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.




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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.”


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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.


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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.


DON'T PANIC: GST and its Impact on the Performing Arts

DON’T PANIC! 

GST and its impact on the Performing Arts

Written by Zohra Mallik & Hina Siddiqui

The Goods and Services Tax was finally rolled out on the 1st of July 2017 at the stroke of  midnight. After all, our Government does have a flair for the dramatic. But what really, is the fuss and mayhem about? Over a hundred and fifty countries have implemented  GST (roses by other names) over the years and their populations came through the capitalist scourge just fine.

India’s version of an overarching goods and services tax has been 17 years in the making. It’s faced a lot of resistance, as you might guess, from various lobbies and people wary of what a uniform tax could mean for their business. The powers that be, speak of it as a way – the only way – to reduce corruption (wait, what was demonetization for then?), prevent tax-evasion and improve the overall efficiency of the system. And as we are settling into the first month of its imposition, with vendors and suppliers showing no signs of stopping to use it as an excuse for delays – let’s re-examine the alarmist outlook towards ‘one nation, one tax (sans momos)’, shall we?

Disclaimer: This is in no way an attempt to downplay the implications of the GST, no one’s saying this is a hoax created by the Chinese (not yet, anyway), but let’s look at all the facts and figure out what the GST means (for the theatre and arts community at least).

 

Taxes on Art prior to the GST

Artwork such as folk paintings, ceramics and antiques were levied with VAT, but were also exempt in certain states. Entertainment tax on movie tickets was 8 to 10 percent, with Maharashtra being an exception ranging from 15-45% (some kind of vengeance for past crimes, we believe). Regional films, however, were exempt. Dance and music events were at a cool 10% (NH7, you listening?). And theatre was exempt.

And now…

A uniform art tax of 12% may or may not be a slight improvement. One side speaks of a danger to the livelihood of artists and artisans at the lower rungs of the pyramid. On the other hand there is skepticism about whether people will stop buying art because of 12%.

As of 11th June, the GST Council places movie tickets under Rs 100 at 18% and anything above that at a ginormous 28%. No exemptions. We’ll just let that sink in for a bit.

Performances – whether they be the Maganiyar Seduction or the your neighbourhood community theatre’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream – are all going to be treated as one. Tickets to dance performances, music concerts and plays that are priced above Rs. 250 is at 18%.

But here is the cincher. CA Chintan Shah, who was part of a discussion conducted by United Kalakar in Mumbai, GST 4 Artists, clarifies that unless a theatre company has a turnover of over 20 lakhs per year they are not liable to pay GST. Thus, GST laws do not apply to the average practitioner and this in itself, is an exemption of sorts being given to those within the performing arts community.

But what about the bigger question of arts (and artists) being exempt from paying taxes? It’s the principle of thing, after all. We asked Noshir Dadrawala of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy to weigh in. According to him, “Performing arts and performing artists are of all kinds. But, let’s say, performing arts where India’s National culture or heritage is being preserved or promoted, there should be a GST exemption.” This of course does not allay the woes of contemporary practitioners, who struggle for funding, resources and a fair share of the market while doing the critical work of developing artistic discourse in the country.  

Chintan Shah offered a couple of solutions to those who cannot escape the burden of GST. Unfortunately, both of these entail writing to the government to change the terms under which GST can be levied. Firstly to demand that GST only be levied on tickets priced above Rs. 500 and secondly, to amend the law so that amateur theatre groups may start off by only paying 12% GST for, say, the first three years. 

What amateur means in the Indian context though, is highly debatable.

A performance at Jagriti (Image first appeared in the Deccan Chronicle)

Jagriti Theatre, a multifaceted space for the performing arts in Bengaluru has taken the lead on the idea of petitioning the Government to gain exemption from taxes. They, in fact, are demanding a complete exemption for the performing arts. This is not completely unprecedented. Several European countries offer tax exemptions to the arts, even going as far as granting rebates on property tax to cultural centres, arts organizations and related institutes. The primary concern in the Indian context, according to Jagdish Raja, founder of Jagriti Theatre, is not for the audience as much as it is for the theatre practitioners who may have to forgo necessary expenses for the production in order to stay within the Rs. 250 budget.

A big cause for concern is that registration under GST brings with it the need to hire a Chartered Accountant and that’s an expense that majority of artists may not be able to afford. According to Noshir Dadrawala, “GST compliance involves several layers and what may apply to one artist may not apply to another.” And that essentially translates into getting professional help. 

