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Border patrol: Theatre Olympics make their city debut

Attend plays by artistes from across 30 countries, as part of the global festival.

mumbai Updated: Mar 24, 2018 15:24 IST
Anesha George
The Hindi dance-drama Missile Man, directed by Raja Anand, is based on the life of APJ Abdul Kalam.
The Hindi dance-drama Missile Man, directed by Raja Anand, is based on the life of APJ Abdul Kalam.
8th Theatre Olympics
  • Where: Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi; and Nehru Centre, Worli
  • When: March 24 to April 8
  • Entry is free. Passes and full schedule are available on insider.in

A Chinese Yongju opera about the search for truth; a Bengali play on the complexities of interpersonal relationships; a gripping Gujarati whodunit — they’re all being staged as part of the 8th Theatre Olympics, in Mumbai, over the next two weeks.

This global theatre festival is generally held every four years (there have been exceptions), as a platform for artistes and writers to initiate dialogue with other countries, overcoming barriers of language, ideology and cultural differences.

Each edition is organised and hosted by a different country, overseen by the International Committee of Theatre Olympics. The first was held in Delphi, Greece, in 1995. Subsequent editions were held in Japan (1999), Russia (2001), Turkey (2006), South Korea (2010), China (2014) and Poland (2016).

Almost Alive by the Belgian group Sandman is a non-verbal play about finding inner peace.

This time, it’s India, with 25,000 artistes from across 30 countries staging a total of 450 shows across 17 cities in India — including Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Ahmedabad and Jammu.

The National School of Drama (NSD) flagged off the festival in Delhi last month; the Maharashtra directorate of cultural affairs is co-organising the Mumbai chapter.

In Mumbai, there will be 28 plays performed, of which eight are international productions.

The latter include a Chinese play, Xuan Zang’s Pilgrimage, directed by Wang Xiangyun; a non-verbal Belgian play, Almost Alive, by Sabine Molenaar; and Shri 420, an Indian adaptation of a 17th-century French comedy by the Adakar Theatre and Cultural Group, based in Australia.

A scene from the Polish play Balladyana, directed by Aleksander Wegierko.

“When it comes to theatre, India has so much to share and borrow,” says Waman Kendre, director of the NSD. “Post-modern theatre in the country is very similar to European styles of drama; meanwhile, I’ve seen that a lot of Italian plays tend to have storytelling elements also seen in Indian folk and tribal theatre.”

The Indian plays experiment with satire, mystery and social commentary and include Missile Man, a dance-drama based on APJ Abdul Kalam’s life, directed by Raja Anand; Taj Mahal Ka Tender directed by Chittaranjan Tripathy, a satire on corruption; and Vidyottama, directed by Mohan Maharishi, on female empowerment.

“In the end theatre is art and art transcends language, so it will be extremely entertaining to interact with talent from all over the world,” says director Rajesh Joshi, whose Gujarati play Code Mantra will be performed too. “The festival is a big opportunity of regional artistes. It gives regional theatre some rare and much-needed international exposure.”