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Bollywood Lite Blogs Theatre

‘Recorded plays can never pretend to be theatre’

Film and theatre actor-director Rajat Kapoor, whose rendition of Shakespeare’s comedy ‘As You Like It’ will soon premiere as a digital play with Aadyam’s Digital Edition in December, said that recorded plays “can never pretend to be theatre, which exists only in the moment of its performance”.

Kapoor has directed “I Don’t Like It, As You Like It”, which was a raging hit and was first staged during Aadyam’s second season in 2016. It will come back for its digital edition on screens as Aadyam takes the stage to the screen. To maintain the authenticity of a distinctive theatre going experience to the best extent possible, Aadyam’s digital showcase will be recorded with a multi camera set up, enveloped for virtual viewing for three limited edition screenings via Insider.in’s digital streaming service for audiences across the country to enjoy.

Asked about his thoughts on the experience of a live theatre performance, versus a play recording, he told IANSlife: “Theatre happens when there is at least one actor on stage and there is at least one person in the audience. This is enough for the possibility of a theatrical performance. Everything else is secondary. There may or may not be a set, lights, dialogues, movement, music, costumes. All other elements may or may not be a part of the performance, but even without any of these elements theatrical performance can take place – an actor performs (he may be still and do nothing), and he is watched.”

“Now what happens in a recording of this performance is that the very basic coming together of the two necessary elements has been denied. The very essence of theatre is missing. Perhaps, at the time of the recording, when the actors performed – maybe at that moment there was a theatre. But when I watch that recording at home, what I am watching is a recorded play. It can never pretend to be theatre, which exists only in the moment of its performance.”

He likens the difference to the experience of holding your father’s hand, as compared to looking at the photograph of your dad while answering how theatre can be made more life-like in the digital realm.

“That picture is his, but it’s not him. The presence is not there. Now what you’re asking me is how do we make this photograph more life-like? Well, it will never be him… but one can try and find a photograph which will somehow reveal the essence of the man… and you can imagine how difficult that is.”

Re-wording an old saying, Kapoor said: ‘What happens on stage, stays on stage’. “What we watch through the digital medium is something else. I am not saying this because I have arrived at this through an effort of the mind, or intellect; it is my physical experience of watching a play- which is a process of being in the presence of somebody else’s energy, being a part of it – and even collaborating in that performance, because as an audience you giving back energy that feeds the performer. That ‘experience’ can’t be replicated on a screen.”

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Events Lite Blogs Theatre

Boosting The Morale Of Theatre Fraternity

The Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival, India’s biggest privately-run theatre festival, will be held in an abridged form over a single weekend this month.

The Festival, featuring five plays, will not only be a tribute to theatre legend Qadir Ali Baig but will also be an occasion to thank Covid-19 warriors, boosting the morale of both the country’s theatre fraternity and theatre lovers.

The prestigious Festival, now in its 15th year, is curated by leading theatre personality Mohammad Ali Baig, a Padma Shri awardee.

The Festival, scheduled on November 20-22, is being presented by Government of Telangana’s Department of Information and Public Relations and Telangana Tourism and Radisson Blu Plaza.

An abridged Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival amid Covid.

Mohammed Ali Baig said that every year the Foundation organises the Festival over 10 days across multiple venues in Hyderabad. However, this year in view of the pandemic the Foundation, which hosts 150 artistes from all over the globe, is presenting the Festival in an abridged format over a single weekend.

The Festival this year will feature plays from classics of Kalidas to the absurdism of Mrozek, from mythological fare and lockdown stories, from ‘Dastangoi’ and monologues to comedy and dramatised reading, from Rajasthan, Delhi and Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana

The Festival will see staging of plays from K.V. Subbanna, Heeba Shah, Mohammad Ali Baig with actors Danish Husain, Bhageerathi, Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, Daulat Vaid and others.

The theatre festival will be live with online bookings on www.bookmyshow.com and will be streamed online at a later date.

Theatre lovers will be treated with plays like Danish Hussain’s ‘Dastangoi’, a delightful journey across cultures and continents through the traditional, vibrant storytelling format, K. V. Subbanna’s ‘Shakuntala Ke Saath Ek Dopehar’, a modern day look at Kalidasa’s heroine Shakuntala through a glimpse of an afternoon in her life and ‘Striptease’, renowned Polish playwright Slawomir Mrozek’s hilarious perspective of freedom and expression through this absurdist play about two middle class men who find themselves confined in a single space.

The other play is ‘Dona’, written by Arun Kolatkar and directed by Daulat Vaid. It is a lyrical poem drawn from an incident in the Ramayana. It highlights the ideological social distances between the young and the old as well as the ancient and the modern, while questioning if human culture is the best.