A moment to reflect on the bigger picture…  

It would be a little extreme to state that this move by the government is penalizing art. But it certainly is commodifying it. And at one end those of us, who looked at our first tax returns as the real entry into adulthood, are thinking – maybe this is a good thing. Because if you are taxing what I do, then I won’t have to spend a lifetime convincing my parents, in-laws, friends, clients, audiences et al that ‘theatre is a real job’. This tax could be a real paradigm shift in the way people view and consume art of all kinds and somehow, ironically, a tax, will finally reveal the true value of art. But on the other hand, where is the associated education of the proletariat that should go hand-in-hand with this proposed change? Where is the support that takes the burden of turning profits away from individual practitioners and places the responsibility on the consumer of the practice? And who needs to talk about this – the ex-engineer climbing her way up the Open Mic circuit or the practitioner who commands the headlines?

 

Well, there is always room for interpretation and if there is one thing this sector believes, it is that no one truth can save us all. And yes, while it is true that unless you are turning 20l or more each year, you can more or less proceed with life as in (albeit paying more for tampons and the next Avengers movie), there are still a few things we should start doing:

  1. Sign Jagriti’s online petition here. In a country of over a billion, this petition only asks for 5000 signatures.

  2. Consult your CA. That’s Chartered Accountant for all you anti-capitalism types. If you don’t have one, get one, especially if you run a registered company or proprietary firm. Check here if that helps.

  3. Financial planning is not a bad word. But you don’t need to do it alone. Collectivism is a strength, let’s leverage it. Workshops for financial planning, discussions like the one United Kalakar spearheaded, online communities to compare notes and seek advice – these are all things we can and should do for all of us.  

  4. Let’s talk about money, shall we? We live in a culture that doesn’t talk about money. We live in a time when we often find ourselves living beyond our means for reasons we don’t fully comprehend. Let’s push past the silence and discuss money, bank balances and salaries. There’s evidence to show that talking about what you get paid actually helps everyone earn more.

  5. And let’s chop up that credit card while we’re at it.   

 

A towel may not help, but don’t panic. We may not be economists, but we are artists. We can envision solutions and taxes or not, that’s where the future starts.


References: 

http://indianexpress.com/article/business/economy/art-tax-gst-cess/

http://www.financialexpress.com/industry/gst-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/703946/

http://time.com/money/4212413/financial-advice-for-artists/

https://www.glamour.com/story/why-we-need-to-talk-to-our-coworkers-about-our-salaries

Tax Incentives for the Creative Industries edited by Sigrid Hemels, Kazuko Goto, Springer, 2017

A Handbook of Cultural Economics edited by Ruth Towse, EE Publishing 2003

For a complete list of GST rates, exemptions and brackets, look right here. 

Pai Paishachi Goshta: Play@theDSM

People have changed with the changing times. The parameters of happiness have changed. Also the approach towards the practical and financial affairs has changed. An old lady summarisesthis change in her own words.

A story of an old lady “Pai Paishachi Goshta”

Pai Paishachi Goshta is based on a story by eminent writer Dr. Vijaya Rajadhyaksha. Adapted and directed by Vipul Mahagaonkar, the play had its first show in 2015, and has had numerous shows across the country.

The play has also won a lot of awards including a 2016 Zee Natya Gaurav for Best Actress to Ila Bhate, a veteran actress in Marathi theatre and film.

Production House :- Taleem

Actor- Ila Bhate

Story – Dr.Vijaya Rajadhyaksha

Adapted & Directed by- Vipul Mahagaonkar.

Produced by- Ujwal Mantri

Music by Prabodh Shetye

Costumes- Vinaya Walawalkar Mantri.

 

About the director 

Vipul Mahagaonkar

Vipul Mahagaonkar has directed two of the best experimental plays currently running – Khidki and Pai Paishachi Goshta. Both adaptations, done in his own special way. Both absolutely poles apart in terms of content and execution and even emotions. That has given us an idea of how versatile this man is with his handling of plays. And he intends to take theatre to every nook and corner of the country, especially the inaccessible ones. With such talent and such a remarkable thought of taking the art form everywhere, he is easily one of the best that experimental theatre has.

About the actor

Ila Bhate

In her stage career, Ila has played more than 25 roles. Her most popular plays are ‘Mi Majhya Mulancha’ with Vikram Gokhale and the widely acclaimed ‘U-Turn’ (2008) with Girish Oak. U-Turn, which treated the subject of companionship in the elderly age, has been played more than 500 times, which is rare for a drama that has only two characters. It received numerous awards including honour from the State Government of Maharashtra. In fact, we can proudly say the U-Turn is the only two character play to complete 500 shows with the same cast throughout.

 

When?

