It’s only early April, but theatre people are already optimistic about the year ahead. After all, more than 12 plays in several languages have premiered in the city so far, and most of them were sold out even before they opened.
While the buzz around these plays came mainly from the fact that they were part of theatre festivals such as Rage Productions’ Writers’ Bloc, explains theatre artiste Shernaz Patel, co-founder of Rage, she also adds: “It’s true that theatre is attracting a lot of people, young and old.”
A 23-day festival that gives 12 playwrights the opportunity and platform to showcase their work, Writers’ Bloc was held in January this year and resulted in 12 new plays in various languages opening in theatres across the city. Meanwhile, other plays
premiered with grand openings too.
“Theatre has changed a lot and more people are certainly coming to watch a lot of different shows,” says theatre actor and director, Faezeh Jalali. “But full houses usually only occur during theatre festivals or when the play is a once-in-a-while kind of show. That said, opening nights do tend to attract a good number of people.”
Here’s a look at five representative plays.
Mahua: Directed by Rajit Kapoor and based on the issues of the tribal people of Orissa, Mahua is the first Hindi play produced by Rage. “Regional plays, especially those in Marathi, have a wider audience in Mumbai. The tickets are priced differently and the plays themselves relate to the common man’s day-to-day life, whereas English plays tend to differ a little,” says Shernaz.
Joke: Actor Kshiti Jog says, “Marathi theatre is very thought-provoking. The plays are easy to relate to and the tickets are quite cheap. Also, the number of auditoriums dedicated to Marathi and other regional theatre attract a bigger audience. Having said that, what gives English plays the upper hand is that they can be performed everywhere. We can’t travel with Marathi plays.”
Jaal: Directed by Faezeh Jalali and once again produced by Rage Productions, Jaal was highly popular. Says Shernaz, “Both Mahua and Jaal saw a great response when they opened and people are enjoying them even now. We do hope this continues like that.”
Nothing Like Lear: This comic take on Shakespeare’s King Lear premiered in February. Directed by Rajat Kapoor, it is centred on one character played alternately by Atul Kumar and Vinay Pathak. “Theatre shows are fun and because there is so much to offer, a lot of people want to come and watch them,” says Atul. “Expecting a lot before the show’s premiere is foolish, but one does see a great response nowadays.”
Screwala No Dhillo Screw: This Gujarati play that premiered last month, was originally an English production called Rusty Screws, directed by Meherzad Patel.
Theatre actor Afshad Kelawala says, “The English version did really well, but Screwala… saw a great opening as well. And because there’s such a large audience for Gujarati theatre, it made a huge difference.”