Located on the banks of Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts saw nearly 35,000 people displaced from the area due to the ongoing riverfront development project. “People like you and I are unlikely to go through this kind of displacement. They have been subjected to the most deplorable conditions in the name of rehabilitation,” says director Mallika Sarabhai.
Wanting to initiate a dialogue on this issue, Sarabhai has dedicated this year’s Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival — an annual event organised by Darpana — to the theme of displacement.
The festival, however, looks to explore the subject at multiple levels. While displacement due to industrialisation and building of dams will be addressed in The Dammed, another piece — by Sarabhai herself — titled Unearthed, looks at an internal shift from self. “This displacement is intimate, it’s on a more personal level. We find ourselves falling prey to societal expectations, questions such as ‘who am I’, ‘what am I doing’ often plague our minds,” she explains.
Consequently, the forms of both the pieces differ. The Dammed, a play by London-based Dutch choreographer Naomi Deira, uses a visual motif throughout that is based on the Khandwa Jal Satyagraha, where farmers protested by standing in neck-deep water for days together. Sarabhai’s piece is based on a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The theatre production makes use of masks and puppetry to tell the story of a castaway trapped in a foreign land. “Marquez’s writing is uses magic realism, thus it was important to bring in those elements through physical theatre,” Sarabhai says.
A third production that is part of the festival, titled LDR, explores another facet of displacement caused by a long distance relationship. The performance by Revanta Sarabhai, looks at love and longing caused when a partner moves away for better job prospects.
The festival, which starts today will take place at the Nehru Centre and entry is free.