Entering its second year is an initiative that seeks to revive the ‘lost art’ of Hindi play-writing, that has for long been battling losing stakes and diminishing returns. On one hand, we have the cults of personality that are the mainstay of the culture pages, and on the other, sporadic offerings from a vast pool of talented writers who find it difficult to create sustainable profiles in an ecosystem in which playwrights are not particularly influential anymore. A few Hindi plays have emerged from Rage Theatre’s Writers’ Bloc workshops, that nurture works from conception to stage. While it is not a comparable mentoring program, the Being Association’s Sanhita Manch Festival spreads the net even wider, inviting nationwide entries of unpublished manuscripts, with the mandate of showcasing the best scripts as workable productions helmed by experienced directors. Quality as well as social consciousness are parameters on which works are adjudged.
Rasika Agashe and her husband, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, set up Being Association as a theatre collective of like-minded peers, and have balanced trenchant fare like
Museum of a Species in Danger
, a devised protest play that harnessed feminine outrage, with lighter works like
Iss Kambakht Sathe Ka Kya Karein
, embroiled in the close-to-home ennui of creative professionals in a mainstream industry. While the latter was based on Rajiv Naik’s Marathi play
Sathecha Kay Karecha?
, Agashe and Ayyub have often lamented the dearth of new original work in Hindi, which led to the setting up of the festival.
Last year’s opening edition of the festival flagged off five new productions, including Agashe’s staging of Rajesh Kumar’s
Sat Bhashe Raidas
, in which the 15th-century Bhakti mystic, Ravidas, is canonised almost as contemporary Dalit icon extraordinaire. Performed as a rousing folk drama replete with songs, satirical interludes and minor miracles, it is also a play that attempts to gamely wears the caste politics of our times on its sleeve, with cultural activist Dhamma Rakshit taking on the part of the eponymous saint. Being Association have impressively managed to tour the play beyond urban pockets into the great unexplored hinterland.
This week, from a selection of more than a hundred entries, the festival will showcase three new plays by emerging writers. “People are responding to social issues, but they are also presenting rational and balanced world-views,” says Agashe, of the general tenor of the scripts submitted this year. For instance,
, by Mrinal Mathur, evokes the reality of the Kashmiri political situation through an intimate if sardonic lens cast at Punjabi tourists looking to buy shawls on a budget. The play will be directed by Sajida of Treasure Art Association, a repertory company with units in Delhi and Imphal.
Agashe is also struck by the emerging contemporary idiom exhibited by some of the works. Her new play,
, written by Mukesh Nema, is also part of the Sanhita Manch showcase and takes on ages-old feudal conflicts through the intriguing prism of actors performing as rodents. “I found the manner of presentation to be very novel and it was challenging to execute,” she explains. The third play in the line-up is Ashwani Kumar Tiwari’s
, based on the life of Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, a fountainhead of Hindi poetry who never got his due during his lifetime. The play will be directed by Rajinder Singh of the Amritsar-based Dastak group. Apart from in-house director Agashe, the other directors have been specially invited to stage the winning manuscripts of their choice. And, in a tie-up with the historic Hindi Sahitya Bhandar, all three plays have been published in a book that will be launched with fanfare on the opening day of the festival. The book will be on sale during the respective runs of each play, a built-in distribution model of sorts that should ensure that the works reach out to a larger populace.
The festival will commence today with a book launch at 6 p.m. and staging of
at 7.30 p.m.; August 16 will have a lecture by Arvind Gaunachi at 2 p.m., In Conversation with Sunil Shanbag at 3 p.m. and Discussion sessions with Premanand Ghazi, Mahesh Dattani and Nadira Babbar at 4:30 p.m. followed by the staging of
at 7.30 p.m.; On August 17 there will be In conversation with Atul Tiwari at 2 p.m., Lecture with Murli Ranganathan
at 3:30 p.m., Discussion sessions with Makrand Deshpande, Amitoj Nagpal and Salim Arif – 4:30 p.m. the staging of
at 7:30 p.m.; Venue: P. L. Deshpande Auditorium, Prabhadevi, Dadar West. For tickets, check bookmyshow.com
People are responding to social issues, but they are also presenting rational and balanced world-viewsRasika AgasheDirector
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