If you’ve spent the past week wondering why a “lady-oriented” film is a bad thing or how being a pacifist could be construed as being unpatriotic, check out the 12th Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) festival. The issues that some of the plays highlight will make you reflect deeper on the nuances that are often lost in public debates.
The festival opens with Apna Manch Drama Company’s Lassanwalla, a tragi-comedy that narrates a Brahmin garlic seller’s discovery of the idea of social equality. Then there is Awddyo Shesh Rajani based on Bengali theatre personality Ashim Chakraborty. The play, produced by Kolkata’s Paikpara Indraranga and directed by the state’s IT minister Bratya Basu, also looks at the controversy around Chakraborty’s iconic 1972 play Barbadhu (The Prostitute). Barbadhu ran to full houses for 1,800 shows and faced state censorship. “In one of the scenes between a zamindar’s son and the protagonist, a prostitute’s bra was shown onstage. It offended some sensibilties,” says producer Indrajit Chakraborty. Though the court ruled against this policing of art, the long-drawn ostracisation, is said to have contributed to the director’s early demise.
While Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust’s play Mahabharata meditates on war and peace through the dilemmas of 13 characters, Kochi-based theatre group Lokadharmi’s Malayalam play Kaali Naadakam explores caste relations and ideas of power and justice through a murder that takes place during the performance of a traditional temple play.
The 10 plays, showcasing a diversity of languages and subjects, have been shortlisted from 300 entries received from across the country. The performances will be judged across 13 categories and the winners announced on the fest’s finale, March 10. The jury -- theatre actors Dolly Thakore, Seema Biswas and Sachin Khedekar, playwright-actor Mahesh Dattani, actor Avijit Dutt and performer Maya K Rao. Marathi theatre doyen Arun Kakade, 85, who co-founded the famous Awishkar Theatre Group best known for its experimental theatre will receive the META 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Also part of this year’s shortlist is actor-director Rajat Kapoor’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It enacted by clowns. Kapoor says Shakespeare’s experimentation with the idea of gender — a boy actor pretends to be a woman who pretends to be man only to play act being a woman before her lover — drew him to the story. “The director of the troupe of clowns in my play decides that boys will play girls and girls will play boys. So that became my central idea — gender roles and what it means to be a man or a woman today,” says Kapoor. I Don’t Like It, As You Like It also stars actors Vinay Pathak and Cyrus Sahukar.
Akarsh Khurana’s office drama Dhumrapaan, produced in collaboration with Kumud Mishra’s D for Drama company, will be performed in Delhi for the first time. The play, set in the smoking room of a corporate office, looks at how equations change when the company declares it will downsize at the end of a surprise assessment week. “That,” says Khurana, “becomes a catalyst for people’s true colours to be revealed.”
What: 12th Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards and Festival 2017
When: March 4 to 9. Check out the schedule and book tickets at http://metawards.com/schedule/
Timing: 6-8 pm
Venue: Kamani Auditorium, Shri Ram Centre for Arts and LTG Auditorium, Mandi House
Nearest metro station: Mandi House