Archive for December, 2012

Jammu’s ‘Youngistan’ Enthralls Amritsar….. By Rashmi Talwar


Play: Do Kodi Ka Khel

Play: Do Kodi Ka Khel


THEATER REVIEW

THEATER REVIEW

Jammu’s ‘Youngistan’ Enthralls Amritsar

By Rashmi Talwar
Jammu & Kashmir’s young and only woman director-actor Ifra Kak’s maiden production ‘Do Kodi Ka Khel’ lays bare the convoluted world of corruption. An adaptation by Jammu’s Amateur Theatre Group, the production is based upon Bertolt Brecht’s famous play “Three Penny Opera” with its Hindustani adaptation by Parimal Dutta.
At the “10th National Theatre Festival” at Punjab Naatshala, in Amritsar, commemorating “100 Birth Anniversary of Saadat Hassan Manto” this year, this ‘youngistan’ production played by 15 young boys and girls from militancy infested and remote areas of Jammu and Kashmir, synergize the play, whose plot revolves around a beggar bunch and a dacoit’s gang both of which flourish ‘unabashedly’ under the protective patronage of the local police.
The actors are playing archetypes from popular culture. The leader of the beggars- Narhari Poddar, is a jumpy character, full of ideas to change the failing beggar business and convert his gang into a fake freedom fighters bunch, only to find that his vivacious wife, high on drugs, is unconcerned about their only daughter Phoolan Rani, who goes on to marry a promiscuous dacoit Bhayanak Singh.
What follows is rigmarole of changing colors of the police in a series of comic situations made brighter by the character of Police Inspector -Patti Pandey, played by Pankaj Sharma. Overall, Pandey is symbolically and reality-wise, the best framed character of the production. Wearing a cervical neck collar, his lopsided gait and mannerisms are interesting to watch.
The play was brilliantly executed, using the ‘epic’ style of theatre wherein an actor comes out of its character and jumps back into it. “At specific moments the acting crosses over into a parody of melodrama”, contends its director. The high energy levels, clarity of thought, simple narrative, using rhyming dialogues adds to the thrill of unfolding events and puts them in definite focus, leaving an impactful, thought-provoking message in its conclusion.
Bits of humour add spice to the goings-on in the play. The character of Narhari Poddar, played by a reed-thin actor Sourav Sharma, adds much fun to the streaks of comic relief with his break-dance routine and pelvic thrusts on music and songs of Bollywood.
His drugged wife Manmohini played by Delight William is sheer delight to watch as her mood swings of highs and lows catches one off-guard with her edgy slip of tongue . Ayaan Ali, as Bhayanak Singh dacoit, with his gang is impressive, not in the conventional vision of a ‘daaku’ but as flippy character who often speaks to the audience about their silence, their mute acceptance of corruption just as a daily domestic chore and arouses them not to remain mere spectators. Ifra, the director of the performance also an actor playing the character of Phoolan as a precocious child, is a bundle of laughter, lively with her childish antics and logic. The acting was deliberately loud and exaggerated, giving glimpses of ‘Bhand Pather’- the traditional folk theatre of Jammu & Kashmir.

The costumes and hairstyle of characters appeared to have got much attention from costume designer Delight, Shaheen and makeup artist Manoj Dhamir.

While the set was simple with merely two-three props of a table-chair and a death noose, the lighting was used brilliantly. Other than some gaps, when the stage was left empty, the production was endearing and smooth. Overall, it was an endearing performance of a timeless play that will be remembered by the audiences of Amritsar for a long time.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON DEC-19,2012
URL:http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/jammus-youngistan-enthrals-amritsar-38474.aspx

My experience about Newtown, Connecticut …. By RASHMI TALWAR


US KILLING: NEWTON CONNECTICUT DEC 15,2012

US KILLING: NEWTON CONNECTICUT DEC 15,2012

US SCHOOL SHOOTING

My experience about Newtown, Connecticut ……….

By RASHMI TALWAR

In my first look at this quaint town of Newtown, Connecticut, USA, I was swept away by its charm. It was the month of May in 2007 and Maple trees were beginning to sprout their greens after their snowy caps had melted, much like the Chinars (same family) that I love of Kashmir. On the first landing, we had a learning session with my aunt, wherein she gave us vital clues of the town to ward off any ‘gregarious Indian-Ishytle traits’ of lunging-to-help-out or ‘chalta hai’ attitude in India, once things go wrong.

