Tuesday evening @Prithvi Theatre: Two Events
Urdu Mehfil - 19:00 to 20:45 hr - a panel dialogue in English/Hindi/Hindustani/Urdu by Danish Husain's Hoshruba Repertory
The Truth - 21:00 to 22:40 hr - a play in English by Naseeruddin Shah's Motley troupe
Bombay à la nuit
The play ended at 10:40 pm . All my attempts to get Ola/ Uber to reach D N Nagar Metro failed.
It's 11 pm and me still standing on Juhu Tara road. There is no chance to get the last Karjat fast local. Finally at 11:15 pm I get a shared Ola to drop me at Ghatkopar station, but not before dropping the other shared passengers and picking up another lady from International airport.
At Ghatkopar, I'm the only woman at the railway platform waiting for last Ambernath local expected at 12:28 am. It would take me another one hour to reach station .. then finding an auto-rickshaw to reach apartment. Of course, my brother remotely kept checking on me from another city via WhatsApp till I arrived home at 1:45 am.
The Ola shared taxi driver - I'd kept him engaged in a discussion like any Sociologists. He was happily sharing all his frustrations about no outcome of Ola/Uber strike(s) and why lack of political empathy of Maharastra government's intervention is hurting taxi driver's problems. The Railway police (RPF) guard in his early twenties, on duty, had only me as his companion in the ladies compartment Ambernath local train. The young auto-rickshaw driver at the railway station immediately recognised me - the lady who occasionally arrives late night and gives him an extra tip - a dual rarity in a place like Ambernath.
Three hours travel from Juhu to reach apartment to cuddle with Felixé Muezza, the kitten. All in all, six hours of to & fro travel for 180 min event worth it! I'd used travel time to write my quick n dirty reflection of a lovely Tuesday evening.
In 2017 I'd watched Motley troupe's play 'The Father' at NCPA Experimental. I can watch it again and again if Naseeruddin Shah remains the main protagonist! Le Père (The Father in french) and La Vérité (The Truth) is penned by Florian Zeller. Florian is one of France's contemporary playwrights and has also written a novel - La Fascination du Pire (The fascination of Evil) which was selected for Goulimard and created nice controversy.
My French course teacher in Montepellier had asked to read this book in 2005. I have not yet read it.. Anyways, coming back to Florian Zeller the magic he creates in his playwright I think directly reflects in the success of plays. The Father brings out amazingly the world of dementia and Naseeruddin Shah did an amazing work as André, the protagonist just like his fantastic co-partner Ratna Pathak Shah played the role of his daughter.
The Truth, keeps audience confounding through out 90 min performance. Once again both Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah along with Shruti Vyas and Gaurav Sharma holds audience's breath spinning out emotions. I am unable to place this play into one water-tight genre - its not entirely comedy - it smoothly bring out the nuances of lies through the different meanings and contexts of what is truth and for whom. In brief, how comfortable are we with truths and human instinct to get angry with truths - this and more gets untangled in this play. The script's magic has been wonderfully turned into a beautiful performance with production design. The single set becomes diverse locales with constant change of sets and props without any glitches... credit goes to the amazing background team for creating a beautiful ambience taking audience through imaginations and into the world of protagonists.
A must watch play - highly recommended.
URDU MEHFIL (check out more detail about Urdu Mehfil in my November 2018 blog)
As I'd mentioned in earlier blog my knowledge of Urdu literature is next to zero. Therefore, Urdu Mehfil is an excellent place for a novice like me to fill up that gap nicely.
Today's 90 mins of mehfil was the best I could've asked.
Each of the panelists - Jameed Gulrays and Danish Husain, and the Urdu scholar Lakshman Sapre nicely moderated this event on satire and humour in Urdu literature.
Jameed Gulrays shared the nice trajectory of how satire and humour has been introduced in Urdu literature and read out interesting pieces from Urdu poets and playwrights.
Lakshman Sapre ensured that the discussion takes the shape moving between what we understand as satire and humour and its take by Urdu as a language.
