Public Spaces in India: How performance and art can revitalize them

by Zohra Malik

One of the most distinctive ways that we choose to talk about cities is usually with reference to how how they warp time, how fast or slow they seem to move. It’s not just our imagination, fortunately, because studies show that the reason why cities warp time differently is because of the pace of social life. The pace at which people move around in their city, their rhythm, interaction all of these make up the pace of social life which is how we identify with our city and negotiate with our space. In this context, the central hubs that facilitate this construction of how cities move and breathe generally turn out to be public spaces.


Cities have grown out of a basic need to live as a community and public spaces were traditionally designed to facilitate public interaction. However, the need to exploit real estate and construction potential of a city have left no real open spaces that encourage public interaction. Places like Oval and Cross maidan that are located in and around Churchgate; the parks we find at every turn in Chandigarh at every turn; even the MMRDA garden located in the suburbs of Mumbai; these usually have the odd group of children running around, a cricket team being coached, a group of adults playing football but other than that they seem to be missing the energetic vibe that one would hope to find in places like these. It’s almost like these spaces have come to embody the quality of “chill” that has taken our generation by storm. We could complain about the dearth of space, and yes, this is an issue but one that is being addressed by the movements like Open Mumbai initiative. For our part, we are trying to address the issue of stagnancy in these public spaces and what sort of a role performance, art as well as design can play in reviving them.

 

A lot of the public spaces in India seem to be designed keeping in mind the principle of function following form. According to movement generalist and co-founder of Mumbai Parkour, Cyrus Khan, the main reason for stagnation in public spaces is because most people stick to the limited possibilities of movements in these spaces and allow mono-utility to thicken like a bubble around us. When asked about how parkour changed the way he perceives public spaces Khan replied, “Parkour is this little pin that you find one day with a simple message. “Everything is for whatever you want it to be.” And with this pin, you go around popping all these bubbles, jumping down stairs, balancing on railings, climbing the walls – just releasing yourself from the narrow blinders to see a world full of possibilities.”

 


Picture Courtesy: Mumbai Parkour Facebook
Mumbai Parkour traceurs

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BXx8vY3gxY2/?taken-by=cyruskhanpk


He also cites the similarities between the designs of these spaces as one of the reasons for stagnation. “You see replicas of nearly the same play set in most gardens, with the only other spaces being walking tracks or open grounds.”

 

However, that is slowly changing with the government and organizations like ST+ART who are trying to add to the aesthetic appeal of the public spaces as well as encourage more activity. In Delhi, Gurgaon as well as in some parts of Mumbai, parks have been revamped to include machines for exercise that are absolutely free to use. The restoration of Hauz Khas Village and Deer Park and the re-painting of railway stations in Mumbai, have also significantly brightened up these spaces.




http://images.mid-day.com/images/2015/feb/10-king-c.jpg
King’s Circle Railway Station

 


https://anpuvarkey.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/anpu-final-photo-akshat-nauriyal-front-view.jpg?w=604&h=403
Anpu Varkey’s mural, ‘Lava Tree’, New Delhi.

Performances and art in public space change the way we look and think about our surroundings, and potentially challenge the design and diktats that we have created for those spaces. While we may sometimes catch the odd performance or two by the NSPA at stations or witness a street play, the seems to be some amount of hesitance in taking art out of theatres, galleries, auditoriums etc. You aren’t as likely to find someone playing a guitar and singing on Marine Drive as you would be to find someone playing the saxophone on the subways in London. Part of the reason could be that when you produce work within an institution there are certain rules and etiquettes that need to be adhered to and one’s boundaries as an artist are respected. This isn’t so when the audience is unpredictable and accidental and interaction between the artist and audience can lead to confrontation.
In an article by The Dance Current, Julia Taffe who is the artistic director of a dance company in Vancouver substantiated why it was worth embracing the uncertainties and ambiguities associated with performing out on the streets. “When I was a contemporary dancer working in the sanctity of the studio, I thought I needed to put space between myself and the world to protect and polish my artistry. After many years of public practice I’ve become more resilient, affable, collaborative and intuitive as a choreographer.”


https://i.ytimg.com/vi/y2REdl4VGxQ/maxresdefault.jpg
Living statue at Times Square

 

https://standinginnovation.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/2-the-cast-of-once-busking-at-leicester-square-tube-photo-credit-matt-crockett.jpg

 