The Festival will conclude with Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation’s ‘Alone’ written by Noor Baig and directed by Mohammad Ali Baig, it features Suchitra Krishnamoorthi. A dramatization of Noor Baig’s short story, it is about a yesteryear star who during the pandemic lockdown reflects on her solitude and the many characters she has played in her life.

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Bollywood Interview Lite Blogs Theatre

‘Digitizing theatre helps reach new audiences’

Films releasing on OTT not the solution: Makarand Deshpande.

Film and theater actor and director, Makarand Deshpande, feels that digitizing theatre helps reach new audiences and helps archive it as well.

‘Sir Sir Sarla’, a play written and directed by Deshpande, will be launched online by Zee Theatre. After winning audiences nationwide since its premiere in 2001, the play is now set for its television debut. The network released the trailer of the timeless classic that is premiering on October 31 on Tata Sky Theatre. The teleplay stars Deshpande, Aahana Kumra, Sanjay Dadhich and Anjum Sharma.

‘Sir Sir Sarla’ is the story of Professor Palekar and his student Sarla � the pretty, innocent young girl who seems to be enamoured by her mentor � and Phanidhar who shares a love-hate relationship with the professor. The play explores the bond between the students and their professor, which faces many ebbs and flows. Secrets are revealed, accusations are thrown, and the three lives remain interwoven for many years to come.

Writer and director Deshpande says, “This is a story about what appears to be a very morally upright and innocent relationship between a professor and student. It also shows how a student who loves literature goes on to feel the pain of reality. The play throws light on the pressure exerted on us by traditions and beliefs and how they stop us from speaking our heart out.”

Excerpts from an interview with IANSlife:

The play debuted in 2001, and in all the two decades till 2020, how has the play evolved?

Deshpande: The core has not changed. What must have evolved is, there are always layers behind what you actually say. Suppose, if I say, the meaning of words change with situations. This line, over a period of time, can give you in your own life, different contexts to understand it better. The language of this play, which has been written in a metre. Audiences who used to watch it during that time, had the play on their tips. The relationship between the three key characters in the play, I feel has gotten stronger and deeper. The play was first done by Rajender Gupta, Sonali Kulkarni, Abhimanyu Singh and Anurag Kashyap. I asked Anurag to channel his anger of a stuck film into the play.

I think the character of Phanidar evolved because of his anger. And then Sanjay Dadhich took on the role. Then it got embossed that this is Phanidar. Vijay Tendulkar saab, when he saw the play, he said he hasn’t seen such a character in many years. If this character is still working, I think there’s a truth in its writing. Over a period of 20 years, the play is evolved and they’ve become real people now. I think until a point I made the play, and after that, it made us. In 20 years, it became a river and a sea. I think it has tested the times, come up in Marathi and Gujarati, and I think will stand for the next 50 years.

It’s premiering on Tata Sky Theatre, which is digital..

Deshpande: It’s something new. We don’t know when we’d be able to perform live now, whether this year or next year. If you miss out on a play, you can see it on Tata Sky Theatre, so it becomes archival also. I’m looking forward to new, unreached audiences.

As a maker, do you think the beauty of a play lies in the live experience and physicality of it?

Deshpande: I’m sure there must be some. The entire team has made sure it looks like theatre, and have tried to take care of the live feel.

The theatre community has been affected massively…

Deshpande: It really is, what to say! It’s really been terrible. For how long can someone support somebody else? The theatre fraternity has people who work backstage and even actors, they’re all unemployed. The worst thing is there’s no ray of light. Theatre will open, whether people will come, the economics of it, it is painful. I hope we manage to do more plays digitally on Tata Sky Theatre and Zee Theatre.

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Arts & Culture Lite Blogs Theatre

‘Shernaz Notes This As The Tough Time For Theatre’

Film and theatre actor Shernaz Patel.

As auditoriums lay vacant, members of the theatre community struggle to make ends meet, and audiences are snatched off of a popular form of art and entertainment, digital theatre is what stage veterans like Shernaz Patel say will keep makers connected to the audience…Shernaz Patel speaks with Siddhi Jain.

Patel, who is the returning Artistic Director of Aadyam, the theatre initiative by the Aditya Birla Group that came into being in 2015, states that theatre has had to morph into a new avatar the world over. “The talent is still there, the desire to tell stories, to communicate — that is not something that has diminished. Theatre makers globally have found innovative ways to make theatre a reality – from zoom plays to recording monologues, to collaborating with visual artists, to phone plays, audio drama, many fascinating and innovative projects have emerged.”

