Theatre director Manoj Shah’s upcoming festival is not just another line-up of popular plays. The festival that will be held in the city will showcase a variety of plays, along with poetry and short story readings. All of it will be presented in three languages — Gujarati, Hindi and English. However, unlike other theatre festivals, Ooncho Maylo Parogaram is not an annual event. “We are doing this festival after four years. Whenever I organise a festival, it is called Ooncha Maylo Parogaram. The phrase literally means ‘a top class programme’,” says Shah, who has carved a niche for himself in contemporary Gujarati theatre.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Starting February 10, the festival will see some of his best productions such as Popcorn With Parsai (Hindi), Karl Marx In Kalbadevi (Hinglish) and Mohan No Masalo (Gujarati). While no new play will be staged at the event, Shah is set to revive two of his popular works — Jal Jal Mare Patang, and Jiyo Jee Bharke, after seven and eight years, respectively. Another highlight is a musical event titled Sangat with Prabhatiya and Ramagri. “In villages, they sing a bhajan (spiritual song) called prabhatiya between 4am to 5am. At Sangat, we will discuss the context of these bhajans, followed by a musical performance. Dr Niranjan Rajyaguru, who comes from the interiors of Gujarat, along with Parthiv Gohil and Mansi Gohil will sing at the do,” says Shah.
The extensive line-up also includes a talk on the importance of theatre. “In today’s time, when everything has become digital and everything is fast-paced, it is important to talk about the oldest form of entertainment – theatre. The talk will be conducted by prominent theatre personalities - Prabodh Parikh, Deepa Gahlot, Atul Tiwari, Naushil Mehta and Ramu Ramanathan,” informs the director, who believes it is important to look beyond comedy. “My Gujarati audience loves to watch comedy. However, there are other forms of theatre and expression that exist as well. For example, there is a painting of Atul Dodiya in the play Jal Jal Mare Patang. We have to understand theatre in the broader sense and not just through a comic play,” he adds.
Talking about Gujarati theatre today, Shah says, “What has happened in Gujarati theatre is that youngsters are not interested in watching plays. The youth is not reading Gujarati literature but they are the ones who are going to retain our culture. Hence, I don’t want to limit my work to Gujarati. I am constantly experimenting to reach out to everyone.”
THEATRE OF BIOPICS
Many of Shah’s plays are biographies. When asked about his interest in the genre, the director quips, “While some of my plays have 23 actors, some are solo acts. I love biopics and hence my work ranges from Harishankar Parsai and Karl Marx to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. In fact, currently, I am working on a biographical play titled Shri Che Guevara.”
While the festival will include a reading of the play on the Argentinean revolutionary Che Guevara, Shah reveals his theatre group, Ideas Unlimited, is also working on a play on former Apple CEO, the late Steve Jobs. “All the biopics that I have previously done are on men that are known universally. Karl Marx doesn’t have an Indian context either, but I have made it in such a way that people can relate to it and say ‘yeh toh apna Karl Marx hain (This is our Karl Marx)’. Similarly, people can identify with Steve Jobs everywhere,” says Shah on adapting biographies to the Indian context.
- Karl Marx in Kalbadevi, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, February 10, 6pm
- Popcorn With Parsai, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, February 10, 9.30pm
- Jiyo Jee Bharke, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, February 11, 7pm
- Mohan No Masalo, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, February 12, 12.30pm
- Full Thali, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, February 12, 4pm.
Talking about the process of creating a biographical play, Shah says, “It’s extremely difficult to do a biographical play and hold the attention of audiences for one-and-half-hour with just one actor. I start working with the actor six months prior to the play and we do several workshops. And at the end of it, when my play is received well, it is extremely satisfying. We performed Mohan No Masalo for the Indian Army at the Siachen border and the same play has also been staged for a group of Adivasis in a rural area in Madhya Pradesh. This was possible because of the performance format (mono act).”