Actor Rajat Kapoor's play Hamlet - The Clown Prince, an innovative spoof on the Shakespearean tragedy, not only won the hearts of audiences here, but also got him the best director award at the fourth Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2009.
Atul Kumar bagged the best actor award and Puja Swarup was declared the best supporting actress for Hamlet - the Clown Prince at the award ceremony held here Friday night.
Hamlet - the Clown Prince, told through a bunch of clowns, was also nominated the best play by the jury comprising theatre veterans M.K. Raina, Nadira Babbar, Sova Sen, Vinay Pathak and Romesh Chander.
Layla Majnun, a Greco-Sanskrit adaptation of the love story by Shadaakar Art & Cultural Society, won the award for the best original script for touching upon the issues facing contemporary society and interweaving it with the Islamic concepts of Ishq-e-Majazi and Ishq-e-Haqiqi - pertaining to love and sacrifice.
While Laxmi Rawat was adjudged the best actress for Layla Majnun, Banwari Taneja won the best supporting actor award for the same play.
The Absent Lover, a crossover play in English and French by Thresh from Chennai, swept the best lighting, sound, choreography, costume and stage design awards. Directed by Preeti Vasudevan, the narrative that fuses folk musical and cultural elements with classical French music and ballet is the tale of the lover - both literally and metaphorically.
The award for the best ensemble went to the Actor's Cult Production of Mumbai for the play Aao Saathi Sapna Dekhein directed by Swanand Kirkire.
Proceeds from the ticket sales of the Feb 28-March 5 festival will go to Nanhi Kali, a NGO engaged in educating the underprivileged girl-child. It is managed by the K.C. Mahindra Education Trust and Naandi Foundation.
"This festival is one of the best examples of social corporate responsibility," Raina, a veteran actor-director, told IANS.
He said the festival received a record number of 200 entries this year.
"Seventy per cent of the plays that we received as entries this year were very good and in the end, we had to vote to select the best."
Raina lamented that theatre was not getting the support it required and was still a voluntary enterprise.
"I want every district and block to have performance based art; for theatre must have its own space if democracy has to survive in this country. It is the voice of the people and is also a safety valve," he said.
Pathak said it was an old myth that theatre artists cannot survive on their art alone.
"Theatre movements in states like Bengal and Gujarat are commercially viable and actors are busy throughout the year on stage. Theatre is the only means of communication and art in which you can get back more than what you give," he said.
Commenting on the new trends in contemporary theatre, Pathak told IANS that he was seeing new spaces on stage.
"Directors are experimenting with mime, performances, serious drama, tale-telling and simplification of difficult and complex narratives. We are also witnessing cross-cultural influences like the play Hamlet - the Clown Prince.
"Indian folk will always be there in theatre because fusion can happen only if folk is around. Or else what would fusion blend with in Indian theatre, which is essentially of folk origin," he said.