After enthralling her audiences with her roles in films like “Black” and “Guzaarish”, film and theatre actor Shernaz Patel, is all set to play Jiloo Mistry, a 76-year-old single woman living alone in Goa, in the Indian adaptation of a play based on an Agatha Christie mystery.

While she acknowledges the argument that the essence of theatre is that it is live, the film and theatre actor says that necessity has made us embrace new forms of communicating with audiences. “Other countries are slowly returning to performing live…socially distanced, outdoor shows for the most part. For us, unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen in the immediate future.”

“This is a tough time for theatre very tough,” notes Patel.

“We excel in the live, we thrive on the immediate and tactile communion between us and the audience. This love, passion, need – call it what you will – brings us back to the stage year after year, even as sceptics debate if theatre is dying. Theatre has survived centuries. With every catastrophe, we have found ways to reinvent ourselves. Death has never been an option for us. So, in 2020 if we have to perform in 920 x 1080 pixels, we will. We accept the challenge. Because this is what we do. We will find a way to share stories, to entertain and inspire.”

Redefining a new season with the arrival of 2020’s digital theatre opus, Aadyam has embraced change by creating a world-class showcase with Aadyam – The Digital Edition.

Agatha Christie thriller adapted for Indian stage.

Featuring three plays from Aadyam’s repertoire built over the last 5 years, the new season spotlights an unusual debut in the history of Indian arts and culture. Streaming via Insider.in will be ‘Bandish 20-20,000 Hz’ (Hindi), ‘I Don’t Like It, As You Like It’ (English) and ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ (English), starting October. A virtual audience room, pre-show activities, live polling and mini quizzes and post-show virtual meet-and-greets is how the initiative plans to curate an authentic theatre experience online.

Aadyam has launched a community platform for theatre lovers – Theatre Ink. Featuring original content written and presented by theatre practitioners and reputed writers from the across the country, Theatre Ink will serve as a hub for all things theatre. To be presented in a blogging format and edited by Shernaz Patel, it will feature interviews, insights, articles, advice, tips, news, behind the scenes snippets and much more, catering to both the industry and the audience.

Asked how the pandemic has impacted the theatre community, Patel shared over email: “The pandemic has hit us hard. Commercial and amateur theatre has come to a grinding halt. Many artists have gone back to their hometowns. Not just artists, but every single department – technicians, make up men, set builders, designers, suppliers – are all struggling to stay afloat. Auditoriums are lying vacant. The only funds that are being generated are from within the community itself. It’s a very difficult time for us all over the country.”

She also takes us through the making and staging/screening of a digital play.

After enthralling her audiences with her roles in films like “Black” and “Guzaarish”, film and theatre actor Shernaz Patel, is all set to play Jiloo Mistry, a 76-year-old single woman living alone in Goa, in the Indian adaptation of a play based on an Agatha Christie mystery.

“When you sit in an auditorium and watch a play, you see the stage either in a wide shot or else you decide as an audience member who or what you wish to look at. When you record a play digitally, especially with a multi-camera set up, it is the camera that decides that for you. Therefore the theatre director needs to work in sync with a film unit so that, moment to moment, his vision is in no way compromised. But at the same time the play needs to work for the screen. It’s a delicate balance. The play is still rehearsed and performed as a piece of theatre that does not change. It is the shooting of it that has to be very cleverly done so that the play communicates perfectly to an audience. For Aadyam we will be shooting our plays with a multi-camera set up so that the audience gets to watch a professional product, with great production and technical qualities.”

Just like a reluctance to enter movie halls, does she anticipate some hesitance in turning up for live theatre now? The answer is an affirmative.

“Till we have managed to beat Covid or till there is a cure, I think Indian audiences will be afraid to go to the theatre, especially closed auditoriums. Perhaps we will slowly start with outdoor shows, like they have done internationally, where social distancing can be maintained. Or some theatres may experiment with selling 300 seats in a 1200-seater. Who knows? It’s so hard to predict this.”

Shernaz Patel (Wikipedia)

Does she see digital theatre surviving after normal operations resume? “Yes, I do. It is an opportunity to reach a far wider audience, not just within the country, but internationally as well. It has been such a pleasure to watch some excellent work from other countries during the pandemic. That’s the advantage of having a well-produced archive of shows. In fact, I feel that in the future auditoriums should invest in multi-camera fixed set ups that theatre producers can avail of to record their shows. But it needs to be slickly done. We have all been used to archiving our plays with a one, maximum two camera, set up. That’s fine as a record of the show, but not something that one can market to a consumer,” Patel signs off.

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