It is glaringly obvious that to make art accessible, it is necessary for artists to trust the public. Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, “The Art of Asking” reiterates the same sentiment as she regales us on a time when she stripped and let her fans draw on her at a Kickstarter party in Berlin, the visceral feeling of trusting strangers and the blurring of boundaries between artist and audience. Artistes in India like Anish Victor and Shaunak Mahbubani have picked up on these ideas and are curating and collaborating on projects such as UR/Unreserved; which is a series of performances that will take place on trains in four destinations, all the while contemplating notions of identity; and Traversing Experiences which was an art installation curated to showcase the experience of traversing through public spaces as a woman.


https://dunked.cdn.speedyrails.net/assets/prod/36774/p1bdhruvbh1t35coh1iv7164itg13.JPG

Traversing Experiences by Shaunak Mahbubani

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So we are able to recognize public spaces where art and culture can be celebrated, festivals like Kala Ghoda and Kochi Bienalle are proof of that but to make using public space for art a long-term commitment we need to recognize how performance and art transform urbanized, individual spaces into a space that is communal, congenial and invites participation. As artistes, we need to show some Palmer-esque grit and trust the public and as spectators we need to create spaces that care about art.

 

To join Cyrus Khan and his barrel of monkey men AND women, you can follow them here:
Mumbai Parkour | Facebook

Mumbai Parkour (@mumbai_parkour) • Instagram photos and videos

 

To know more and contribute to Anish Victor for the UR/Unreserved project, go to:

UR/Unreserved- a 30 day arts project on trains

 

References:

 

http://www.forbesindia.com/blog/economy-policy/the-importance-of-parks-and-public-space/

 

http://www.thedancecurrent.com/feature/reconsidering-public-space

 

https://dusp.mit.edu/cdd/news/designing-indian-streets-social-public-spaces-contextual-design-and-planning-bangalore

 

http://www.academia.edu/33179967/_2017_._Good_policy_practices_for_public_space_and_street_art

 

        

 


The Guru-Shishya Parampara with Sunil Shanbag and Sapan Saran

Written by Gaurangi Dang

The fourth instalment of Conversations@theDSM saw theatre thespian Sunil Shanbag, and writer, poet, actress Sapan Saran talk about their initiative Tamaasha Theatre, Sunil Shanbag’s plays, the changing trends in theatre, and the relevance of theatre in today’s world.
Continuing with the Guru-Shishya tradition, Sapan who has grown under the mentorship of Sunil Shanbag interviewed the latter on 8 July at the Purandare Hall in Sahitya Sangh.

I first met Sunil Sir two years ago, in class at The Drama School, Mumbai. He called me his problem child. Since then, not much has changed. I get flabbergasted and tongue-tied around him every time I meet him, and he being the kind man that he is, tries to deal with me as patiently as possible. In all this time I have accumulated a whole list of questions that I want to ask him. That situation was remedied to a great extent on Saturday, 8 July, when Sapan Saran sat down with Sunil sir at the Drama School, Mumbai for an illuminating discussion.

Sapan and Sunil sir have been collaborating over the last few years. Their first project together was the play Club Desire and in 2015, they co-founded the Tamaasha Theatre. In some ways one could say, that Sunil sir is a mentor to Sapan, like Satyadev Dubey was to him.

Let’s rewind a little bit.

The year was 1966. India had already seen three Prime Ministers in January itself, and a young eight-year-old Sunil Shanbag was boarding train by himself to go to Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh. Then one day in class, his teacher mentioned that he’d be directing a play and asked them if anyone of them would like to be in it. This information came as a revelation to a kid trying to blend in. Despite not knowing anything about theatre, Sunil Shanbag’s hand immediately shot up into the air. On show-day there was an accident where the curtain rose while he was taking still his place on stage. It was awkward and they had re-do the bit, but from there on everyone in school knew who he was. “After that I was in every play that my drama teacher directed.”

After school, he returned to Mumbai and began to do theatre in the city. Dina Pathak, whom he had worked with back in school, got him in touch with Satyadev Dubey. “I kept thinking if only I had joined him five years earlier. Dubey had directed Andha Yug. The critics say that was when Dubey was at his peak.” Later, while answering a question from the audience mentioned every play and every period is important. Having said that Shanbag Shanbag was blessed to join Dubey at a time, when he was regrouping. His core group of actors had moved away and begun to do their own work and he was looking for new talent to work with. Before he knew it, Shanbag became an integral part of Dubey’s Theatre Unit, so much so that his parents felt like they had given their son to him. He went from (doing odd jobs, to) acting in his plays, to assisting him till eventually he was allowed to conduct rehearsals by himself. Dubey was an eccentric man. When you worked with him, “his friends became your friends and his enemies your enemies.” Other than noted theatre stalwarts in the city, the NSD was out of bounds for Shanbag because Dubey hated the NSD. And so, Shanbag was stumped when Dubey went on to direct plays there!

