Art to create social change: Don’t miss Mumbai’s YouTheatre festival | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Art to create social change: Don’t miss Mumbai’s YouTheatre festival

In its third year, YouTheatre Festival seeks to provide a platform to various art forms while creating social awareness.

art and culture Updated: Sep 19, 2016 08:11 IST
Kaushani Banerjee
The three-day-long festival will see a variety of old and new English and Hindi plays, a dance show, a ghazal performance and other events.
The three-day-long festival will see a variety of old and new English and Hindi plays, a dance show, a ghazal performance and other events.

Several performing arts festivals are held in Mumbai through the year, but Divya Palat’s YouTheatre Festival goes beyond just showcasing talent on stage. Every year, it selects four NGOs who work towards lesser-known social causes, and supports them with the money that is raised through the festival.

“The only thing I’ve known my entire life is art. So, I’m trying to use it to bring about a change in society. We can either keep complaining about the state of arts in the country, or actually do something about it. With this festival, not only are we doing something about it, but we are also giving back to society,” says Palat, who has curated the event.

The three-day-long festival will see a variety of old and new English and Hindi plays, a dance show, a ghazal performance and other events. “YouTheatre will open in a very special way this year. Children from schools for the visually-impaired will sing the national anthem, while children from schools for the hearing-impaired will perform it in sign language,” reveals Palat, adding, “Sign language has been given the short end of the stick in our country.”

A still from the play Bandar Ki Baraat.

One of the first performances is the premiere show (of Palat’s theatre group) — The Butler Did It. Directed by her husband Aditya Hitkari, the play will feature Palat, Hitkari, Anu Menon (Lola Kutty) and Dinyar Tirandaz, among other actors.

“It’s a complete screwball comedy, and a tribute to everything that is Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock and PG Wodehouse. It’s a murder-mystery-comedy about a theatre production company putting up a play, their backstage shenanigans, and how their technicals go awry. It’s a 65-minute play, and is perfectly crafted for the sitcom generation, where everyone is used to watching just half-hour programmes,” says Hitkari. He also reveals that the couple’s 10-month-old Cocker Spaniel, Magic, will also be seen on stage.

Another highlight of the festival is the dance show titled The Mystical Forest. It is a premiere show that employs the Mayurbhanj Chhau style of dance, which is a martial arts dance form.

“Since it is a tribal dance form, our concept was to draw a parallel between the inhabitants of the forest and the dance form itself. There is a deep sense of insecurity in tribal areas because of deforestation and modernisation, which is taking place today. We have tried to depict it in this production. In a subtle manner, we have tried to create elements of urbanisation through light and sound. The message that we’ve tried to put across is that in tribal areas they have a small and beautiful world of their own, which if left to them is so much better,” explains Nalini Sharma of Sadhya dance production.

Palat tells us that the festival is loosely inspired by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, UK, where her theatre group has won various awards for their play, A Personal War.

“Inspired by that, I wanted to create a non-judgemental space where we can showcase and encourage performers, and also make a social statement while doing so. Artistes are good at giving back, and I want to give them (artistes) the space and platform to perform, so that they are able to contribute to these NGOs.”

A still from the play Rangrasiya Balam.

Palat, in fact, wants the event to be organised on a larger scale, similar to other fringe festivals that are held across the world. Talking about YouTheatre’s growth, she says, “In the future, I would like to turn this into a much larger festival. By year five or year six, I’d like YouTheatre to evolve into a week-long festival at multiple venues. It’s about creating a more open, artistic space in society. Art is supposed to bring about social change. It is supposed to make you think. And if the festival can achieve even one percent of that, then we’re doing the right thing.”