Every summer when the mercury rises in the Capital, so does the intensity of the practice sessions of a group of artists. Inside the National School of Drama (NSD) at Mandi House, a bunch of young and experienced actors sweat to put together various acts under vigilant supervision of ace directors. Their efforts entertain theatre lovers over sultry evenings at the annual Summer Theatre Festival.
“Since the establishment of NSD’s Repertory Company in 1964 this festival is being organised every year,” says Prof Suresh Sharma, chief of Repertory Company. Mention that the festival though much older, isn’t as popular as its winter counterpart – Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM), and Sharma shares the woes of Hindi theatre. “Even though Hindi is the most-spoken language in the country, unfortunately Hindi theatre hasn’t enjoyed the status that Marathi, Gujarati theatre or theatre from the North-East enjoys.”
The actors of the Repertory, however, put in more efforts to ensure quality performance with a professional approach. “During BRM we do perform for few shows but mostly remain busy in coordination,” says Annapurna Soni, 20-year-old from Madhya Pradesh.
She is the youngest member of the repertory at present and plays the lead character in the play Vidyottama. In a voice filled with nervousness, since this is her debut at the Summer Theatre Festival, she says, “It’s quite something to rehearse for one play in the morning, performing another play in the evening and read a third play in the night.”
For 33-year-old Jagannath Seth (the oldest member in the group), the experience that an actor gets is unforgettable. “This will be my last performance at this festival, as part of the Repertory,” says the qualified veterinarian. Overwhelmed with emotions, he recollects, “In my first year, I acted in 11 plays and the festival went on for almost a month. This is my sixth and final year, post which I need to survive the competitive world of theatre alongside ensuring a regular income for my family.”
This is not the only challenge that the festival has to overcome. Govind Singh Yadav, stage manager, NSD Repertory Company says, “Once we had to stage the play Jaat Hi Pucho Sadhu Ki at FICCI. The lights at the auditorium are so high that one can’t control them. So I had to physically go and switch them on and off. It’s painful for a light designer to work in auditoriums which don’t have required technical facilities.”
Beyond the struggle for amenities, the fight to get ticketed audiences also takes a toll. Prof Sharma adds, “In the Hindi theatre belt, the ‘pass’ culture has grown too much. In places like Maharashtra, watching theatre is a tradition and the audience comprises families who buy passes and come to see the show.”
Plays to be staged this year:
1. Taj Mahal Ka Tender, June 1-4
This classic tale directed by Chittaranjan Tripathy is the story of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan wanting to build Taj Mahal for his beloved wife Mumtaz, but in contemporary India. Targeting the Indian bureaucracy, this play is a socio-political satire dealing with the pressing issue of corruption. The hilarious dialogues make speak for the productions’ success.
2. Aadha Chand, June 5-7
This play by one of the renowned Hindi play directors, Tripurari Sharma, projects the shabby conditions of call centres in which the modern educated youngsters work. In the process their hopes are hit, identities are destroyed and the mirage created by globalization comes to the fore. The manner in which this is projected, can disturb the audiences.
3. Vidyottama, June 8-10
The play, written and directed by Mohan Maharishi, portrays Vidyottama – the daughter of King Vikramaditya and wife of celebrated poet Kalidas, as someone who rejects a luxurious life to discover herself.
4. Ghazab Teri Adaa, June 11 and 12
Directed by Prof Waman Kendre, this play brings on stage the socio-political issues in a musical format with glimpses of humour. In the world where war has always been a man’s responsibility, this play highlights that women can play an equally important role in bringing peace in a society.
5. Ghashiram Kotwal, June 13 to 15
Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghasiram Kotwal, directed by Rajinder Nath, narrates the tale of how the protagonist Ghasi uses his daughter Gouri to become the Kotwal of Pune and avenge his insult by the civilians of the state. The stage techniques, folk music and narrative via the Sutradhar are things to look out for in this production.
CATCH IT LIVE
WHAT: Summer Theatre Festival 2016
WHERE: Kamani Auditorium, Mandi House
WHEN: June 1 to 15
NEAREST METRO STATION: Mandi House on Violet Line