Youth Theatre of Kerala brings plays from across Kerala

Theatre groups from 13 districts will fight it out for the prize money

From today, the sylvan grounds of Tagore Theatre will be the venue for a two-day Youth Theatre Festival of Kerala (YTFK) featuring plays from 13 districts of Kerala. The curtain goes up on plays inspired by mythology, folklore, contemporary events and more. “From 9 am, it will be plays unlimited as theatre enthusiasts of all shades come under the spotlight. Plays of diverse genres will be helmed by actors and directors from all walks of life, including students,” says actor Krishnan Balakrishnan, the festival coordinator.

Big win

  • The prize money is a highlight of the festival, with ₹1 lakh, ₹75,000 and ₹50,000 to be given to the top three teams respectively. Also, grants are provided to teams selected to the state-level contest and those who came second and third in district-level competitions.

Calling it a first-of-it-kind initiative by the Kerala State Youth Welfare Board (KSYWB), P Biju, vice-chairman of KSYWB, which is organising YTFK, says that the festival is among the several initiatives of the Board to promote art and culture among the youth. It has been conceptualised on the lines of prestigious national theatre festivals. “The plays were chosen after screenings and competitions held in the districts over a period of three months. Theatre has contributed immensely to the socio-cultural fabric of our state. We opted for the competition format to ensure fair and equal participation from all the districts, even those that may not have an active theatre culture,” he adds.

A scene from ‘Iravathi’ by Edam, Changanassery
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Special arrangement

While nine plays will be staged on the first day, the rest will be presented on the concluding day. Mazhavil Dhwani, a theatre group of transpersons, will stage their production Parayan Maranna Kathakal, prior to the valedictory function on February 22. Many of the plays deal with contemporary subjects with its aceent on political, economic, social and gender issues.

“We are nervous, but also excited about the opportunity. Such a big stage is a first for us,” Meera Krishnan admits. An alumna of SB College, Changanassery, Kottayam, she is the scriptwriter and one of the three directors of the play, Iravathi, which will be vying for top honours. The play recounts the trials and tribulations of the third gender through the story of Iravan, a character in the Mahabharatha. In the cast and crew are her friends and juniors from college. Playing the lead is another director of the play, Binto Alex.

A scene from ‘Kentonians’ by Little Earth School of Theatre, Malappuram  
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Arun Lal, director of Kentonians, a production of Little Earth School of Theatre, Malappuram, feels that a theatre festival involving the youth is a stimulus for theatre groups like theirs, whose members are all below the age of 40. “Although a competition has its limitations, such an initiative has its advantages. Besides being given a chance to take our work to a large audience, the reward is equally worth fighting for. If this festival becomes a regular feature, then, perhaps, in future, theatre groups will come up with productions specifically for this event,” says Arun, director of critically-acclaimed productions such as Chillara Samaram and Bolivian Stars.

Arun Kumar Karayi, director of the play, Abhisarika, a production of Yuva Arena CUKerala, the theatre club of Central University of Kerala, Kasaragod, is of the view that the festival has given opportunity for troupes from rural areas to showcase their creativity. “And we students couldn’t have asked for more. We pursue different streams of study at the University and the theatre club is the meeting point of actors, technicians and musicians,” says Arun, a research scholar at the University. The play, based on the Bengali film Rajkahini [later made in Hindi as Begum Jaan], is about a brothel that stood on Radcliff’s Line that separated India and Pakistan and the plight of the female prostitutes who eventually commit suicide. It was adjudged the first runner-up at the inter-university National Youth Festival at Noida earlier this month.

A scene from ‘Pets of Anarchy’ by APT, Thiruvananthapuram
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Meanwhile Sam George, director of Pets of Anarchy, a work of APT from Thiruvananthapuram, observes that it is sheer coincidence that he gets to present a work that reflects upon the volatile situation in India now. “It talks about what happens when a society fails to react. We made it soon after journalist Gauri Lankesh was murdered and it is more relevant now when the nation is up in arms against the Citizenship Amendment Acts,” says Sam.

Pramod Payyannur is the festival director. Entry is free.

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