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A blast from the past

A blast from the past
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The plays in the second week of Bharat Rang Mahotsav seem to have been painted in vivid colours. The first few days showed metaphysical themes and legends, where as plays staged mid week gave a history lesson to the audience. On Wednesday, five plays were staged. The play Balkan Women takes us to the time in history when Yugoslavia was undergoing partition. A bloody civil war was taking place between Christians and Muslims in Bosnia. Amina and her daughter Samira are interrogated by Lt. Blako, a Muslim-hater and subordinate of col. Herak who had once been involved with Amina and was Samira’s biological father. Worried about her daughter’s safety, Amina asks Herak for help and he employs Samira as a housekeeper at his residence. Over time the two develop a warm relationship, until one day Samira receives news about the brutal killing of her father and brother, and other atrocities against the Muslim community. To avenge this, she gives poisoned coffee to col Herak. Amina tells a shocked Samira that col Herak is her biological father. A repentant and grieving Samira is looked upon as a daughter by a dying col. Herak. Both mother and daughter are later killed by the new chief of the camp.

Assamese play Nokiyampo was set in the Tirap District of Arunachal Pradesh, where there is a tribe called Nocte. In the recent past the Noctes had a unique marriage tradition in which before marriage young girls had to prove their fertility by giving birth to a child by co-habiting with a male member of their society. After the child was born, as per their rituals, it was killed and the girl was given in marriage to someone chosen by the members of society and the family. This tradition continued among the Noctes until 1962, when for the first time such a child was allowed to be brought up in the society in lieu of fine imposed by the society. Despite this, the unmarried mother and child had to face various socio-religious difficulties because of the customs and rituals of the tribe. This is the situation that Nokiyampo aims to recreate and explore.

Set in the backdrop of Ramayana, play titled Indrajit  is a chapter from the battle between Ram and Ravan. On hearing about the death of both Kumbakarnan and Ahthigayan, Ravana vows revenge. Mandodhari, Ravana’s wife enters receives the news of her son’s death. She mourns and asks Ravana not to wage war against Rama, but he doesn’t listen to her. She then tells her son Indrajit to stop his father, and Indrajit tells him that he will go to war field instead of him.  When Rama comes to know that Indrajit is coming to wage war against them he sends Lakshmana to face him. The performance looks at events as they enfold, from Indrajit’s putting of Brahmasthiram on Lakshmana, the episode with the Sanjeevi leaves, Indrajit’s Nikumbala Yagam, and finally his death at the hands of Lakshmana.

The play, Thana Theke Aschhi which sees sub-inspector Teenkori Halder come knocking of industrialist Chandra Madhab Sen’s door to enquire about the suicide of a girl, unfolds a day ahead of Modi’s trip to the city to address a business meet. Based on JB Priestley’s famous play, An Inspector Calls, Thana Theke Aschhi has been adapted for both stage and celluloid before. The backdrop of the play is 2013. Set in a family of industrialists, it also shows how Modi’s visit gets the business circles buzzing. With an eye on next year’s parliamentary elections, the businessmen are seen excited about the prospect of meeting Modi –the poster boy of development. What is unveiled through the play is the insecurity of working in the private sector. The girl, who takes her life, was also faced with a similar crisis.

Play, Untitled Phrase-02 is about parallel structures and their chaos are being questioned, broken and rebuilt repeatedly at every moment in our understanding and in our way of dealing with them. That is why they have the possibility of unpredictability and remain a source of potential hope of us.
On Thursday three plays were staged, Hayavadana, A Kind Of True Story and Dharti Aaba. The  play Hayavadana, concentrates on the theme of ‘incompleteness’ and the superiority of mind over body.

The human desire for completeness represented by Padmini ends in a fiasco as the transposition of heads gradually proves that it is the mind that rules.  After the transposition at the Kali temple, complications arise.  Initially, Devadatta, or rather the head of Devadatta, on Kapila’s body combines with it and reverts to his nature, while the other combination is  Kapila’s head and Devadatta’s body. But there is a difference.  Devadatta stops writing poetry while Kapila is haunted by the memories in his body.  Padmini, after the exchange of heads, feels that she has the capacity for complete experience.

The play, A Kind of Love Story traces a year in the lives of eight people living in Mumbai. Their story is told from the perspective of the struggling writer, Sameer Sheikh, who is writing a script about these eight characters, including himself. It explores the characters’ interpersonal relationships, as well as their personal and professional struggles on a daily basis. The story is set in a middle class suburban building society that is going through the process of redevelopment.

The structure of the play is non-linear with a mix of real and unreal situations. The play deals with the groups’ perception of ‘reality’, as ideas are broken and bared intermittently, until the audience is left questioning and revisiting truths usually considered absolute.

The music is a mix of Western and Indian; there is live singing on stage and actors speak in both Hindi and English.

‘I will return…soon I will return from my forests, on my mountains…I will return again amidst my Munda people…we have primeval blood. This is the blood of black people. It has been made by the coming together of hunger, accusation, insult, pain, ands sorrow. It from this blood that the fire of ulgulaan burns. This fire will never stop burning…never. I will return soon.’ This dialogue by BirsaMunda is the crux of DhartiAaba, which is based on the life and works of BirsaMunda, the leader and hero of the Munda tribal community.

Birsa’s life was full of struggle. He first left school in protest against the derogatory treatment meted out to Munda students by the missionaries. Constantly troubled by the problems of those living in the forests, he eventually succeeded in taking his fellow community members towards a better socio-religious situation. Gradually he was able to instill the hunger and confidence to resist the feelings of slavery that the Mundas had internalized within themselves. Under his leadership the already existent rebellion of the Sardar Mundas was transformed into a struggle against foreign rule.
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