When theatres and auditoriums shut shop in April this year for the second time since 2020 due to the pandemic, it was a huge blow to an already suffering theatre community. They had just re-opened a couple of months ago after the first wave. Starved of live performances, theatre-lovers had slowly started trooping in, but the second wave struck, and the shutters came down once again. Virtual theatre and digital workshops became the norm.
With the Maharashtra government’s decision to re-open theatres and auditoriums for live performances and stage plays from October 22, there is a flurry of activity again in the rehearsal rooms. Whether it is reviving older plays or gearing up for rehearsals for new ones, production houses are ensuring they welcome theatre-goers with their best offerings.
The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) is all set to showcase live performances from October 29 onward, starting with the Marathi play Eka Lagnachi Pudhchi Gosht. Among other stage shows, there is a musical performance by Louiz Banks, SOI Chamber Orchestra and a concert by Rashid Khan. Motley’s Ismat Apa Ke Naam has a show at Prithvi Theatre on October 26. The next day, you can watch Naseeruddin Shah reciting his favourite Urdu and English poems at the same venue.
Here’s a glimpse of a few other live performances you can watch in the city in the coming few days…
Finding newer ways
Based on the short stories of Ali Akbar Natiq, The Hoshruba Repertory’s Ek Punjab Ye Bhi had premiered at Prithvi Theatre Festival in 2015 and had a run of 10 shows before it shut down that year. “I am reviving this play after six years with a new cast and design,” actor and director Danish Husain informs us. The shows are on December 2,3,4, and 5 at Prithvi Theatre.
Another play that will see a comeback is Aranya’s Jo Dooba So Paar. The play throws light on the human that Ameer Khusrau was, his relationship with his Guru Nizamuddin Auliya and the advent of qawwali through them. It was earlier directed by Manav Kaul, who has now handed the responsibility to Ajitesh Gupta and Mohit Agarwal. The musical dastangoi will have its shows on December 21, 22 and 23 at Prithvi Theatre.
Makarand Deshpande had started writing a new play Buddha during the lockdown. “Whatever happens around you affects you on some level. I think this play emerged out of the change within, and I just felt that this was the right time to do it,” says the theatre veteran, who cannot wait to step on the Prithvi stage once again with the play today.
Makarand has collaborated with sitarist Niladri Kumar once again for the music of the play. “When I work with him, it is easier to convey what I am saying to the audience,” he shares.
With this play, Makarand hopes that the audience will be able to delve within and find the peace they are looking for. “You have all the knowledge inside you, but it is of no use if you have not been able to get rid of anger and ego and if you have not been able to moderately control your desires,” he explains the thought behind the play.
Tribute to Ibsen
Ila Arun’s Surnai Theatre and Folk Arts Foundation has been organising Ibsen Festival since 2014 to highlight Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s plays. “Call it our courage or our hunger to stage shows, but we are celebrating the re-opening of theatres with the four-day Ibsen Festival from November 11 to 14,” she informs us. Adapted from Ibsen’s masterpiece Hedda Gabler, Ila’s Hardit Kaur Gill offers a glimpse of the frightening yet often comic mechanics of emotional violence at a close range.
The other two plays that are also part of the festival and are taking place on November 14 are Yeh Raste Hain Pyar Ke and Miracle on Matunga Street. The former is an original play written by Ila about two senior citizens who find new horizons opening for them in the course of their interactions. The latter is an adaptation of Tom Dudzik’s Miracle on South Division Street.
“I think we are the first ones to do a festival after the re-opening. Jennifer Kapoor used to say that once you are on stage and the lights are on you, then it should not matter whether there is one person in the audience or more. The show must go on,” she says.
Arts and politics
Atul Kumar will be directing himself in The Company Theatre’s new production, Taking Sides, for the first time. The play on arts and politics by British playwright Ronald Harwood is expected to be ready by mid-February, Atul says. At present, he is at their theatre residency in Kamshet with the cast and crew for the rehearsals.
Talking about the play, the actor and artistic director says that while arts and politics are always relevant, it is even more important to address them in today’s times when the current regime is targeting artists and thinkers. “Also, the play questions the position of an artist and the artist’s politics. Can art be bereft of all politics, or does it intrinsically carry a political view?” he adds.
In the meantime, their Hindi adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Piya Behrupiya, will have some shows in December. “There is another play we were making during the lockdown. We are trying to figure if we can somehow change it from digital to digital cum live performance,” he signs off.