Each theatre group back in the day had it’s own core crew, and you were expected to work with only your group. While Shanbag understood that, he also wanted to be able to sit in on other people’s rehearsal and process. He soon realized that while the theatre circuit was filled with great actors, they had very little technical knowledge. So he began designing and operating lights for other groups. This allowed him to move around freely without being constantly chided by Dubey. Eventually, he was thrown out by Dubey and asked to run his own company. In 1985, he set up the theatre company Arpana.

Almost everybody that did theatre back then, also kept a day job. Most people worked in banks, for a banks had reservation for the arts and had fixed timings, so post five you were free to do whatever you wanted. Shanbag on the other had assisted Shyam Benegal and worked as a documentary filmmaker on projects such as Yatra, Surabhi and Bharat Ek Khoj. This was before the privatisation of television. In 1994 he won the National Award for his documentary film Maihar Raag, on the Maihar Gharaana in Madhya Pradesh.

Whether it’s Maihar Raag or Cotton 56, Polyester 84, there is a specific social objective. He says that it has something to do with where he comes from and why he is an artist. You have to know as to “why do you want to do this play?”

There is a lot more, so watch the video, and be there for the next talk with Mohit Takalkar and Alok Rajwade on the 19th August, at The Drama School Mumbai, at 5 pm.

 


Conversations@theDSM: Mohit Takalkar and Aalok Rajwade

 

The August instalment of Conversations@theDSM will be the fifth. So we thought we will step up and do something interesting to mark the occasion. So we got  internationally renowned playwright and director Mohit Takalkar, who will be interviewed by his colleague and friend, a young director and actor, Aalok Rajwade.

Mohit has had an immense experience internationally as well. Not only have Mohit’s productions have gone abroad, but he has also worked on the directorial aspect of international productions with the likes of the legendary Tim Supple. Aalok, on the other hand, has been making heads turn with his out of the box, socially aware Marathi plays. Be it experimenting with format, presentation or content, Aalok has all the feathers in his cap.

Both these Punekars will grace the DSM with their presence on the 19th August, with the talk starting at 5 pm.

 

About Mohit Takalkar

Mohit had his first exposure to theatre at Progressive Dramatic Association (PDA) before setting up his own theatre group Aasakta in Pune in 2003. He has been active in various aspects of theatre for the past eighteen years earning a reputation for the group and him, with his works; widely acclaimed by both the audience and the critics. His plays have toured the length and breadth of India and have also been invited to National and International festivals.

Since his first play, Girish Karnad’s Yayati in 1999, Mohit has directed other notable plays which include ‘Mein Huun Yusuf Aur Ye Hai Mera Bhai’, ‘Uney Purey Shahar Ek’, ‘Gajab Kahani’, ‘Garbo’, ‘Kashmir Kashmir’, and ‘Chotyashya Suttit’. He has directed plays in Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, English, Rajasthani and Kannada.

He was invited at the Lincoln Centre in New York to participate in The Directors Lab and at the Performing Arts meet in Yokohama, Japan. He assisted celebrated director Tim Supple in his version of Midsummer Night’s dream performed all over the World.

He has been awarded the prestigious Homi Bhabha Fellowship, Bismillah Khan Sangeet Natak Award, META, Aditya Vikram Birla Kalakiran Puraskar, Sahitya Rangbhoomi Fellowship, Zee Gaurav Puraskar, Maharashtra State Award etc.

 

About Aalok Rajwade

Aalok Rajwade has played an active and contributive part in the Marathi experimental theatre scenario for the past nine years as an actor as well as a director.

With critically acclaimed plays like ‘Geli 21 Varsha’, ‘Mi…Ghalib’, ‘Natak Nako’ ,’Sivacharitra ahi Ek’, ‘Tichee 17 prakarane’  and ‘Binkamache Samwad’ as his directorial ventures,  he is considered to be an upcoming director with an eye for the aesthetics and a vision to go beyond the obvious. As an actor, he has performed vivid roles in the plays ‘Bed ke neeche renewali’, ‘Dalan’, ‘Ashadhatil ek diwas’ and many more.

In the past, he has got the opportunity to showcase his skills at  prestigious theatre festivals such as ‘META’, ‘Jashn E Bachpan’ and ‘Bharat Ranga Mahotsav’ at ‘NSD’, ‘Summertime Festival’ at Prithvi, ‘Thespo International’ as well as in ‘Universo Theatro Festival’ and ‘Rosobastardo festival’, Italy.

He is a proud holder of the Vinod Doshi Fellowship, Damu Kenkre Puraskar, Nargis Datta puraskar AND Lakshmikant Berde puraskar which has only helped him work on his skills even more.

