers is Teejan Bai, a Padmasri-winning Pandavani performer. She was the first woman to perform Pandavani, a musical rendition of the Mahabharata, in a style followed by men. Her village responded by censuring and ostracising her. Teejan Bai’s performance on February 5 at the NSD open lawns will be a part of a folk arts calendar that includes traditional art forms from Punjab, Gujarat, Karnataka and West Bengal.
The festival will be held till February 18. Sixty per cent of the tickets are being sold on NSD’s new online location http://www.eticket.nsd.gov.in. Tickets can also be purchased at NSD, Mandi House. First phase of booking started on January 30 for plays from Feb 2 to 7. The second phase booking starts on Feb 5 for plays from Feb 8 to 13. The third phase of booking starts on Feb 12 for plays from Feb 14 to 18. Maximum of four tickets allowed per person.
For schedule of plays, log on to www. nsdtheatrefest.com. Contact: 23389138