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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Infant J and the Black Sea

Retrospecting....

Play: On Account of Being A Woman
Script: Manasi Subramaniam
Direction: Yours Faithfully
Performed by: The J Theatre
Produced by: SIE Trust & JBAS College for Women
Rating: 2 and half stars (may be!).... out of.... PITY!

I survived. It was not as bad as I feared. Believe me, at one point, it just wasn't happening. Not especially when a key player drops out of the show on pretext of parental disapproval a week before the show and a new person - who has not been physically optimal - has to step in to all those lines and reblockings! We just barely scrapped through 2 run throughs before the show. And everyone except myself were optimistic the show is going to hit headlines for all the wrong reasons. Well... as for me, I was realistic that this is a still-born. And so we moved into the Tech day, where to further add value to my negative beliefs, a lighting rig and focus that normally takes 5 hours took 8 hours. It was not complete when we decided to stop the focus to bare minimum and get on with the tech as the players had to go home, each carrying an IPC 144 (read Parental for P) and curfews ranging from 5 pm back home to 8 pm. I went home blissfully sure that the infant J was headed for crucifixtion even before the wine and wafer day!
And then it all kind of came through on the opening night. I would attribute it mainly to a 400+ strong home crowd. It was like a local cricketer going into bat on home ground. Of course, the cast slipped and shlepped around initially. But once the initial jitters vanished and the crowd warmed up, they went through it smoothly. I wouldn't say this production is my crowning glory. It won't even get into my Top 20 productions, it won't! But no damage done. The tech areas worked pretty smooth. Since the set was unit and needed no change... since the props were not too many and the cast handled the same themselves... and we had focussed hands on sound and lights... things seemed a lot better than I sound. Had it been otherwise, the onstage performance would have looked bad. It had its draggy moments, to confess. I stand charged for this offense and accept the verdict.
It was amateur theatre, no doubt. Some of them have diction problems even. But again, considering the background of some in terms of their lineage, as well as their past institutions, it was like adult education programme in theatre. Add to it, couple of them are first generation college goers. Probably that was the most significant aspect of this. Early evening, before the show last night (24th), I was talking to a press friend of mine who had come to meet us. I told her precisely this. I may not have got the same satisfaction had I worked with any other college (that leave alone has a heritage and tradition in theatre) where some of the students come to do studies after having matriculated from some of the creme-de-la-creme schools in city and elsewhere.
I am not trying to make it sound like these are losers of the planets when it comes to education; but: there are some very bright kids. And pedigreed financially and/or culturally as well. I mean, these kids have basic theatre skill sets in them. This is one thing for which I am jealous at them. Some of them from the not so upper echelons of schools in Chennai have an active street theatre background or more zealous school-day-affairs, they come equipped with a good body language. Add to it, having been through life with a big L I F E at an early age, they are able to identify layers and subtexts in the script.
It is not an easy script. It may look straight-forward and black&white, but believe me, Manasi has done a pretty good job. The craft is pretty decent, the way the script swings between dealing with the issue seriously and providing comic thrust when the going gets a little too grave. And by design or accident, she has also provided enough scope for people to double up, get enough time to change costume, be in two places at the same time without making it sound obvious... etc. And it ends with solving the problem it started with. Not the core of the play's thesis is sorted out. Which is a good thing. You can only present problems on stage and leave the end ambivalently. Apparently, I was told, one newspaper that carried the story about the show yesterday (yes, story. Where do we get Reviews these days!!!) signed off saying the end left the audience puzzled. Can't the audience be given the liberty to conjecture? Have the comedies by the city theatre groups dullened the intellectuality of theatre going audience? I guess this is where my crusade in theatre is. Veer off those hard-core comedy only audience back to THEATRE.