29th July, 7 PM

Where?

5th Floor, The Drama School Mumbai, Girgaon, Mumbai – 400 004

Tickets?

Rs. 200/-

Book tickets here.

 


Acting Shakespeare: Two-Day Intensive Workshop with Paul Goodwin

 

The Course Director for MA in Acting at the Drama Centre London, Paul Goodwin, brings decades of experience and expertise on Shakespeare and acting for Shakespeare to India. The Drama School Mumbai has managed to get a couple of dates from the man and arranged a workshop on Acting Shakespeare.

The 2-Day intensive workshop will delve into the various aspects of voice, breathing, movement, and the verses that will help an actor unlock his true potential in Shakespearean acting.

The workshop will be held on the 13th and the 14th July 2017, from 8 am to 1 pm.

About the Instructor
Paul Goodwin
Course Director, MA Acting at Drama Centre London
MA in Voice Studies, Central School of Speech and Drama
Artistic Director, The Shakespeare Edit (a classical theatre company), London

Paul has been teaching and directing Shakespeare for professional actors and students for more than 30 years. He is the Course Director at the Drama Centre London, alumni of which include: Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Emilia Clarke, to name a few. Prior to the Drama Centre, Paul has worked extensively in Text, Voice and Artist Development at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He is currently working on directing a dramatised version of Shakespeare’s narrative poem – LUCRECE, to be performed in London as well as a production of Twelfth Night at the Vakhtangov school in Moscow

Workshop Takeaways
Open and widen the horizon of the voice and the imagination.
Find the impulse for breath and vocal and physical gesture.
Be free to play within fully explored verse structures.
Use practical tools to unlock Shakespeare for you as an actor

Workshop Structure
Day One: You will be given a piece of Shakespearean text, and through a series of practical exercises explore – through the body, voice and rhythm – the clues that are contained in the text, that lead towards an understanding that can then be communicated to the audience through a soliloquy.

Day Two: Building on the exploratory text work from Day one, you will work on a scene, and with a partner, explore the action in the scene. What characters want, and how, as in life, character is revealed through action. “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action” Hamlet’s advice to the players

Through this 2 day workshop, you will gain practical tools that will unlock Shakespeare for you as an actor, and provide you with a working method that will allow you to be more confident when you approach heightened poetic drama.

Dates: 13th and 14th July | Time: 8 am to 1 pm
Venue: Bhalerao Auditorium, Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Girgaon, Charni Road East, Mumbai.
Fees: ₹4500/-

To Apply :
To Apply : Email a recent C.V. with a cover letter that tells us why you want to participate to info@thedramaschoolmumbai.in

www.thedramaschoolmumbai.in
facebook/TheDramaSchoolMumbai
+91 9619336336


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.


Documenting Theatre in India: Research in to Theatre Lives

by Zohra Malik

 

How much do we really know theatre and theatre-makers in India? Documenting theatre is vital. Yet, a casual Google search in all likelihood will yield little documenting of solid value.  Research & Praxis is such a vital strand of the programme at the DSM because it addresses this imbalance. It also embeds students in the living culture of theatre-making and encourages them to document, research and record the work of numerous individuals who stand at the edge of the spotlight.

Ramu Ramanthan – writer, respected journalist, playwright and mentor – developed this research module. He trains students in research methodologies, helping them create strategies to document as well as represent these lives as they occur and their relation to theatre practice today.

Batch 2016-17 decided to shine a light on the lives and practices of the following individuals:

 

Ramdas Padhye

Ventriloquist, Puppeteer, Puppet-maker

Researcher: Abhishek Chauhan

Ramdas Padhye and his creations

 

Ramdas Padhye was one of the first people to create puppets with contemporary Indian identities. As a child, Padhye was consistently disassembling and reassembling toys. Encouraged by his father, who was also a well-known magician and puppeteer, Padhye went on to do engineering. He then took to puppetry in order to talk about small big problems of India’s middle class  – family planning, saving money and education. Though, Padhye’s work has been featured across the globe,

 

Faezeh Jalali

Actor, Director, Theatre-maker

Researcher: Chrisann Pereira

Faezeh Jalali and a scene (left) from her META award-winning play 07/07/07

 

Faezeh Jalali is certainly not an unknown name. Her recent productions – 07/07/07 and Shikhandi have got audiences and critics alike raving. But Chrisann’s research looks at her directorial style from the perspective of a student of the art. It focuses on the aesthetic values that guide her work but also on how everyone on stage behaves in a certain way for a reason.