 

About Conversations@theDSM

Conversations are a tradition in theatre. And so, the DSM brings an entire series of discussions, talks and conversations, curated for the first weekend of every month. Our purpose in these conversations is twofold. First, we celebrate the bond between guru-shishya. Teachers in school, professors in college, coaches at the gym and directors in the rehearsal hall – all mentors have taught you something through conversations. That something makes you the person you are today.

The second purpose in these conversations is to celebrate Rekha Sabnis.

Rekha Sabnis was a one-woman theatre army. She ran theatre group Abhivyakti from her house. She took care of sets, costumes, bookings, transport, tickets as well as acting and directing. Abhivyakti starting performing at the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, the same building that houses the DSM today. Rekha Sabnis was a key force behind the DSM-Sahitya Sangh partnership. And this partnership makes our work forging a new generation of theatre-makers, possible.

Rekha passed away in September last year, studying elements of the Natya Shastra till the very last.

Conversations@theDSM started in April. It is our small way of paying tribute to a great spirit who made theatre a little bit better for us all. These conversations form part of an ongoing series of talks between theatre-makers young and old. The entire series has been curated by Yugandhar Deshpande and Anuja Kale of Theatre Across.


Aadyant 2017 - Not the end, but the beginning

 

Aadyant is the annual showcase of the DSM’s graduating batch, where the students conceptualise 15 minute performances, write them, direct them, act in them. The conceptualising student has to helm an important responsibility in that performance, that is the condition. Everyone else can then take over other responsibilities related to the performance.

This year, we had five performances, written by Adarsh Gourav, Shruti Sunder, Khushbu Baid, Chrisann Pereira and Komal Khanna.

Aadyant was held on the 10th June and a repeat, second show on the 11th June. Both days, much to the delight of the students, the place was jampacked.

Up first was Shruti Sunder’s piece, The Skeleton Woman, performed by Komal Khanna, Vidyut V and Abhishek Chauhan. The magic realism like theme of it, with a presentation done beautifully, made it a delight. It flowed and took the audience to places. Dealing with the concept of death and coming back to life, the piece kept the audience waiting for more.

Next was Komal Khanna’s Finding Meera, performed by Shruti Sunder, Vidyut V and Deepmala Khera. The mystery thriller about Meera being nowhere to be found, and her roommate (Shruti Sunder) approaching a private detective (Vidyut V) to find her ends in a way one would not expect. The mystery held the audience in their seats and the revelation had their jaws drop.

Then came Khushbu Baid’s State v/s Thapa, a funny take on the judiciary of our country through the case of a Nepali security guard who has killed what is said to be a ghost. The satire was brilliantly portrayed by all the actors, Abhishek Chauhan, Adarsh Gourav, Deepmala Khera and Khushbu Baid. Abhishek and Khushbu played multiple characters and nailed it. The piece left the audience laughing and clapping for the most part. It was also a good relief for the audience after watching two intense pieces prior to this.

Chrisann Pereira’s The Platform was the fourth performance that evening. Four performers, Abhishek Chauhan, Khushbu Baid, Shruti Sunder and Komal Khanna were confined in a space of 8ft x 4ft, and they performed a movement oriented piece about oppression. The four performers portrayed various kinds of oppression, from the oppression of thought to the oppression of action. 

The last performance was Aadarsh Gourav’s Ayyo Raju. Performed solo by VIdyut V, the piece was about an old man, who is left alone at home with the family’s pet dog, Raju, while his family have gone on a vacation. The man, at first, is not too caring about the dog, but after his son promises him a Tata Sky connection on return as a thank you for taking care of Raju. This comes when Raju has escaped his leash and ran away. The rest of the performance is about how he manages to leash the dog again.

Aadyant’s raging success as an event this year has made everyone at the DSM very proud. With the 2016-2017 batch now graduated, the school is ready for the next batch which will start their course in July. And Aadyant will return with the new batch, next year.

 


The Curious Case of a Farmer/Writer

At the third instalment of the lecture series, the conversation revolved around the celebrated play Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla. The playwright, Rajkumar Tangde, was interviewed by the lead actor of the play, Kailash Waghmare. Both Rajkumar and Kailash, apart from being colleagues, are also great friends and mentor each other throughout their artistic endeavours.

Historical figures have often been used by political parties to their own end. In the state politics of Maharashtra, Shivaji is one such figure. The play, Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla, provides an alternative and a humane history to the founder of the Maratha empire in the 17th century. The play exposes the political parties who have literally “kidnapped” what Shivaji stood for. It brings back the importance of debate, the need to revisit history and search for answers and rebukes political propaganda. The play is of particular importance today, almost five years after its inception, due to the increasing influence of a majoritarian political party while suppressing minorities in the Indian scenario.