This is the same town that has seen the most dastardly killing of 20 children and six adults in a School by a 20- year old, on December 15, 2012.

During our visit, the instructions were –‘Don’t look too long into the neighbor’s house; don’t stand or stare at a school building; don’t click photos without permission; don’t sit anywhere near a building, only near ponds or parks; don’t use a vehicle, not even a bicycle since it is right hand driving here and the Police will nab you the moment it notices your confusion at road crossings and there would be a hefty fine and explanations, besides an admonition to the host family. These all were precautionary, helpful and kept us in check. They were also not misplaced or deliberately fear-inducing because barely a month before our visit, in mid April of 2007, 32 people at Virginia Tech USA, had been killed by a gunman.

The unobtrusive view of this cute township of Newtown, without front or side dividing walls, tree-lined with the best kept gardens, was a feast for the eyes. The dogs or pets were electronically leashed; sensor spot lights at night, timed lighting in houses were some of its security measures. I noticed the way people strictly obeyed instructions, when a hurricane befell during our stay. The town spread out in about 160 sq. kms. had a robust infrastructure, far more than its meagre population of about 27,000.

When news of killing of 26, including 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown broke on December 15, I was completely shocked and deeply saddened, having spent two months in that quiet peaceful place, considered one of the safest in America. To visualize the splattered ‘color of blood’ in Newtown, where people came from world-over in autumns, to watch the trees turn auburn, gold and reddish radiant, was particularly ironic.

Everyone in Newtown had a car and public transport was nonexistent, it being a non-tourist place. Thumbing a lift was strange and if someone stopped, they would consider you a local who had a problem and then move over all the buying paraphernalia from their loaded car, which they perhaps didn’t have time to download, to make space for you to sit in the passenger seat. Indeed things were beautiful, but not so simple, yet there was an air of being organized, being cautious, being thoughtful and being obedient. It was different and I loved it all.

However, despite the well organized township, there were things that didn’t quite feel normal, for instance there were huge spread out properties with signs of ‘No trespass allowed’ where a ‘single’ person was known to occupy the house. Police kept a vigil on them, but it was wholly abnormal to stay cut-off from the rest of humanity. “If one has no fear of being seen, one can act in unimaginable ways” say psychologists.

In another instance during a flight to Florida, a fellow co-passenger’s statement had got me thinking. “Why doesn’t America do more for people who are going insane, instead of having a liberal gun license policy? Could you imagine the havoc an insane person can unleash with an easy access to guns?” he contended. Perhaps the Virginia Tech 2007 killing was still fresh in his mind.

Another jolting experience was when I happened to ask an American of Indian origin about education in USA, she answered – “Education is very good but it is scary that children bring guns to school.” I was shocked.

Learning of the recent killing in Sandy Hook and its details, it shook me more that Nancy Lanza mother of 20-year old gunman Adam Lanza, possessed ‘three’ licensed weapons, including an automatic gun. I cannot quite understand this ‘gun freedom’ or liberalization.

I only laud the spirit of the people of this place who, after the massive tragedy, came together in support of the grieving families, taking to prayer.

There was no screaming, no irresponsible reporting in media, no chest beating, no arson, no strikes, no blaming the government, no wild-run destroying public property, stone-pelting or any violent means. They just stood locked in a human chain lighting candles in grief, giving solace and support to those who lost their little ‘tulips’ (5 to10 year olds) and steady trees (six adults).

It felt like a healing touch that television channels there aired programmes on how to detect trauma or deal with a traumatized child who had seen or heard the shootout. I hope US introspects its liberalized policy on guns, before it is too late.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON DECEMBER 20, 2012
URL: http://epaper.risingkashmir.com/20122012/default.asp

Ifra Kak :Theater can be Therapeutic …By Rashmi Talwar


ifra article RK

Ifra Kak :Theater can be Therapeutic …By Rashmi Talwar

Ifra Kak, naturally took to the ‘waters’ of the theatre-world with an ease, that is inborn. A Masters degree holder in Performing Arts (Theatre), from Hyderabad Central University, she has acted in a number of plays and has now emerged as the first woman director, in the vast repertoire of Jammu and Kashmir’s vibrant theatre scene. It is perhaps no mean achievement for a young woman, that too in a male dominated society of her home turf and irrespective of the spate of turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, that took most of her teenage and formative years, this 26-year old theatre professional, continued to traverse her chosen paths to follow her inherent passion for theatre productions.
In her candid talk with RASHMI TALWAR, Irfa talks about her achievements, her challenges ahead and how she is ready to go the extra mile, to become a name in the International theatre scene.