This is a play within a play. A journalist whose ass is being hauled up now and for good, has to get a story to convince her editor-boss to get a stay on her job. It's a man's world. And she has a Jerry on her hands whose lazy-bone attitude stalls things. He is chill madi-ed so to speak your local teen lingo. In this situation, she stumbles on a group of women who have taken refuge inside an NRI woman's organisation and refuse to go home until their husbands sign legal contracts to treat them better. And the cops are having a tough time, being the only ones who are let in there because of their badges... but are let in to provide protection to these women who are striking against beings of their (read men) own ilk.
Talking of body work, the Act 4 interrogation scene of one of the victimised woman (a hallucinatory scene) I had designed as a mime on domestic violence with actors also doubling up as molesters and sadists. The afternoon 11.30 show for college students actually left a few girls genuinely crying at the sadism on stage. For all that, these girls didn't even put their finger nail on the victim, in the course of mime. I thought that was success with S for them. When your audience identify with your character and not just laugh...laugh...laugh... Anyone with a 8-bit memory in their backsides for timing could make any audience laugh!
Talking of laughter, the play turned out to have plenty more to laugh than we had expected. The performance was 1 hr and 2 mins long. Dealing with DV and Harassment. And when I cumulatively put together the audience reaction over three shows vis-a-vis laughter (hahaha sort, not just the grin on your face!), each show had an average 40% laughter. And that's not bad. The play was entertainment, gave people something to laugh at... no mere punch-bag foot-longs of one liners. And when the audience identified themselves with the script and hooted and jeered the men as well as clapped for the women who took aggressive stance at men... it was EMPOWERMENT all the way. This was one production that I have done till date that was entertainment cum empowerment, proving once again my belief that theatre is not just a 9-inch long battery operated gizmo that gives shocks of laughter-release for the unreleased, but a cutting edge tool that can truly respect and seek to elevate their higher cerebral functions even while providing them a certain emotional cathartic release. Would you believe: I made announcements to the crowd to put their mobiles on silent, not bring beverages or crush plastics while eating inside audi, etc etc... and also said "feel free to applaud or even whistle".
90% women... clad to the extent where I have never before seen such a densely concentrated assemblage of black clothes from the crown Jack broke to the heel Achilles got hurt, with an occasional flash of a pair of eyes and uncreased foreheads. I truly felt like that Doctor chap in Rushdie's Midnight's Children, having to get to know his patient (in my case, clientele) in EMIs through two holes in a bedsheet! But when my announcement went on air and the play started, I could see pairs of hands from inside these black hoods creeping up, flashing gleaming nails polished with flourescent reds and irridiscent blues, vanishing into their labio-dental openings! And what whistles we had! All in the secure knowledge of their anonymity insured by the darkness enveloping the audience part of the venue.
At the end, when the Feminist activist slaps her Superintendent husband, couple of older women actually stood up and gave a standing ovation. My god... Manasi you missed the afternoon show of your own script! It was, to get back to reality, not even a 70% good performance, as the cast was still groggy from the hangover of the previous night premiere. But the hysteria they whipped up! So, it was at the end, not a nightmare as I had thought earlier at all. It was not something I would get delirious over. As I said, I had done at least 20 more better shows than this. But for the sheer experience of realising what it is to be a woman... and a woman inside those mass of textiles with so much pent up... to be a first-generation learner getting empowered to speak for themselves... it was worth it. In the process, I became aware what it is to most of the times be a man (sometimes I felt like the sole survivor after the 7 day deluge left on Noah's Ark only the denizens of Amazonia and myself as I walked the last 2 months into that campus on MKB Road, connecting Mount Road on the West and TTK Road on the East)! How inspite of the fact that this Unicorn walking inside their secure precincts could throw discomfort. It was like Abimanyu creating chaos inside the Kuru Chakra Vyuha... only to be decimated to a higher realisation. POWER IS ALL ABOUT POSSESSION OF SPACE. SPACE THEORY IS REAL. MAN STILL HAS NOT LANDED ON MOON. Because when I searched for him in the moon in the light of the lamp held by the Lady in the Moon, I couldn't find him; but I found myself! A new dimension added to the artist in me.