The interview itself was a great mix of fun and serious topics. It started off with a question from Kailash Waghmare about how Rajkumar Tangde could write something like a Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla, a play commenting on societal issues, on one hand and how he has also written a romantic novel on the other. Rajkumar responded with the fact that as a writer and a human being different things affect him at different times and writing is an extension and expression of himself. Hence, Malyavarcha Phool, the novel came about.

Waghmare then moved to asking how writing fit and where it came from in Rajkumar’s life which was filled with handling a farm, roaming around on bullocks, and just being about in the rural life. Waghmare even added that a poem here and there, or even a novel would have been understandable, but how does a play fit in this whole scenario.

Rajkumar said that as he grew up, he realised the true problems while living that life. Those problems needed an outlet, an expression, and a search for a solution. As he read more and more, and experienced more and more, he realised that expressing these concerns are not only important for himself, but also to let the world know what he wants to say. That’s how writing came into the picture. And somehow it was always a play that he wrote. The novel happened much later.

Rajkumar also told how two of their other plays, Kaay Dila Swatantryane and Aaakda, had done decently well. But they were not expecting Shivaji to do this well, either. But it happened, and it was great. He said, “Sambhaji (his brother) and I were planning to do something around Shivaji Maharaj. And that’s when through pure coincidence, Kailash came to me with Shahir Sambhaji Bhagat’s concept. It took a year and a half for us to finish the script. The 13 actors used to leave everything, all their jobs and come for rehearsals in 10-day batches every month or two. It is that sacrifice, which even today they do for the play, is what will sustain this play in the future.”

“After Nandu Madhav came onboard as the director, and we were done setting the play up, we needed a producer. We performed in front of about 4-5 different producers but none of them were ready. They were unhappy about not having a celebrity face, the topic being too controversial, or it just not being a good play in their view. Nandu sir helped us not lose hope and we somehow managed to find a stable producer in Rangmala eventually,” informed Rajkumar.

When they wanted to advertise the first show, the newspaper wasn’t ready to publish the advert due to the controversial nature of the title. So they had to add a line in the add, ‘Naav vachun dachku naka, Naatak bagha, Sobat ya!’, which means ‘Don’t be shocked by the name of the play, watch the play, and join us.

One of the most interesting things Rajkumar Tangde said was that an artist should not forget that he/she is a human first. And that the slogan ‘show must go on’, as cool as it sounds, should not be followed to the tee. That was a lesson for all the thespians to remember, just like the lesson in history that the play intends the audience to remember.


Conversations@theDSM: Sunil Shanbag and Sapan Saran

Image Courtesy: thehindu.com

 

Fourth instalment of Conversations@theDSM brings to you theatre maverick Sunil Shanbag, and writer, poet, actress Sapan Saran, who will talk about their initiative Tamaasha Theatre, Sunil Shanbag’s plays, the changing trends in theatre, and the relevance of theatre in today’s world.

Continuing with the Guru-Shishya tradition, Sapan who has grown under the mentorship of Sunil Shanbag will be interviewing the latter.

 

About Sunil Shanbag

Sunil Shanbag is a theatre director and producer based in Mumbai. He started his theatre work with Satyadev Dubey in 1974 and worked with him for ten years as an actor, designer, and director before he founded the Arpana theatre company in 1985 with a group of his theatre colleagues. Arpana remains an active theatre company till date and has several notable productions to its credit including Ramu Ramnathan’s Cotton 56, Polyester 84, Sex, Morality, Censorship written by Shanta Gokhale and Irawati Karnik, Stories in a Song made in collaboration with Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan, Club Desire written by Sapan Saran, and more recently, Loretta written by Goan writer Pundalik Naik.

In 2015 he co-founded Tamaasha Theatre with Sapan Saran to broaden their definition of theatre, seed the city with intimate, alternative art venues, and work with younger theatre practitioners. Sunil has been actively involved in theatre training, and documentation projects which include the book Scenes We Made, edited by Shanta Gokhale, which traces the history of experimental theatre in Mumbai from the late 1950s to about 2000. He is also part of the core team of SMART, India’s only strategic management programme for theatre, which has worked with about 30 theatre companies from across India over three years. In addition, Sunil has been an independent documentary filmmaker, been involved as a writer and researcher for large scale television projects such as Bharat Ek Khoj and Surabhi, and community history projects such as museums and oral history archives.

 

About the interviewer: Sapan Saran

Sapan Saran is a poet, writer, and an actor based in Mumbai. She is a founding member of the theatre company, ‘Tamaasha’, which aims to explore new theatre ideas in alternative spaces.

