In its eighth edition, the Writers Bloc Festival will begin the staging of its 12 chosen plays, starting today. The festival, run by Rage, a group formed by acclaimed theatre personalities Rahul Da Cunha, Shernaz Patel and Rajit Kapur, will see culmination after a selection and grooming process of over a year.
Da Cunha explains, “We send out word in January and accept entries till three months later. Out of the 104 we received this time, Rajit, Shernaz and I picked the 20 best, which we sent to The Royal Court Theatre to pick the final bunch — ideally, not more than 12.”
The famed British company then sends representatives down to India to conduct extensive workshops with the playwrights — an initiative they have been taking to other countries too. “Except, nowhere else in the world does it culminate into a festival like ours,” notes Da Cunha.
Two sets of workshops are held at the idyllic Jindal guesthouse in Vasind, where some of the city’s finest actors come and lend their support by participating in reading and improvisation, thus helping the playwrights draft their scripts. And after working with Royal Court’s teachers over two drafts, the festival draws to a close with a performance of all the plays.
In the past, 32 original scripts have emerged from the festival. Their writers have gone on to win national as well as international acclaim, and a host of projects including books and films.
Ask Da Cunha what to expect from his 12 finalists this year and he says, “They’ve worked in three different languages — English, Hindi and Marathi. The choice of subjects is
very different from previous years. The focus has shifted from relationships to industrialisation, homosexuality, Kashmir and tribalism. The writers are more politically aware, and the scripts have more depth this time. India is going through a difficult time right now, so in a sense, the writers are more aware and perhaps angry. This reflects in their writing.”
Final plays and their writers
Mahua — Akash Mohimen
Satellite City — Irawati Karnik
Pereira’s Bakery at 76 Chapel Road — Ayeesha Menon
The Djinns of Eidgah —Abhishek Majumdar
Shillak — Sagar Deshmukh
Spunk — Siddharth Kumar
OK, Tata, Bye Bye — Purva Naresh
The Long Way Home — Shekinah Jacob
Natak Nako — Dharmakirti Sumant
Once, On That Street — Swetanshu Bora
Jaal — Annie Zaidi
Still and Still Moving — Neel Chaudhuri