Q1: Ifra, you have been awarded by JKFMAC (Jammu &Kashmir Film Makers &Artists Cooperative) as the first woman director theatre director of the State of Jammu &Kashmir, what next?

Ans 1: Awards are an acknowledgement of one’s work. But they give one more responsibility to prove again and again that one had deserved it. By no means have I felt that an award is going to make me slack and rest on my laurels, instead, I would like to work doubly hard. I have made my way to the prestigious ‘International Performance Research Programme’ at University of Warwick, UK and I am the first ever woman from Jammu &Kashmir to be selected for such a programme. My dream is to bring my work to the level of International Theatre and to be reckoned in my field. My father Mushtaq Kak is already a noted name in theatre circles worldwide. Considering that aspect, I feel fortunate. But I want to travel my paths on my own merit.

Q2: What are your current projects, do they involve the Kashmir situation?

Ans 2: Presently, I am working on two theatre projects Ariel Dorfman’s “Widows” and a concept performance of “Sordid Tales of Suffering” based on Euripides’ “Trojan Women”. I consistently try to motivate Kashmiri women to participate in theatre and focusing on this aspect, I also conduct theatre workshops for them in Jammu & Kashmir. I am particularly perturbed over the plight of ‘Half Widows in Kashmir’. “Sordid Tales..” – is a concept performance on the atrocities on women in Kashmir. Apart from that, I have done the dramatization of Lydia Avilov’s autobiography “Chekhov in my life” which ‘ was awarded ‘Mahindra Excellence Award’ and was recognized as Best of the Year, production by Sahitya Kala Parishad, New Delhi.

Q3: Do you think theatre can be therapeutic, have you given this aspect a try? How was your experience?

Ans 3: Yes, theatre as an art form can be therapeutic. For this, I had done a fortnight long, spot devised project of a theatre workshop with the inmates of ‘Kot Bhalwal Central jail’ Jammu & Kashmir, which is one of the most sensitive jails of the country. I was the first person of J&K to take that step. It was an experience of a lifetime. I saw inmates from many countries there including from Pakistan and Afghanistan. An unnatural environment of confinement naturally evolves unnatural behavioural patterns of being disturbed, in depression, low self esteem, aggression, silent or rigid.
Someone told me at the outset of the workshop, that Azhar Masud – hardcore terrorist, exchanged for release of passengers of flight IC-814 in 1999 had been housed here. It gave me goose-pimples but after that I concentrated on my task of relieving some of the pent up emotions of many of these hapless prisoners who were remorseful and longed for freedom. The medium of theatre helped them. I particularly remember a young boy who had accidentally committed a murder and for days he did not speak while we conducted the workshop. Then about a week later, his eyes shone, his silence broke and he voluntarily came forward to participate and derive joy from acting. This gave me a big sense of achievement.
Besides this I have also worked with the orphans of Rainbow Home, Hyderabad and Deaf and Dumb children of Ahuti Centre, Hyderabad with good results.

Q4: Have you also been able to widen your creative dimensions through world theatre?

Ans 4: I was fortunate to participate in twelve (12) major workshops in the field of theatre, both before and during my university education. These include -Children’s Theatre Workshop- Dr Sudhir Mahajan, Forum Theatre Workshop-Sruthi Bala (London) -, Scenography Workshop- Deepan Sivaraman (London & India)-, Theatre Management Workshop- Kunt (Norway), Theatre Design Workshop-David Whittan ( Secretary General, IFTR, England)- 2010, Invisible theatre Workshop- Devendra Nath Sankaranarayan; Scenography Workshop- Robin Das (NSD); Acting Workshop- Douglas-Complicite (London)-2010, Community Theatre- Ola Johanson-Switzerland-2010, Advanced Scenography Workshop- Deepan Sivaraman (London& India), Forum Theatre Workshop- Mark- USA-2010, Acting Workshop- Rajesh Tailang- besides various workshops of National School of Drama . I participated in the Bharat Rang Mahotsav which is the biggest International Theatre Festival, conducted by the NSD and also got the opportunity to act in the plays directed by many eminent directors, not only on my home turf , but also outside. Apart from this photography is my other companion.

Q5: Can you name some of the plays that you acted in?

