A feast of theatre

7 years ago

Productions from across India are set to be enacted on stage at the forthcoming Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META), considered the only national award exclusively for theatre in the country.

Ten best plays picked from 268 entries recieved from a wide array of language theatre from all over the country including Tamil, Urdu, Mizo, Assamese, Malayalam and even non verbal plays will be performed live here from for a week beginning today.

"The subject matter doesn't matter, it can be a sex comedy but very well done! A play might be a musical, spoken, may be even silent. However, the quality needs to be there," says Ravi Dubey, creative director, META.

He has reasons to say that. The list for Best Play nominations for this year's awards includes Akarsh Khurana's "Baghdad Wedding", Lillete Dubey's "Adhe Adhure", Ningthouja Deepak's "A Far Cry" and seven others exploring various issues- from insurgency to slums, from a "wedding that goes horribly wrong" to a "hilarious tribute to Hitchcock".

In the seven years since the establishment of the awards, the number of entries have gone up from four to 268 this year. "Many already existed and many new have been formed because of extended reach to a lot of theatre groups. There is no doubt that we are trying to reach more and more people. Theatre groups are part of our culture and today we see a lot of good theatre coming from states like Kerala, Assam", says Dubey.

Mohan Rakesh's portrait of the protagonist (Savitri) in "Adhe Adhure" shows her dealing with the complexities of marriage. The veteran playwright and novelist of the 60s and 70s wrote the play in 1969 that has been interpreted and re-interpreted by several directors over the years.

The play has bagged a total of seven nominations including the Best Director, the Best Actor in a Leading Role and the Best Play.

Ira -- Lillete's daughter-- too, has been nominated under the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category. Akarsh Khurana, the propreitor of Mumbai-based Akvarious Productions, has been nominated thrice for META's Best Director category. Busy in the staging of 'The Interview' in Bangalore, he said his nominated play "Baghdad Wedding" is "a story about three friends, all Iraqis, who study at a college in London. It is a drama to the true sense of the word."

"The Interview" had bagged four awards last year and Akarsh says he is looking forward to see the audience reaction in the national capital when the nominated plays will be staged with free public viewing at Sri Ram Centre and Kamani Auditorium March 1 onwards.

A jury comprising theatre veterans like Amal Allana, Ananda Lal, Darshan Jariwala, Mukund Padmanabhan and Samik Bandyopadhyay will judge the best out of the nominations for 13 categories besides giving away an award for lifetime achievement.

The near future might also see India playing a centrestage in global theatre industry as according to Dubey, "plans are very much there".

"I want to take it (theatre) to a global level where an exchange of talent can take place. As a short term goal, I want to take at least three best productions and travel throughout India", says Dubey who feels association with Anand Mahindra happened at the right time to make his contribution towards theatre. M Talking about awards, he dismisses the need for a popular choice or a street play category.

"Talent should be judged by people who have experience in the field and why should we have a separate category for street plays. It is theatre at the end of the day!" At the moment, lesser told tales are keeping Dubey excited with his play "Sammy" staging no less than 260 shows. Based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, Dubey explains it is titled so because "surnames of south Indians working as labour which is generally 'Swamy' gets distorted by the whites in South Africa to 'Sammy'".


The play by late Partap Sharma deals with Mahatama Gandhi's life in South Africa in the first part and his contribution to the freedom movement in India in the second. Dubey plays the inner voice "The Mahatma". PTI


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