Danish Husain kept the humour level high and shared interesting analysis of how the term satire and humour emerges and the way famous Urdu literature scholars use humour - i.e. done by breaking a pattern of rhythmic the thinking of audience by taking them as a surprise. He narrated few dialogues of Ibn-e-Insha's play that he had adapted, directed and played 'Urdu ki akahri kitab '. Although I've seen his play but soon realised that hearing the dialogues again - I'd missed so much of the context. Another Urdu reading by Danish that touched me was Manto's essay/ take on Ashok Kumar's directorial film Aath Din (Eight days) - humour embedded in Manto's writing was so hilarious to hear.
I really wish this mehfil was video and audio recorded - such a superb event that you wish to re-look and hear it again. This would be my suggestion for future events - if not streaming live at least video recording and uploading in social media would help not only to document such wonderful event(s) which other wise is inaccessible to many, but also create a better understanding of what to expect in Urdu Mehfil's monthly (second Tuesday) event.
The next Urdu Mehfil i.e. Tuesday, 8th January, 2019, if I grasped correctly, will be dedicated to Fahmida Riaz (1946-2018). For those who don't her, just like I didn't knew about her.... she is regarded as a feminist progressive writer - a poet, fiction writer, but also brought new standards in Urdu literature movement.
My next Culture Call picks for this month are:
a) Films - 16mm Film Festival weekend - 15 and 16 December at Harkat Studio
b) Dance - Madhavi Mudgal and Vaibhav Arekar - 16 December NCPA
I've to drop out because I'm going for above 16 mm festival. Interested? Do get the ticket from me for free!
c) Dance - Mallika Sarabhai and Geeta Chandran - 21 December at NCPA
d) Play - Words have been uttered by Tamaasha Theatre - 31 December at Prithvi Theatre
Harkat Studios presents their first very own play: JAM.
Premier: @Prithvi Theatre, November 6, 2018. 60 mins; 19:00-20:00 hrs
The play merges live-projection, sand art and storytelling in a way that never seen before.
Bina and Surekha are college friends who haven’t met for years. Now they have met but are stuck in a car in a terrible traffic jam. For Surekha, this is an everyday situation. She drives, swears and is not above nudging a car that is refusing to give way. But is there more to her aggression? With no way out of the jam, they revisit their days back in Darjeeling and the treachery of their current lives. Matters take a sinister turn when Surekha scratches a bigger car. Was it deliberate? Why? In a headless turn of events, past and present merge, mirror and oppose each other. One decision can change your life forever, even if you believe you have forgotten - others remember…
Written by Annie Zaidi; Directed by Shivani Tanksale
Cast: Shivani Tanksale, Ishita Sharma, Ajitesh Gupta
Animation + Live Design: Debjani Mukherjee; Sound: Ajitesh Gupta; Light: Amogh Phadke
I've a driving license but I don't drive. I'd tried my hands in Indonesia for a few months driving around in my Isuzu Panther. Once on my way all by myself from Bogor to Puncak I was stuck in a traffic jam for four hours.
You don't know what traffic jam is until you hit the Bogor Puncak toll road on a weekend.
In one of those downhill stretches I softly hit the bumper of the car in front of me. Indonesian couple in the car were accommodating and didn't bother about a small dent. However, it was a big dent to my interest to drive.
Jam was a good enough reason for me to stop driving car from that day in 2003, and I was happy to driven around by my driver, Pak Jumhari.
This play, Jam, nicely shows how I can relate with the protagonist, Bina, played by Ishita Sharma. Like her even I don't know any technical details or names of different parts of a car. I honestly don't know :-)
Well, all the three on-stage actors including Shivani Tanksale and Ajitesh Gupta will make you believe you are in a traffic jam. A experience that comes to live thanks to amazing use of different media - sand-art animation, sound and lights - brilliant use of these in small doses keeps audience absolutely engaged for 60 minutes.
I see Jam as a superb experimentation of bringing together different art forms to share a simple story to make you almost 'feel' the space with the protagonists. A beautiful script by Annie Zaidi about two college friends from Mumbai going back-and-forth between their past lives and relationships, and revealing their own current relationships with each other. The use of Bollywood songs through a radio and involving Ajitesh as Radio Jockey in the background brilliantly uses the emotions of the two women protagonists - Surekha, the scientist and Bina, the 'happy' housewife from Pune exploring the idea of completing Masters degree.
