Archive for the ‘THEATER’ Category

Culture caught in the Indo-Pak crossfire …By Rashmi Talwar www.sify.com


Madeeha Gauhar

Madeeha Gauhar


Culture caught in the Indo-Pak crossfire

By Rashmi Talwar

Culture, sports and soft exchanges become the first casualty, of any aberration between touchy neighbours- India and Pakistan. Peace is so fragile, like a delicate porcelain cup and a mere fingerprint on its exterior results in smudges of rancor, heated exchanges and petulant stands.

Recent dastardly incident of beheading of an Indian soldier and mutilation of another, counter killing of Pakistani soldier, in early January this year, became the proverbial fingerprint and did exactly that.

Following the recent Indo-Pak standoff, many initiatives and itineraries went haywire.

Permissions were roller-coastered and blood pressure on both sides shot up. Few hapless ones were caught in the crossfire and could hardly be consoled.

One such was Madeeha Gauhar Director of Ajoka Theatre, Pakistan.

Madeeha, along with her team of 20 theater artists and another Karachi based group -National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) invited by National School of Drama (NSD) was scheduled to present plays commemorating the 100th birth anniversary of noted Indo Pak writer Saadat Hassan Manto, in Delhi. But the shows of both plays were abruptly cancelled by NSD . This was attributed to instructions by government during the ongoing acrimony between the two countries, following the recent LoC incident.

A perturbed Madeeha revealed to Sify.Com, on her way back to Pakistan – “On the scheduled date of January 16, merely two hours before our performance, we were told that we would not be permitted to perform our play ‘Kon hai ye Gustakh’ based on Manto’s life. Another Pakistani Play ‘Mantorama’ by NAPA led by Zia Mohuddin, was similarly cancelled.”

As Madeeha complained of an “indecent exit” wherein their theater troupe was bundled into a bus and were not given any lunch, she also confided that she subsequently met Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid, who himself is a playwright of ‘-Sons of Babar’.

She stated, that when she queried the minister- “How could India treat its guests in this manner by canceling performances , the house was fully sold out and booked for both Pakistani plays and artists were left high and dry.”

To which, she claimed, Khurshid answered that “Union Government issued no instructions to suspend the Pak performances.”

Madeeha said she confronted the NSD Director Anuradha Kapoor on this, who said there were specific government instructions behind this cancellation.

Anuradha, when contacted by Sify.com retorted back that the chairperson of NSD got written instructions from the Delhi government to cancel the Pak performances on safety and public peace issues.

She further added that NSD being a government run organization has to conform to government instructions and guidelines.

Moreover, she said, cancellation of the two plays was a bigger loss to NSD, who had financed the entire tour of the two plays from Pakistan and gave full payment and continued hospitality to those from Pakistan, till they stayed in Delhi. Alternately, NSD, had to face the proverbial music from the audience, who were angry and had to be refunded for their tickets. She admitted that the Jaipur leg of the theater performance was also similarly cancelled.

Anuradha further defended, “Madeeha has been invited by NSD for last so many years, how could she not understand that any untoward happening could have serious consequences. Would Pakistan dump Indian artists to face a hostile audience if the plan was vice-versa?” she asked

Later, however a theater group led by Arvind Gaur `arranged two performances of Madeeha’s play on a single day at Akshara Theater, Delhi and another at Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi, that ended late at 1.00am on January 18th.

Even though Madeeha and Anuradha – both noted theater personalities are at logger heads over the cancellation of the Pak plays, they admit they see a big leap ahead in soft overtures of diplomacy on cultural and sports front, that could wipe away the short-lived distrust amongst the two nations

Theater was not the only casualty of the Indo Pak hostility, suspension of cross LoC trade and LoC bus between both sides of Kashmir too brought anxious moments to traders and visitors on both sides of Jammu& Kashmir. India too fell in the game of ‘tit-for-tat’ and unceremoniously turned back Pakistani hockey players from crossing over to India.

To top it all, a unique initiative involving spot visa on arrival for 65-year olds to visit each other’s country with as many as five destinations, too took a beating.

The initiative was scheduled to come into force on January 14. Ironically, the same morning saw its inauguration and suspension in quick succession.

However, veteran Indian journalist Chanchal Manohar Singh inadvertently created history on this morning to become the first to cross the Indo- Pak border under the senior citizen’s spot visa scheme.

Chanchal, speaking from Lahore to Sify.com said things were very normal in Pakistan and he has faced no harassment. He pointed out that had some similar performances been scheduled in Pakistan by Indians then the situation could have been different.
Despite these hot and cold moods, customary sweets were exchanged between BSF and Pak Rangers marking the celebration of India’s 64th Republic day, this 26th January which has become sort of a litmus test to gauge the temperatures on both sides. Also the arrival of 15 Pak women entrepreneurs under WCCI (Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry) in India yesterday and resumption of trade and bus service on LoC seems like a move forward.

Peace is fragile and can be fractured by the slightest of incidents goaded by media hype; such is the heightened sentiment between both distrusting neighbors- India and Pakistan.

Meanwhile senior citizens who were elated over the spot-visa scheme once again wait, somewhat more anxiously, this time, holding the fragile porcelain cup and hoping that it would not get smudged this time around.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN http://WWW.SIFY.COM
http://www.sify.com/news/culture-caught-in-the-indo-pak-crossfire-news-columns-nccefzefbhd.html

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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

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

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