National School of Drama’s (NSD) Repertory Company is back with its annual Summer Theatre Festival in the capital, a seasonal staple now in its 41st year. For New Delhi’s busy, harried residents, this is welcome respite in the blazing heat.
The ongoing season offers inspired contradictions, fresh creations and crowd-pleasing favourites. The audience will get to witness the best of the Repertory Company.
The five productions in the festival that began on Wednesday are by five different directors, and give a taste of divergent styles and forms.
The aim was to bring variety, says NSD director Waman Kendre. There are some old classics, and some new productions like Aadha Chand, Vidyottama, and Ghazab Teri Adaa which was performed last year. “We revived Ghasiram Kotwal, as it is a long-running play. Tajmahal ka Tender, on the other hand, is back by great public demand,” he says.
The Repertory has, over the years, performed over 183 plays by 93 playwrights and worked with 92 directors. It has come a long way since 1964-65 when it started with only four actors.
“Since 1974-75, the closing of our session in summer has been marked with plays that have been performed during the year, some older ones and popular ones,” says Suresh Sharma, chief of NSD Repertory Company. “It [festival] has been an annual tradition of NSD.”
The festival opened with Tajmahal ka Tender, directed by Chittaranjan Tripathy. Written around two decades back, Ajay Shukla’s satire still holds relevance with its take on corruption, red tapeism and babudom and begins when Emperor Shah Jahan invites CPWD engineer Guptaji to construct Taj Mahal.
Another political satire in the list, Ghasiram Kotwal’s first Hindi production was staged by the theatre group Abhiyan in October 1973. Rajinder Nath, who has directed the play for the festival, believes that revivals are risky, but worth taking. Written by playwright Vijay Tendulkar, the historical drama portrays power politics and a common man’s search for his identity.
Then there is Ghazab Teri Adaa by Kendre, which marks the centenary of World War I and is a comment on why we [read men] go to wars. “As a creative institution we thought to portray the evil of war,” says Kendre, who came across an anti-war comedy called Lysistrata by Greek playwright Aristophanes, when he was an NSD student and was intrigued by its plot.
The plot revolves around a woman who, in order to end the Peloponnesian war, convinces Greek women to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands until peace is negotiated. “The idea has been in my mind for the last 30 years, and when the academy asked me to work on a play, it came back again. We have tried it in a different way, with an Indian context,” says Kendre.
Mohan Maharishi’s Vidyottama narrates the story of poet Kalidasa’s wife who rejects a luxurious life. Meanwhile, Aadha Chand is a reflection on the real and the virtual, on how the professional almost subjugates the personal, to a point where identities are altered.
In terms of subject range, Sharma says, since their performances throughout the year are not limited to metros alone, but travel to smaller towns across the country, a balance is struck when it comes to the content. “The objective is to create a play that appeals to both big as well as small town audience.”
What’s on: 2016 Summer Theatre Festival
Where: Kamani Auditorium, 1, Copernicus Marg
Tajmahal ka Tender; 7 pm; till June 4
Additional show: 3.30 pm, June 4
Aadha Chand; 7 pm; June 5 to 7
Additional show: 3.30 pm, June 5
Vidyottama; 7 pm; June 8 to 10
Ghazab Teri Adaa; 7 pm; June 11 and 12
Additional show: 3.30 pm, June 11 and 12
Ghasiram Kotwal; 7 pm; June 13 to 15
Tickets priced at Rs.350, Rs.200, Rs.100 and Rs.50 are being sold at National School of Drama, 1, Bhagwandas Road. Call: 23031102