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A grand array of plays to be presented at NCPA’s theatre festival

A theatrical smorgasbord will be presented at the seventh edition of NCPA’s annual festival, Centrestage in Mumbai.

art and culture Updated: Nov 21, 2016 08:00 IST
Kaushani Banerjee
A scene from Danish Husain’s (right) Qissebaazi that will premiere on November 29 at NCPA’s annual theatre festival Centrestage.
A scene from Danish Husain’s (right) Qissebaazi that will premiere on November 29 at NCPA’s annual theatre festival Centrestage.

Like every year, National Centre of Performing Arts’ festival Centrestage has a slew of premiere productions to look out for. Several actors from the big screen, such as Pankaj Kapur, Sushmita Mukherjee, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub and Neil Bhoopalam, among others, are set to tread on stage during the festival that will be held from November 25 to December 4.

Two regional language acts such as Do Deewane Shaher Mein (Gujarati) and Absolute (Marathi) will be presented alongside a host of multilingual plays.

Sushmita Mukherjee will return to theatre after a gap of 18 years.

The world’s a stage

Actor Sushmita Mukherjee’s mono act, Naribai, is based on the life a Bedhni prostitute who lives in Bundelkhand. Mukherjee, who was an active theatre practitioner two decades ago, says, “I’m returning to stage after 18 years. Naribai is a monologue about three women whose lives overlap. Getting back on stage has been at the back of my mind for the longest time. When I was writing my second novel (the first one is due to be published), the story came out as a monologue and I thought of doing this play. I first performed this in front of my friends, in someone’s living room.” Mukherjee believes her “soul is still in there [theatre]”.

“It doesn’t feel like I ever left. The sheer smell of the auditorium is so welcoming. The first time I went on stage was when I was three years old. Since then I’ve done films and television, but I feel I was born to do this [act on stage]. There are a lot of lucky people who did not have to leave [theatre] the way I had. I’m in awe of them,” she says.

Another actor making a comeback on stage at this festival is Tannishtha Chatterjee. She will be seen alongside Divya Jagdale in the play Facial, Pedicures and Mind Masala. “The last play I acted in was in 2010. Since then I have been so busy with my films that I didn’t get the time to do a play. But when Divya was approached for the festival, we quickly got together and wrote the script. In fact, it’s still in progress. But I am extremely excited to get back to theatre,” says the actor.

Love and language

Apart from the starry line-up, Meherzad Patel’s The Relationship Agreement is a contemporary take on modern relationships, which features his regular crew Danesh Irani, Pheroza Mody, Darius Shroff and Sumona Chakravarti, while Imraan Rasheed’s Phir Se Shaadi!? is a comic take on remarriage and the nuances of talaaq (divorce).

A scene from the play Phir Se Shaadi!? that will premiere at the festival.

Another highlight of the festival is the multilingual production Qissebaazi, which will showcase four stories from classical texts such as Natya Shashtra (Sanskrit), Tilism-e-Hoshruba (Urdu) and AK Ramanujan’s tales (Malayalam), among others. Each of these stories will be presented in two languages — one in which the original text was written and the other in a bridge language (Hindi and English).

Speaking about the concept, director Danish Husain says, “I’ve been doing storytelling for a while now. When I came to Mumbai, I felt there was a great class and urban divide. People come here from small towns to work in the arts and not all fall in the template of tall and good-looking [people]. However, each has their own unique skills and that’s what I wanted to tap into. Hence, I wanted to collaborate with such artistes in the language they are comfortable in, and in the process create something dramatic.”

Comic essential

Akarsh Khurana from Akvarious Productions will present Stand Up, a play about five comic artistes who prepare for an open mic event. Another comedy that holds promise is Neil Bhoopalam starrer — It’s About Time.

But the most interesting act is the addition of Anuvab Pal’s stand up piece — Life at 40, which will not only delve into the world of middle-aged Indian men but also cover the evolution of stand-up comedy in India through the last decade.

“NCPA is quite particular about what kind of stand-up they want and encourage. And I’m also very keen on blending stand-up and stories, so, it is a nice match. This new show is more of an autobiographical one-man play,” says Pal about his performance.

Anuvab Pal’s stand up act titled Alive at 40 is a humourous take on being a 40-year-old man in modern India.

Our top 5 picks:

1. The Relationship Agreement, directed by Meherzad Patel. On November 25, at Experimental Theatre, from 7pm.

2. Raat Na Aaye, directed by Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, on November 26, at Experimental Theatre, at 6pm.

3. Qissebazi, directed by Danish Hussain, on November 29, at Experimental Theatre, at 7pm

4. Shakuntala Awaits, directed by Isheeta Ganguly, on November 30 at Experimental Theatre, at 7pm

5. Dohri Zindagi, directed by Gurleen Judge, on December 2, at Godrej Dance Theatre, at 8pm

The author tweets @literarystew

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