Last year, theatre offerings at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) included the largest number of plays staged in the fest’s history.
“With 62 plays, we had reached the maximum capacity for the number of plays that could be staged,” said actor and section co-curator Juhi Babbar Soni. “This year, we thought, what is the most number of languages we can offer plays in?”
Accordingly, this year, theatre at the KGAF will span 20 languages, from Hindi, English and Konkani to Tamil, Bengali, Assamese, Sindhi, Maithili and Punjabi, among others.
“The theme for this year’s KGAF is Sparsh, or touch,” said Babbar Soni. “Through these languages, we wanted to ‘touch’ on the various experiences across India’s diverse regions.”
For example, Naurangi Natni (The King and the Ropewalker), a Maithili play based on a folk tale from Uttarakhand and Rajasthan, is about a mother who makes supreme sacrifices to secure her child’s future. Pai-Dhuverchem Kazar (The Father and Daughter’s Marriage), a Konkani play, is a comedy about a boy from a poor family falling in love with a girl from a wealthy family. There’s even a Rajasthani adaptation of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, set it in the village of Amrogarh, which Babbar Soni said she is looking forward to watching.
“We have sourced some unlikely plays, such as the ones in Maithili and Konkani, from Mumbai-based performers,” said section co-curator Ankur Parekh. “Another aspect of the theatre at the KGAF this year is the many veterans performing. Sushma Deshpande and Meenal Gupta will be performing in new plays. Nadira Babbar will be performing in an Urdu play.”
New talent will be on display too. “Three plays written by Ramu Ramunathan will be staged,” said Babbar Soni. “We will also showcase a lot of exciting work in children’s theatre.”
Also on the schedule are the five winning plays from the Zee-HT Zindagi Theatre Festival. “We received hundreds of entries around the theme of the competition – Jodey Dilon Ko (Connecting Hearts),” said Babbar Soni. “Of these, we have selected five finalists. These five plays will be performed on February 13, 14 and 15.”
The five plays include Don Baaki Ekaaki, a Marathi play on relationships; Love: Not At First Sight, a silent love story; Yumraj Ji, Kuchh Kariye, about the guru-shishya relationship; Shah Ki Kanjari, a tale of two women in pre-Independence India; and EMI, a play about abortion.
Theatre-lover Anupma Mehrotra, a regular at KGAF, said she is excited to see what the festival has to offer. “It’s not just the variety of plays, the event is managed so well it is a joy to attend it,” said the 41-year-old homemaker. “The best thing about the KGAF is the way it brings like-minded theatre enthusiasts together.”
KGAF 2015 will also offer a wide array of cinematic gems. “We have screenings across three venues — the Bombay Natural History Society auditorium, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum and Kumaraswamy Hall — and we have tried to offer many critically acclaimed films,” said section curator Parvin Dabas. “While on one hand we have popular films such as Dedh Ishqiya, we are also screening a Marathi film titled Baji, for free, just a day after its theatrical release.”
“The audiences responded very enthusiastically to our line-up last year; we had to turn people away because our venues were full,” adds volunteer Sheffy George. “Given the line-up for 2015, I expect this year to be similar.”