Theater enthusiasts of Hyderabad witnessed readings of two exceptional plays at the British Council Library in Jubilee Hills on 21st and 22nd January 2017. As part of the Writers’ Bloc Showcase, a specially curated season of original plays by Indian Playwrights from Writers’ Bloc, Farhad Sorabjee and Annie Zaidi presented readings of their plays.
‘Hard Places’, written by Farhad Sorabjee and Directed by Nadir Khan, was a staged, sit-down reading in entirety with brilliant dialogue, expressions and sound effects. Nadir Khan and Faezeh Jalali as siblings, Shernaz Patel as the mother were eloquent and expressive that brought out the chemistry between their characters. The interplay of conversations and emotions between siblings, and mother & children was far-reaching. Farhad’s narrative interventions were interesting and added to the mood of the play.
For a play that first premiered in 2004 in Mumbai and presented multiple times across theaters in India and abroad, the script and narration were gripping and fresh. After 80 minutes of uninterrupted narration, the Playwright and the cast engaged in a q&a round with a much enthralled audience.
I was intrigued by the inclusion of expletives in a staged play and did not hesitate to question the playwright. It was in place to reflect aggression in the character, or so I was told. Not that I objected or had any reservations about the use of those words, I was more interested in understanding the mood of playwright at the time of scripting. On being asked, “if you were to write the play today, would you change anything in the script”, Farhad said, “No. And anyway, the play is already out there and presented several times, so…”
‘Jaal’, written by Annie Zaidi, Journalist & Author, Directed by acclaimed actor/director, Vinay Varma. The core theme of the play being ‘Displacement for Development’, the story is set in a fishing village called Mohagaon. The villagers are up-in-arms with the governing authorities over the construction of a dam on the river in their village, which serves as a major source of their livelihood.
Annie’s writing has depth and that comes from her empathy for rural population and their critical issues. When asked about its (the Play) impact, Annie said, “The authorities know the issues. The play was written so to reach the urban masses. Dams are built to benefit urban population and deeply impacts the livelihood of rural population.”
Well, for me the impact was huge as I was instantly reminded of the turbulent times of Narmada Bachao Andolan and Medha Patkar’s agitations for the inhabitants along the river.
Though, Jaal too was a staged reading with constricted space for movement, the cast of Sutradhar Theater Group gave an outstanding performance. With each character, I could visualize a Chacha, Mama, Kaaki, Gopal or Sangeeta in some distant village, struggling with myriad emotions. My personal favorite of the evening was Prathyusha Madapathi in the pivotal role of Jharna, the fisher woman and romantic interest of the lead protagonist, Gopal. Prathyusha delivered a stellar performance. She lived the character with her costume, diction, expressions, body language and rustic mannerisms.
The Direction of the play was impressive with an eye-for-detail. The pace was steady and engrossing. I had heard a lot about Mr. Vinay Varma from common friends, Director of Sutradhar Casting Agency, but what better way to be introduced than watching him in action.
The theater elite of the city was present in the audience and differed in their opinion pertaining to ‘reading’ of Jaal. Some found it distracting and felt it took away from the play. On the contrary, I felt the actors did a marvelous job and never once floundered; enacting and emoting while reading from a bound script. An aberration perhaps, from the set standards of the theater world.
Efficient management of logistics was by British Council in collaboration with Eventbrite, an events information portal.
Hyderabad is not just about Biryani & Haleem, nor does its magnificence end at the thresholds of Charminar. The twin cities have a rich history seeped in glorious theater & performing arts, and the writers & poets guilds as well, that offer a fantastic communion of art & culture.
The title of Rajdeep Sardesai’s video post on Saddahaq.com was beckoning. “Water First. Then Bharat Mata.” Finally, someone was talking about water scarcity. Alas! My enthusiasm was short lived. The video was yet another slugfest aimed at the Government of India. In the four minute video, all Rajdeep did was speak emotionally about how the politicians are seeking political mileage at various platforms or enforcing ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ on the citizens instead of focusing on key issues like water scarcity plaguing Maharashtra.