Her association with theatre began with a collaboration with dancer Astad Deboo. She has written Club Desire, and Classics Redux, which have been directed by veteran theatre director Sunil Shanbag, with whom she also co-directed the play Marriage-ology. Her first play, Club Desire, a Theatre Arpana and National Centre for the Performing Arts (India) production, was selected for National School of Drama’s International Theatre Festival, Bharat Rang Mahotsav 2015. The Churchgate Couple, a short 10-minute piece from Marriage-ology, written by her, garnered appreciation by critics and audiences alike. She conceived the critically acclaimed production, ‘Blank Page’ in 2015. Her most recent play is ‘Waiting For Naseer’, a quirky, philosophical comedy, that she has written and directed.

She performs regularly as a theatre actor, has modelled in several advertisements, and acted in films. Her poems have been published in several magazines, including the Sahitya Akademi’s Samkaleen Bhartiya Sahitya. Recently, the hindi magazine, Samved, came out with a supplementary book that contained 50 of her poems.

 

About Conversations@theDSM

Conversations are a tradition in theatre. And so, the DSM brings an entire series of discussions, talks and conversations, curated for the first weekend of every month. Our purpose in these conversations is twofold. First, we celebrate the bond between guru-shishya. Teachers in school, professors in college, coaches at the gym and directors in the rehearsal hall – all mentors have taught you something through conversations. That something makes you the person you are today.

The second purpose in these conversations is to celebrate Rekha Sabnis.

Rekha Sabnis was a one-woman theatre army. She ran theatre group Abhivyakti from her house. She took care of sets, costumes, bookings, transport, tickets as well as acting and directing. Abhivyakti starting performing at the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, the same building that houses the DSM today. Rekha Sabnis was a key force behind the DSM-Sahitya Sangh partnership. And this partnership makes our work forging a new generation of theatre-makers, possible.

Rekha passed away in September last year, studying elements of the Natya Shastra till the very last.

Conversations@theDSM started in April. It is our small way of paying tribute to a great spirit who made theatre a little bit better for us all. These conversations form part of an ongoing series of talks between theatre-makers young and old. The entire series has been curated by Yugandhar Deshpande and Anuja Kale of TheatreAcross.

 

Date: 8th July 2017

Time: 5 pm

Venue: The Drama School Mumbai, 5th floor, Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Kele Wadi, Girgaon, Charni Road East, Mumbai 400004.


Conversations@theDSM: Rajkumar Tangde and Kailash Waghmare

At the third instalment of the lecture series, the conversation will revolve around the celebrated play Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla. The playwright, Rajkumar Tangde, will be interviewed by the lead actor of the play, Kailash Waghmare. Both Rajkumar and Kailash, apart from being colleagues, are also great friends and mentor each other throughout their artistic endeavours.

Historical figures have often been used by political parties to their own end. In the state politics of Maharashtra, Shivaji is one such figure. The play, Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla, provides an alternative and a humane history to the founder of the Maratha empire in the 17th century. The play exposes the political parties who have literally “kidnapped” what Shivaji stood for. It brings back the importance of debate, the need to revisit history and search for answers and rebukes political propaganda. The play is of particular importance today, almost five years after its inception, due to the increasing influence of a majoritarian political party while suppressing minorities in the Indian scenario.

About Rajkumar Tangde
Rajkumar Tangde is a Marathi playwright who has to his credit plays like the critically acclaimed Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla, Kaay Dila Swatantryane, Aakda among others. He has also written plays like Tisra Paaul and Swargarohun.

About the interviewer: Kailash Waghmare
Kailash Waghmare did his Master in Theatre Arts from Mumbai University. He has acted in plays like Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla directed by Nandu Madhav and English play Lorett by Sunil Shanbag. He has also starred in multiple films and short films including Manatlya Unhat, Mor Dekhne Jungle Main, Tukaram, Mhadu, Half Ticket, Bhikari, Dry Day, Maajhi Shaala and many others.

About Conversations@theDSM
Conversations are a tradition in theatre. And so, the DSM brings an entire series of discussions, talks and conversations, curated for the first weekend of every month. Our purpose in these conversations is twofold. First, we celebrate the bond between guru-shishya. Teachers in school, professors in college, coaches at the gym and directors in the rehearsal hall – all mentors have taught you something through conversations. That something makes you the person you are today.

The second purpose in these conversations is to celebrate Rekha Sabnis.

Rekha Sabnis was a one-woman theatre army. She ran theatre group Abhivyakti from her house. She took care of sets, costumes, bookings, transport, tickets as well as acting and directing. Abhivyakti starting performing at the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, the same building that houses the DSM today. Rekha Sabnis was a key force behind the DSM-Sahitya Sangh partnership. And this partnership makes our work forging a new generation of theatre-makers, possible.

