Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Theatre and The Great Galata

For the last three to four years I was content to restrict my theatre activities to the school my son goes to. I wrote original scripts or adapted existing folk tales and literary works to make them more accessible to children as well as their parents. I worked with all ages. From tiny tots of Class 1 to High School adolescents and found it immensely rewarding. There is something about working with children. Especially the very young ones. They have the capacity to give unconditionally. Both to the process as well as to the person who is facilitating the process. I learnt something new in all my interactions with them. And shamelessly basked in the affection they gave me.

As I am growing older I am learning something about myself. I don’t like many adults. After a while they either bore me or start getting on my nerves. I can count the adult friends I have on my fingers. And it doesn’t bother me. I think the lesser number of adult friends I have in my life, the lesser the complications. Children are different. I am able to relate to them irrespective of the age group they belong to. They in turn don’t take long to invite me to their world. Thanks to the work I have done in the past few years, my house is full of handmade cards, stones, twigs, dried leaves, dried flowers and more handmade cards. All of them gifts from my young friends. But this February as I left the amphitheatre after a well received high school production, I knew my stint with the school was over. That as soon as I finished my existing commitments in this academic year I will not be going back.

The environment around me was giving me too many messages to the effect that it was high time my sabbatical got over and I got back to doing serious theatre again. It started with an opportunity to offer an elective on theatre and management in IIM Bangalore. Around the same time Bangalore Mirror asked me to mentor one of the amateur groups for their theatre festival. And barely had that got over that I received an invitation from Just Theatre asking me whether I will write a ten minute script for an event that they were planning for the world theatre day. Ajay Krishnan christened it The Great Galata. Ajay is terrific when it comes to giving names. His group is called Harami Theatre. His most successful play is Butter and Mashed Bananas. So it follows only he could have thought of coming up with such a quaint Bangalore name for the event.

Just like the name, the festival of short plays was both quirky and fun. The ten playwrights were given a strange poem by a Russian to draw the theme from and write a short play. I think all of us pretended to be really worried and afterwards went home and wrote what we wanted to, in a jiffy.
I finished writing my script in three hours flat and sent it to the organizers. Something tells me the others didn’t take much longer.

I was praying I get a young director and my wish was fulfilled. I was assigned Pawan Kumar. I didn’t work with Pawan when I was into theatre like a man possessed for half a dozen years. But of late we have been chatting a bit on FB. So I was delighted to discover that he was going to direct my play. There is that fundamental trust between us, so I knew my play was in safe hands.

Despite all that, I was on tenterhooks before my play started. It was the first time my son was in the audience as a young adult and I didn’t want him to feel let down by the play. He has watched my plays as a child but he was too young to understand them at that time. Thankfully, he found my play to be okay although he preferred the witty compere Vivek Madan. But what made my day was the applause after the play got over. I have engaged long enough with performing spaces to read into claps and figure out whether the appreciation is genuine. I knew the audience had been moved by what Pawan and the actors had done with the play.

As for the group that organized it, although all of them are adults, starting with their chief Nimi Ravindran, strangely enough I get similar vibes from them that I receive from children. Just Theatre seems to have the same infectious energy and enthusiasm. And although this sounds corny, the same purity. I want to work with them again.

I better stop. All this is sounding like Navjot Singh Sidhu.