Ans 5: As a child artist I worked in various serials of Doordarshan such as “Habba Khatoon”, “Shikast”, “amma”, “Aastha”, “Rasoolmeer” and others. I have also acted in nearly 14 plays some of which are Mother’s Courage – Sreejith Ramanan; Satya Harischandra – Supriya Shukla; Iphigenia – Satya Brat Rout; Dooth Ghadotkach – Bhoomikeswar Singh; Reflection – Noushad Mohd; Alberts’s Bridge – Mohan Maharshi; “Jameela” – Gargi (NSD); “Accidental Death of an Anarchist- Vijay Kapoor ;’Kanjoos’-play-Neeraj Kant-; and two solo performances in ‘Mantri ji ki Moochh’ and ‘Ram Khilawan’

Q6: How does it feel to work in a man’s world especially in Jammu and Kashmir where ideas of women working in theatre are still very orthodox?

Ans 6: Frankly, it is very difficult. It is very difficult to get a female cast for my plays. I try to motivate women in theatre, not only as a means to creativity but also as an alternate way of livelihood, but the conservative string plays a spoilsport. However, I am not about to give up and shall keep trying to inspire and motivate them.


FIRST PUBLISHED IN ‘RISING KASHMIR’ ON December 15, 2012
http://epaper.risingkashmir.com/15122012/default.asp

Death of Amritsar’s short story writer ………..by N. S. Tasneem


shravan kumar urdu

ON November 28, Shravan Kumar Varma breathed his last in Amritsar. His passing away at the age of 85 has suddenly brought to the mind that Amritsar can no more boast of having nurtured Urdu short story writers. During the early 1930s, Saadat Hasan Manto made his mark in Urdu fiction with his debut short story, ‘Tamasha’, that centred around a victim of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. On the footsteps of Manto, some writers contributed fictional works and poetic creations to Urdu literature in the decades to come.

It so happened that in the mid-1940s, some students wedded to Urdu literature got admission in Hindu College, Amritsar. Shravan Kumar Varma was among those. His first Urdu short story titled ‘Pardesi’ was published in the college magazine, ‘Shivala’. Incidentally, I was the student editor of the Urdu section of that magazine. Both of us, along with some other like-minded lovers of Urdu, such as Mohinder Bawa, Inder Kumar Sagar, Gopal Krishan and K.K. Razdan, were under the influence of Prof M.M. Mathur, who had also taught Urdu and Persian to Saadat Hasan Manto years ago.

In the days to come most of us left Amritsar, in search of new pastures, but Varma stuck to his guns. He settled permanently in Amritsar as a lawyer. During the course of six decades, he published some collections of short stories and a few novels. He was popular in the entire subcontinent, as his fiction had attracted readers both in India and Pakistan. Some of his works had been translated into Hindi and Punjabi, besides English. One of his short stories found place in ‘Select Urdu Best Stories’, published by Penguin.

He had been bestowed with the Shiromani Urdu Sahitkar Puraskar in 1993 by the Languages Department, Punjab. Thereafter some other awards sponsored by the literary organisations and Urdu academies followed, but he remained unmindful of all these honours. He was fully absorbed in creative literature, even while neglecting the duties of his profession. He was well versed in Urdu and Hindi, but he had a special niche in his heart for Punjabi. He had been the President of the Sahit Vichar Kendra for many years. Some of his Punjabi short stories were published in Punjabi monthly ‘Lau’ and Punjabi quarterly ‘Akhkhar’, brought out from Amritsar. The Editor, Parminderjit, a Punjabi poet in his own right, was instrumental in getting his Urdu short stories rendered into Punjabi.

Unluckily he remained confined to his bed for a long time due to one ailment or the other. He was hard up in those days but he considered it below his dignity to approach the authorities concerned for financial help. Still there is a feeling of grudge in the litterateurs that the Languages Department, Punjab did not come to his help suo moto while his plight had been mentioned in newspaper columns many times.

Some time ago I visited him at his place and found him, in the words of T.S. Eliot, ‘like a patient etherised upon a table’. Earlier I had found him composing short stories and poems while lying in his bed. He had in himself a reservoir of patience and confidence, full to the brim. Even now when the last Urdu story-teller in Amritsar has bidden us goodbye, something can be done to make life easy for his wife and two daughters. Unluckily, his young son had died a year ago, leaving the ailing father in dismay. He stifled his cry in the throat, and that prompted his death.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE TRIBUNE

%d bloggers like this: