Theatre enthusiasts in the capital enjoy a weeklong treat as 10 best plays chosen from across the country, including those by Swanand Kirkire and KN Pannikkar, are being staged in New Delhi as part of the fourth Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2009.
The event kicked off Saturday with Kirkire's Hindi play "Aao Saathi Sapna Dekhein" being enacted at a packed Shriram Centre here.
The 10 plays shortlisted from a huge list of 200 in various categories such as best production, best actor, design and ensemble will be judged by a jury comprising M.K. Raina, Nadira Babbar, Sova Sen, Vinay Pathak and Romesh Chander.
The seven-day showcase will close March 6 with an awards ceremony.
The other plays that will be staged include "The Absent Lover (Chennai)", "Afsaneh - Bai se Bioscope Tak (Mumbai)", "All About Women (Mumbai)", "Ayussinte Pushthakam - The Book of Life" (Kerala), "Hamlet - The Crown Prince (Mumbai)", "Kalivesham (Kerala)", "Layla Majnun (Delhi), Madhya Bartini (Assam)" and "Shakkar Ke Panch Daane (Mumbai)".
The fest is on at the Shriram Centre and the Kamani Auditorium.
"Aao Saathi Sapna Dekhein" is a celebration of life. Nominated for best ensemble, best sound and best design, the play begins with a litany on man's growing inability to dream in a hi-tech world racked by inflation and broken promises.
It is a kind of a morality play that draws from a central theme of romance between two teenagers - a Hindu and a Muslim - in Old Delhi's Chandni Chowk area and the way it impacts their immediate milieu through song and dance. The tale is told by a narrator and his mute assistant.
"As somebody said? life is a celebration, so let us celebrate our dreams and realities, our happiness and our sorrows, our madness and our sanity. My theatre uses everything - singing, gestures, sounds, words, screams, light and darkness - to rediscover human emotions," Kirkire said, explaining the essence of his play.
A National School of Drama graduate, Kirkire has collaborated in movies like "Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi", "Parineeta" and "Lage Raho Munnabhai".
"Judging the nominations this year would be challenging as the plays shortlisted are exceptional in concept and direction. I am glad that this festival has grown phenomenally over the last four years. I remember in 2005 there were just 25 people at the theatre, including us," said Ravi Dubey, creative director of the Mahindra theatre awards.
He said the idea behind the festival was to encourage and award excellence and promote corporate funding in theatre.
"Theatre requires corporate funding and I hope this will encourage other corporate entities to think and get companies to sponsor theatre at the local level so that more plays can be produced," Dubey, who now owns a consultancy firm, told IANS.
Director Ram Gopal Bajaj, who has won the best director's nomination for his play "Layla Majnun", attributed the revival of theatre to television.
"People have developed a taste for performing arts after watching soaps on television. Earlier, theatre as a concept was confined to the Ramleela during Dussehra," Bajaj said.
"Layla Majnun" will be staged at Kamani Auditorium March 2.