Asia’s biggest theatre fest will host 63 plays

January 4th, 2009 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) The 11th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the much-awaited annual theatre festival of India’s National School of Drama (NSD) that begins here Jan 7, will feature more new faces, experimental forms and a revival of old classics. Billed as the biggest in Asia, the Jan 7-19 festival will host 63 plays - 51 from India and 12 from abroad. It will also have an exhibition devoted to legendary playwright Badal Sircar.

“It is a departure from last year in the sense that the festival will have more new faces, more classics and a bigger slice of the Bengali stage to showcase changing theatre,” Anuradha Kapur, director of NSD, who is coordinating the festival and overseeing preparations, told IANS in an interview:

The plays will be staged at seven venues - Kamani Auditorium, the Shri Ram Centre, Meghdoot (open air), the LTG Theatre and three theatres in the premises of the NSD-Abhimanch, Sammukh and Bahumukh.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. What is the thrust of the Bharat Rang Mahotsav this year?

A: The focus is on young directors who are looking differently at different sort of texts. They are looking at classics by Rabindranath Tagore, short stories, poems, literature from across the world, blogs, newspaper clippings and several other non-dramatic narratives that can be dramatised. One of our intentions this time is to see how dynamic and volatile young people can get with new kind of thinking.

The trend started a few years ago and is gradually gaining ground. A lot of non-dramatic texts are being dramatised. India is now doing all kinds of theatres - from absolute classical theatre which has hundreds of years of history behind it to new media theatre, avant garde theatre and even folk theatre.

Q: Why are script-writers and directors culling from non-dramatic narratives?

A: Directors and writers are experimenting with different forms. What a blog can do, a novel or a script cannot and vice-versa. Young directors are looking at new forms with which they can expand their creative horizons and at formats that do not have conventional dramatic structures.

Q: Will the festival have an exhibition devoted to Badal Sircar? How exactly are you planning to showcase Badal Sircar’s theatrical legacy?

A: Badal Sircar is the architect of modern Indian theatre. We will re-evaluate his various ideas - fluid theatre, theatre of protests and almost everything from “Michil” to “Pagla Ghoda”, two of his popular plays, in the contemporary context. His plays and works reflect the realities of contemporary India for the past 50 years and have influenced students’ movements.

The grammar that he set up for the third theatre became central to students’ theatre. The exhibition will try to chronicle his contribution to modern stage.

Q: The National School of Drama has a very effective outreach programme at the state level. How has it helped revive regional genres and spread awareness about theatre at the grassroots?

A: One important aspect of our training is an attempt to take theatre to those people who cannot devote three years at NSD. We have an active programme in the northeast.

Q: How do you account for changes in Indian theatre down the years?

A: I think the major change that we have seen on the country’s stage is the explosion in variety.

For instance, in the 11th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, we are trying to present a mix of both young and old directors to drive home the process of change.

Shyamanand Jalan is coming with his play “Lehron ki Rajhans” by Mohan Rakesh, while young director Koushik Sen will stage his play “Bidushak” on the same day.

At the same time, there will be a lot of focus on Tagore. Kolkata-based Pathasena, a collaborative group work under Badal Sircar, will stage “Rakto Karabi” and Suhag Sen will present “Sonata”. There are three plays from Afghanistan, one a Molliere and two divine plays. The strife-torn country debuted in the festival last year.

We are trying to establish a global and inter-regional dialogue. And bring the contemporary stage like the new theatre of Bengal to the masses by revisiting old classics like “Antigone” and “Rakto Karabi” through the eyes of new directors.

The global dialogue, variety and new perspectives to old themes are the major changes that have steered the Indian contemporary stage in the last few years.

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