Rekha passed away in September last year, studying elements of the Natya Shastra till the very last.

Conversations@theDSM started in April. It is our small way of paying tribute to a great spirit who made theatre a little bit better for us all. These conversations form part of an ongoing series of talks between theatre-makers young and old. The entire series has been curated by Yugandhar Deshpande and Anuja Kale of Theatre Across.

 

Date: 17th June 2017

Time: 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Venue: The Drama School Mumbai, Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Mumbai, India 400004


The "Paraya" who became a playwright

Conversation @theDSM: Shafaat Khan with Akshay Shimpi

by Gaurangi Dang

 

Gaurangi Dang is an alumnus of The Drama School Mumbai. She has been working with Ramu Ramanathan since she graduated from the DSM. He was the one who told her about the talk. After the talk, Gaurangi annoyed him with questions. The next day he said that DSM wanted a write up about the talk and if Gaurangi would be interested in doing it or should he ask Akshay Shimpi instead. Gaurangi said that he should ask Akshay sir, for she didn’t have any notes.

Three hours later, Gaurangi sent him whatever she remembered. Here it is.

 

 

Shafaat Khan spoke to a handful of theatre students and theatrewallahs at the legendary Purandare Hall of the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh on 13 May 2017. It started when he was a little boy. His father had a government job that required them to constantly be moving across Maharashtra. Young Shafaat Khan would create a new identity for himself, each time they moved and he’d continue to be this person until he was caught in “a lie”.

Sometimes things would get awkward, especially in the history class.

Shafaat Khan said, “History is taught in a specific way in our country. There are very few Muslim heroes in our books. When little children learn about the battle between the fearless Shivaji and Afzal Khan in class, they all want to be Shivaji.”

The children in Shafaat Khan’s school were no exception. Since there were already so many Shivajis, the responsibility of being Afzal Khan would land on the tiny shoulders of Shafaat Khan regardless of whether or not he wanted to play the part. The original battle ended with Shivaji beating Afzal Khan, but this history chapter continued during the recess breaks.

By the time he was six, the family had moved to Gokarna. Their neighbours – their home was directly opposite his – had hosted a Yakshagaan performance in their aangan one evening. This colourful, loud and noisy spectacle formed his first impressions of the magic of theatre.

Later from another terrace, he’d see lines of people going towards the temple near his house on a regular basis. These people would be clutching a chicken by its feet and singing jovial ditties. On their way back, they’d still be holding the chicken by its feet and singing, but the head was chopped off and so the blood would drip down and cover the entire pathway.

In all this lay “drama”.

The Khans lived in a government housing with sprawling compounds. Back in those days, theatre troupes would travel from village to village, performing Ram-Leela. Sometimes the troupes would perform in their house, near the water-tank and often Shafaat Khan would watched the play from his vantage position in the home. After their scene was enacted, the actors would return backstage, lift up their saree or dhoti, sit on the floor and light a beedi and sip their chai. To someone who had just seen them on stage, these people were gods and they looked like gods, but there they were sitting at an arm’s distance from him smoking their beedi. The actors made up like divinity with bows and arrows in hand, squatting on the ground and behaving so mundanely – can do to the mind of a child, who then watches them step onstage and play gods in a completely different light!

This was the story within a story within a story.

This young Shafaat Khan grew up, wrote a one act play for an inter-collegiate competition that bombed, but still he fell in love with writing.

He eventually went on to become a cult playwright.

In 1997, the NSD wanted to create a repertory of work in order to commemorate the 50 years of the “radiant, auspicious journey” of the independent India. For this golden jubilee celebration, many playwrights were invited for a workshop – Arjun Deo Charan from Jodhpur, Hasmukhbhai Baradi from Ahmedabad, Shafaat Khan and others – to write an Independence Day play with government grants. Khan had no concept for the piece, and the pressure of producing something was massive.

While most of the writers went into the residency with a story, Shafaat saab was still waiting for the story to come to him. Each morning they’d all wake up and share their respective stories and how far they’d gotten. When it was Shafaat Saab’s turn, he’d apologise and tell them that he was still searching. This went on for a few days. At this point Shafaat Saab had begun to get a little restless.

While at the workshop, he read a newspaper clipping about a jeep traversing a dessert to drop people off to their destinations. A villager had gotten off at his village, and had found himself unable to pay the Rs. 2 fare that the driver demanded. What happened as a result was that the driver drove his jeep in reverse, ramming into the villager and killing him.

Something clicked inside Khan’s brain.

