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Double Time

When director Yasin Khan first staged his socio-cultural drama Poster in early 2006,the auditorium was forlorn and empty.

Written by Dipanita Nath |
February 17, 2009 11:30:21 pm

Theatre groups pack in smaller,multiple plays into a single performance and draw in the crowd

When director Yasin Khan first staged his socio-cultural drama Poster in early 2006,the auditorium was forlorn and empty. In September last year,he pulled out the script and reworked the play — this time clubbing it with a hilarious comedy called Kyunki Sasur Bhi Kabhi Damad Tha. “I got 75 per cent attendance,” he grins. Like Khan,many theatre groups have hit upon a new formula to attract the audience — they have two or more short plays in an evening rather than one long story.

Gouri Nilakantan Mehta of The Sixth Element went a step further on February 1 at the Epicentre,Gurgaon. “My first play Khayali Bimar was in Hindi and enacted by adults and the second Post Early for Christmas was a children’s play in English. Both the plays were carefully clubbed together. Many children could relate to the adult play and some parents actually liked the kids play better,” explains Mehta. Bharti Sharma of Kshitij Theatre,which staged comedies Tasveer and Bimaar,in November,adds,“The audience doesn’t want to spend two-three hours on a play. They like it short and sweet and variety always helps.”

The Black Cow Company didn’t stop at two. The Moo Collection,directed by Misha Singh,is a collection of 12 fast-paced plays,and an odd mix of stories on life and relationships,strung together with quirky humour and smart philosophy. “Short plays are the way to go. The audience attention span has been shrinking and this is the best way to keep them entertained,” says director Misha Singh.

Uttiya Bhattacharya of the Second Foundation Theatre and Dramebaaz,a group founded by theatre veteran Sabina Mehta Jaitely a few months ago,disagrees. “The audience attention span is determined by the quality of the production,” insists Bhattacharya. Both groups,however,will stage a collection of short plays in March.

Dramebaaz will make its entrance with Ismat Chugtai’s short plays,Jare and Bacho Phuphi,in March. “They work only as short plays,hence the double bill,” says Jaitely. Naseeruddin Shah’s Ismat Aapa Ke Naam,staged several times in Delhi,clubs three of Chugtai’s plays and remains a hit production.

Second Foundation Theatre makes a comeback,after a two year hiatus,with a collection of four plays and poems by Roald Dahl. Bhattacharya,who directs one of the plays,says,“It is a greater risk than staging one long play. Unless the performance is gripping,the audience tend to walk away after one play ends.”

Most directors limit each play to around 45 minutes and lead actors often find themselves jumping in and out of characters. “Trained actors have no problem switching characters,” says Singh,as Sharma adds that her comedies repeated the lead actor Deep Kumar. Mehta says that technical planning is the key and she prescribes lighthearted plays,“as content-heavy fare is not seen as entertaining in India”. Khan adds,“Formula means that I can stage the type of plays I want — cerebral and meaningful,lighthearted and comic. The popularity of Kyunki Sasur helped the cause of Poster.”

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