Saarang Theatre Festival upholds a nuanced aesthetic.
In a season of bulky theatre festivals across India, which showcase more than a hundred productions over several weeks, Saarang Theatre Festival upholds a nuanced aesthetic. It lasts a few days only — from February 24 to 28 — and showcases no more than one performance every evening so that the audience can absorb the ideas of some of the best theatre practitioners of the country. Organised by Sahitya Rangabhoomi Pratishthan, the festival will be held at Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha in Kothrud, Pune. Highlights:
Crossing to Talikota
Director Arjun Sajnani of Sight & Sound Performing Arts, Bengaluru, takes up Girish Karnad’s last play, Crossing to Talikota. It revolves around the fall of the Vijaynagara empire in 1565 at the hands of an alliance of Deccan Sultanates. One of the greatest empires of south India was erased. “The decimation of Vijaynagara is often depicted in historical writing and in popular understanding as a civilisational clash between Hinduism and Islam. Contrary to this understanding of the event, Karnad brings in a variety of nuances to show that religion played little role in this battle and that it was the regent, Aliya Ramaraya, the power-hungry and egoistic son-in-law of the Vijaynagara empire and the complicated relationship he had with his own status, that principally led to the final battle and devastation,”
Andha Yug, which won the Best Play at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards in 2019, is set against the backdrop of the last day of the Mahabharata. Longing for one last act of revenge, Ashwatthama releases the ultimate weapon, the Brahmastra, which threatens to destroy the world. The moral centre of the play lies in Krishna.
Despite his failure to ensure peace, it is his presence throughout the play which reveals to us that the ethical and the just are always available to human beings even in the worst of times.
“Andha Yug directly refers to the violence during the Partition of India and the second World War and its effects on human lives and moral values. It depicts hazards when society turns away from its insight and how eventually both the victor and the loser suffer. It speaks about greed, self-hood and questions whether we are accountable for our moral choices. It elaborates on the consequences, when a society fails to stop a cycle of revenge and collectively rejects the voice of wisdom, leading to large-scale bloodshed,” says Delhi-based director Joy Maisnam.
A woman, a single white sheet and the cosmos — that’s all it takes to reach out to the universe as concepts from astrophysics intertwine with personal narratives exploring love, loss, mortality and experiential limits. Mumbai-based performer Jyoti Dogra gives one of her best performances as she explores ideas from theoretical physics, delves into theories of space and time, and attempts to find a greater engagement with the universe and with herself. “The notion of ‘singularities’ forms a running theme through the piece: both the singularity of our experience of the self — entirely contained and accessible to oneself alone — and the singularity inside a black hole, a point where space and time fold in on themselves and disappear,” she says.
Delhi-based Neel Chaudhuri presents a play about a crisis in a nameless country that brings about a demand for change. “A group of young people seek to chart out a course for a new country, a new identity, fresh values, a space to feel safe within. They argue and fight, they mock and educate each other, they reveal their dreams, fears and secrets. Their quest to define a new world is a voyage into some great unknown: to a place they can only imagine and covering a distance they cannot fully conceive. It is also a leap of faith, for them and for us. At the very least, they will arrive to tell the tale,” says Chaudhuri, who has worked with actors of the Aagaaz Theatre Trust.
Marathi play Handabhar Chandnya is set in a village, Maavalwadi, whose population of a few hundred is battling the problem of inadequacy of water. “Every member of the house is forced to walk several miles for a few litres of water. Whether they will get water there is also not certain,” says the director’s note. A young man, Sambhaji, dares to ask a question to a government officer, Mrs Bavdekar, who refuses to answer him and tells him to submit an application instead. What happens next involves a kidnapping and an endless wait by the villagers for water. The play has been directed by Sachin Shinde of the Nashik-based group, Social Networking Forum.
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