You would truly enjoy this play - I'd highly recommend to watch it when you get a chance. Every time you are in traffic jam I bet this play will be a beautiful reminder!
After a low-key Onam sadya*, I'd a beautiful evening listening to storytelling, i.e. Qissebaazi in Urdu language.
Theatre events in Mumbai used to be known for its punctuality. This is changing rapidly. Today's show got delayed nicely by 20 mins - when it comes to timing I am more Dutch than a Dutch citizen and I arrive 20 mins before time! Anyways, during this 40 mins waiting time I'd a chance to continue playing on phone 'Godot Godot' - with 8 year son of my friend. He acts Pozzo and I'm his Lucky ..
This is my second blog on Qissebaazi already in three months! In May, while dealing with Mumbai summer wave, I'd watched for the first time Qissebaazi and I spontaneously became a fan. Since then I have been following this unique storytelling show in Mumbai, which is directed by Danish Husain under his production company, the Hoshruba Repertory. A few days ago, my nephew suggested a couple of indie Hindi films (a fact that I watched more Iranian & Latino films than Bollywood Hindi films) and one of the suggested films I happen to watch on Netflix was Ankhon Dekhi.. a nice surprise to see Husain in this film and to learn he is also a film actor.
The two performances lined up for today's event at Hive, the Great Eastern Company, Byculla, Mumbai were in Malayalam and Urdu languages. The uniqueness in appreciating this art form of storytelling lies in the idea to bridge the culture gap breaking language barriers. To me Qissebaazi is one of the most creative form of art using storytelling in a culturally diverse country like India, particularly, more so in this current political scenario.
All my indie documentaries under the Landing Together films are multilingual primarily to have a culture of language inclusivity - showcasing diverse ethnic tribal and indigenous peoples' languages bridge nature conservation. For example, when I use different tribal/adivasi languages in my film to narrate a social issue, it brings a deep cultural meaning with power wherein language is not just to share the information/ story, but to show how it shapes protagonist's opinions, perceptions, customs, and builds (or breaks) collective identities. Probably that's another reason why I am better able to connect with Qissebaazi's unique format.
Danish Husain's justification to tell stories in different languages works well because of the way he understands his audience and uses creativity in executing the stories. He does so by dividing each story into two languages. A 'core' language is that of the text, and a symbolic 'bridge' language often either in Hindi or English that helps the audience to comprehend the story.
By bringing stories in original language(s) in front of an urban-literate audience raises a crucial question about their 'languaculture adaptability' i.e. how do audience from culturally diverse background understand a story in a foreign language that belongs to another culture.
Padma Damodaran, opened her story with a Malayalam poem - a tribute to Kerala's fishermen who extended their unconditional support in disaster rescue operations during the recent floods. She picked up a beautiful story, 'Wooden Dolls', written by Karoor Neelakantha Pillai - of course, none from the audience (including me, I was born after his death) knew this famous short story writer. I'm not elaborating the plot here. Padma kept her audience engaged till the end - using Malyalam as core and English as the bridge language.
I liked the structure of today's programme wherein Danish did the introduction, followed by Padma's dance-song-story, and finally Danish wrapping up with a nice dastangoi/storytelling from Dastan-e-Amir-Hamza in bilingual - Urdu and Hindi. You might want to attend one of this storytelling events.
On my way back home - two hours train journey - looking at August's beautiful Sturgeon full moon made me ponder on how nature and art has been separated in Mumbai's urban setting.
I wish we can have some daredevil artists taking their art events to beaches, forts and mountain camps and pushing the urbanites out of their pigeon holes to enjoy theatre, storytelling, dance in relatively natural settings.... But, I doubt whether mainstream audience is ready to leave their popcorn comfort zone of watching commercial Bollywood films.
At least I am exploring option to screen my films in open sky theatre.. or forests. Till then time to prepare for my short film screenings, including one in India at Vikalp@Prithvi, Prithvi theatre, Mumbai on Friday, 26/10.
*Onam is a harvest festival originated and celebrated in the southern state of Kerala. Onam sadya is a typical traditional homemade food to celebrate this festival.