He said, “A play is prepared inside of you. This newspaper report triggered it within me. Fifty years after his country has received independence, a citizen doesn’t have Rs 2 to pay for a ride and it results in his death. Who has acquired this freedom we speak of? What dirty politics are played in the name of class and caste? These are the questions a writer must ask.”

A few days later on the invitation of his director friend Waman Kendre to the August Kranti maidan. Kendre was rehearsing for a play nearby and asked him to come along for a rehearsal. The play was based on the freedom struggle. Huge performances were planned for the August Kranti maidan. Elephants and canons were all present on the maidan alongside my Marathi theatre friends, who had called me there for a rehearsal. The first thing Khan saw on entering was Jhansi ki Rani, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi in conversation whilst in full costume. On seeing Khan, Nehru instantly came up and asked, “Do you have a matchbox, I need to light my cigarette?”

Khan couldn’t even recognise his friend in costume, and the matchbox interaction with Nehru struck him as very odd.

He thought it would be rude of him to deny Nehru a cigarette, especially since they all looked so exhausted. It turned out that Shafaat Saab had found his story.

It had always been within him. This was just the turning point.

The images buzzed in his head, and the first draft was ready in five days. This was Shobha Yatra’s process.

Someone at the talk asked him during the Q&A session, “Why writing?”

He very wisely replied, “As a child I always felt like I was ‘paraya (outsider)’. Playwriting was my way of getting society to accept me.”

 


The DSM Comes to Chennai!

 

Chennai: DSM Open Day series with Tushar Pandey

The DSM’s Open Day series visits for the first time in Chennai! And it is completely free and open to all!

 

At the DSM Open Day, leading theatre-makers, who are also DSM faculty, will show you what students at the school are taught as a part of their training. This is an excellent opportunity for you to witness first hand what makes learning at The Drama School Mumbai the best stepping stone for a bright career in theatre.

After successful Open Days in Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune, the DSM Open Day now comes to Chennai for the FIRST time ever.

 

About the Facilitator

Tushar Pandey

Tushar is an India based Actor, Director and a Teacher. He is an International awardee, with specialisation on Lecoq’s pedagogy from the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA) and a graduate of the National School of Drama (NSD), India, Tushar has been practising performance since 2003. During the last eight years, he has been associated with various projects in India and the UK, performing, conducting workshops, creating works from classical styles to site-specific contemporary, acrobatic and mask-based works.

Apart from performing and creating work for stage in India, UK, Greece, China, Dubai, Tushar acted in a pivotal role in acclaimed film ‘PINK’, released in 2016, and has also played a lead role in an independent film, ‘Beyond Blue’, which premiered at Marche du (Cannes Film Festival 2015). He received Best Actor special mention at a festival in Rome in December 2015.

Tushar’s work concerns highly visual movement-and-text based combinations of fiction and non-fiction sources and is presently devising works to develop performance language and create new expressions that go beyond existing performance boundaries. Tushar is the co-convener of The Drama School, Mumbai and has been a visiting faculty at National School of Drama, New Delhi.

Oh, and the Open Day is completely FREE and open to all!

To sign up, write to us on info@thedramaschoolmumbai.in or give us a call on 9619336336.


The DSM Comes to Thane

Open Day Series: Akshay Shimpi in Thane!

The first DSM Open Day workshop in Thane!

After successfully conducting workshops across Mumbai, Pune and Delhi, DSM Open Day comes to Thane for the very first time!

Thane has traditionally been a place which cares about its arts and culture. And it is with the same love for the arts and theatre that DSM visits the city.

Get a chance to experience world-class training and know more about the Post Graduate Diploma in Acting and Theatre-making at The Drama School Mumbai during its Open Day Series which has already travelled to 3 other cities. Here leading theatre-makers, who also happen to be DSM faculty, will show you what students at the school are taught as a part of their training. This is an excellent opportunity for you to witness first hand what makes learning at The Drama School Mumbai the best stepping stone for a bright career in theatre.
About the Facilitator:

Akshay Shimpi

Akshay Shimpi has a Masters of Arts degree in Theatre Arts from the Mumbai University. Akshay is a well revered theatre-maker with over a decade of experience in the field. He is the faculty for Speech and Text at the DSM.  

In over a decade of working in theatre and film, Akshay Shimpi has done more than 30 plays and 7 short films that have toured festivals across India. He performs in both Hindi and Marathi and has been part of productions like Naag-Mandal, Ghashiram Kotwal, Hayvadan and Ram Sanjeevani ki Premkatha. He received acclaim for his portrayal of freedom fighter Anant Kanhere in the Marathi film 1909. His recent work with Astitva, Agdeech Shoonya is currently touring across Maharashtra.