 

Chetna Mehrotra

Image Expression Artist, Drama Based Learning Facilitator, Dance Drama Storyteller

Researcher: Deepmala Khera

Chetna Mehrotra and the multiple roles she plays

Chetna Mehrotra has an incredible amount of experience in applied theatre – which applies principles of the performance space to the enable transformation of individuals, communities and society at large. Mehrotra’s work stems from the belief that theatre is not just to entertain but a medium to empower and to evolve. She is one of the leading practitioners in this emerging field and works extensively in learning & development, therapy and training. Knowing of her work and of others like her is vital to many of us who often restrict the scope of theatre to the stage.

 

Utpal Bhayani

Journalist, Theatre Critic

Researcher: Khushbu Baid

The career and contribution of Utpal Bhayani, one of the foremost authorities on Gujarati theatre. He has written several papers and critiqued Gujarati theatre extensively for about forty years or so, thus providing a fresh new perspective to the way one sees this regional form of theatre. His words and his influence are still relevant and ever-present to this day, as Utpal Bhayani continues to write a column for the Gujarati newspaper, Janmabhumi. Research and documenting of Utpal Bhayani’s work tells us  how  to critically appreciate theatre. It also holds the mirror up to the evolution of culture through movements on stage.

 

Manav Kaul

Theatre director, Playwright, Actor, Film-maker

Researcher: Komal Khanna

Manav Kaul, the man, his moods and his roles

You may recognise him from the various films he has been a part of, but Manav Kaul has been a significant contributor to the development of theatre in India. Komal’s compilation of anecdotes from his life (what better way to get to know a man and his practice) cover everything from his beginnings in Kashmir, the growing camaraderie between him and Kumud Mishra and the moment he realised that theatre was what he wanted to do. His writing, his process, his fascination with the bizarre and his response to criticism, all come together to inspire those who have just begun wading in to the deep waters of the performing arts.

 

Dr Arvind Ganachari

Historian

Researcher: Adarsh Gourav

Dr Ganachari is a noted scholar, specialising in Modern Indian History.  He wrote highly insightful pieces on India’s socio-economic and cultural history for the Economic and Political Weekly magazine.  He guided Adarsh through a discovery of political and moral censorship in Indian performing arts. According to him, “Although there is much debate about censorship attacking the fundamental right of “freedom of speech”, it is necessary and has to be there. Every freedom has a limit. A person has freedom and has their rights but if it infringes upon somebody else’s right or freedom,censorship comes into use. It is a very thin line.”

 

Deepa Gahlot

Theatre and film critic, Author, Scriptwriter

Researcher: Shruti Khandelwal

Deepa Gahlot at the NCPA

If you have seen a show at the NCPA, Mumbai, you’ve experienced Deepa Gahlot’s vision for theatre. She is the Head of Programming at the NCPA and has also translated and adapted several works for stage. Her critical writings not only display an awareness of the technicalities but also a certain esoteric knowledge that only those who are completely in tune with their field of expertise possess. Shruti’s research focuses on Gahlot’s propensity for promoting critical dialogue around the performing arts.

 

Arun Naik

Editor, Theatre critic, Translator, Teacher, Director, Designer, Columnist

Researcher: Shruti Sunder

Arun Naik and his family carry on the legacy of theatre

 

Arun Naik has had a massively versatile career in theatre for the past forty years. He has directed critically acclaimed pieces of theatre and contributed to The Oxford Companion to Theatre in India. Through him we can track the history of the resurgence of Marathi theatre and the integral role of the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh in the city’s performance culture.

 

Sunderlal Shyamlal Valmiki aka Sunder Chacha

Caretaker (Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh)

Researcher: V. Vidyuth

Sunder Chacha, home at the MMSS

It seems fitting to close this little list of theatre lives with Sunder chacha. Apart from having achieved some amazing theatrical feats, Sunder chacha has been a caretaker of the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh for over 40 years. Vidyuth, as a researcher, makes a cogent point that while there are those who contribute to theatre in a more creative capacity, it’s also necessary to appreciate the ones who’ve helped preserve it for so many years. Not only has Sunder chacha taken care of one of Mumbai’s oldest theatre spaces, he has (and continues to do so even today) helped build sets, set up lights and sound and managed backstage processes.

 

These final projects are essentially profiles of very diverse individuals; names we need to remember, names we need to learn from as makers and consumers of theatre. Each of these lives builds the larger picture of the context, history and social reality of theatre. This research is a responsibility that students have been accepting as part of their education for the past 4 years. It tells the story of a city, its long tradition of theatre and it also tells a story of how theatre continues to grow into what it is today. And it is vital that we all, not only understand but also contribute to the research and documenting of these strands.


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.