Draupadi will come alive, Karl Marx will visit downtown Kalbadevi and Urdu couplets will reverberate against the brightly lit backdrop of Horniman Circle, at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014 (KGAF).
Theatre companies from across Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh will offer a mix of theatrical experiences, via 62 plays in five languages — English, Hindi, Gujarat, Marathi and Kannada. “The sheer expanse of what’s on offer is very vast this year,” says Nadira Zaheer Babbar, curator of the section. While Draupadi will ask how she is any different from the average urban Indian woman, Munshi Premchand will come alive through a staging of his tale, Bade Bhaisahab.
Living up to the aim of theatre, many plays will highlight socially relevant issues such as the emancipation of women (Panchkanya), the vagaries of online dating (White Lily Aani Night Rider) and discrimination against members of the LGBT community (Hijada). This year, non-governmental organisations have also chipped in with performances. Hum Aur Humara Shehar (Hindi for Us And Our City) has children from the Dharavi slum giving the audience a glimpse of their dreams and their lives. The play, being staged by NGO Dharavi Diary, will feature music, dance, drama and video footage. Salaam Bombay Foundation, meanwhile, is staging a play titled Voices, where Class 7 students from government and private schools protest against tobacco and spread awareness about addiction. Old favourites such as Girish Karnad’s Hayavadan and Jaimini Pathak’s Postcards from Bardoli are being revived at KGAF too, and new theatre groups such as Abhiruchi Theatre and Preksha Theatre have found a platform.
Some perfor mances will also transcend the boundaries of drama, like the play Chitrangada, which features classical Kuchipudu dance, while two others — Pishi Mavshi, a Marathi musical for children and Trivial Disasters — will feature poems enacted as plays. “Kala Ghoda is to a Mumbai theatre person what the Ganga is to a native of Varanasi. You aren’t really there till you take a dip in it,” says Manoj Shah, whose Ideas Unlimited is performing the Gujarati play Karl Marx in Kalbadevi, for the first time at the festival. Every other day will also feature a stand-up comedy event by the popular groups East India Comedy and Homegrown Comedy India.
“Stand-up is also a type of theatre. We just have to act like ourselves and evoke laughs,” says Sahil Shah of East India Comedy. Meanwhile, as part of the KGAF Road Show street carnival, every morning will open with novel string-puppet shows on the street outside Jehangir Art Gallery, and will end with jocular performances by traditional beharupiyas (impressionists). “Our theme this year is Rang Baraat [Procession of Theatre] and we have tried to present as bright and eclectic a cocktail of performances as possible,” says actor and section co-curator Juhi Babbar Soni.