C Sharp C Blunt, a play that won multiple honours at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META), is the story of a smartphone app called Shilpa (played by Pallavi MD), who can sing, wink, shake her hips and be the perfect woman of patriarchal dreams. Behind her creation are three women, and the play reveals the ironies of their existence in their professional and personal worlds. We spoke to director Sophia Stepf about the play — being staged in India — and her experiences as a German theatre person in India.
What brought a German theatre artiste to India?
With India, I have an ongoing love story. I came as a dramaturgy student in 2001, wanting to experience a totally different theatre culture. That trip lead to collaborations, plays, working with the Max Mueller Bhavan on theatre projects and writing on Indian theatre. I have been coming here for 12 years now and consider India my second home. I wish I could have voted.
How was the experience as a foreigner doing theatre in India?
I have had such disparate experiences— regarding my skin colour, the way I speak, my gender and inner cultural programming in different places such as Toronto, Bangalore, Lagos and Berlin, that it seems almost logical to use these differences to create theatre.
I know I am still a firang here, although some of my Indian friends joke about my being more Indian than them. I like to use these differences for my theatre, in order to create new forms and languages. India has a lot to offer — traditions, actors, philosophies and a vibrant theatre culture. I enjoy working here.
How was the process of devising C Sharp C Blunt?
We devised this play from the realm of our shared experiences, but centering around the experience of Pallavi as a professional singer and actor. Swar Thounaojam and Irawati Karnik contributed to this play in different ways, but the focus was Pallavi and the disparate worlds she occupies in one day. We had nothing when we started out, only some secondary text material. Our script is based on wild improvisations — after a while some ideas, scenes and performative moments prevail. We wove these into a performance that has logic in recurring themes, symbols and ideas as well as an energetic dramaturgy that will keep the audience engaged, although they are not following a linear narrative.
Your response to the accolades and critical approval for C Sharp C Blunt ?
Super! What more could I want? It is such a joyful experience that after 12 years of working in India, to be able to make a play that appealed to an Indian and an European audience. I am proud of my talented and hardworking team — Pallavi and Nikhil on stage and all the people behind the scenes.