16 comments:

Srini said...

Hello Sir KK,

Albeit I am not qualified to comment on the theatrical facet of it, I can discern the fact that the performance was something of an edifying one! And indeed whatever be the field, I feel there's nothing like seeing a murky flash of light here, which turns out to be a pair of aegis of lightning that cuts us, blinds us, but keeps us alive, fostering on us the prerogative of having been a part of it!
And when you have been the very nurterer, or shall we say guide, of the "bringing out" the pent up, well I can understand the folded parts of ecstasy breathing through your, as usual, controlled and fluent passages.
Not to forget! A big Kudos to Manasi, too.

antickpix said...

hmm. missed this one.

any plans to for a re-run in march?

Krishna Kumar said...

I guess the college is planning a one night stand for the College Day sometime in March. But it's crazy. The unofficial news is that all Univ and college exams are to be advanced to the last week of March in view of the ensuing Elections or something. So crossed fingers at the moment.

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

Dear KK,
interesting...notwithstandning the fact that I haven't witnessed the play...just as Srini put it...

knowing what Manasi is capable of (have been reading her posts for months) one can expect all the good things you have said about her script...and Your own words at the end of this post are so interesting...
best wishes KK

SARVAM SRIKRISHNAARPANAMASTHU!

Krishna Kumar said...

Dear Srini

thanks as always for your detailed comments. What I really like about you and Anand's comments are that they are never lip-service. I wonder how guys really get so much time to put quality comments into blogs even where the posts are not very serious. Anyway, yes, there were times I felt genuinely glad I was a man. There were also times when I felt humbled before these girls. I wouldn't say it was THE learning experience of my life. But definitely, it is a milestone on the roadmap of my learning curve. Of course, for me everything on a day to day basis is a learning experience. I am a life-long learner. Slow, but steady.

Krishna Kumar said...

Dear Anand

Manasi is a wonderful being and a good writer. Only she needs a little push here and there to delve more into her work. There are people for whom some things come easily quickly and naturally that beyond the first input, there is no apparent progression. I am such a person myself. I wrote a solo piece am planning to perform sometime soon which I have put across to my writer friends and directors who have given me feedback as to where it needs strengthening of arguments. For me, when I wrote, as a writer-performed, it was complete. Because what I left unstated I would bring in on stage. I need that leeway. Else the writer in me dominates the actor. Similarly with Manasi, there are some incomplete areas as writer and that comes from her facility as a writer. But only an outside perspective would widen the text. There was a scene which she was forced to add as a result of my constant prodding. I guess she wrote it out of sheer necessity to get this out of her system and keep me off the peckering line. Actually that was the scene that had the girls in tears. That was the photo that got published in City Express with the review too! Sometimes we are all like Lord Anjaneya... we don't know our inner reality until someone puts a flag on it!

Krishna Kumar said...

Antick...

it's confirmed... we would most likely do another show in March. I am not for it at the moment because the time is not ripe although the college is still in the grip of the euphoria generated by J Theatre. In fact couple of those girls are running their student council election campaign on the strengths of their J Theatre visiting card. And the girls are badly missing the rehearsals and they want a show. But you know... first time euphoria is always like that. Nevertheless, there would definitely be a re-run in June-July when the JBAS Eng Dept has a huge national seminar of Women Writers of the Sub-continent happening.

In the meanwhile, we have a busy time coming up at Masquerade and Landing Stage what with Summer happening and summer is our time for youth theatre workshops.

Srini said...

Sir KK,

I do whatever little I do - or try to at least - with maximum commitment. If I cannot comment, or do not feel like commenting, I just won't at all.

And oh, yes I could glean the fact that it couldn't have been THE learning experience of your life. Oftentime I wonder about life as being the greatest leveller: we think we have gone through our greatest hour, and yet we find we are more capable. I am sure you are that kind of a person.

Of late my energies have been sapped by a spate of negative thoughts around me, what with the study-or-work pressure recurrently needling me. The thing is I have such a lovely family that I must do not just what is good for me but also what is good for them.

One of the reasons why I want to remain a bachelor maybe... lol

Anyhow, enough of drifts I guess. Awaiting your return unto both my spots (esply the novel one).

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

Dear KK,
I guess so...many of my philosophical posts are not complete discussions ...I post them to obtain feedback on what needs to be done to ensure more logical arguments in the future...

as for Lady M, though I am not acquainted with her except in the realm known as the blogopshere (which I am supposed to be the sovereign of, according to another blogger..hehe) I can sense that what you say of her is true...(yup, I have a reasonably well developed intuition which even tells me when there is a mail in my inbox..lol)

anyway KK, all the best for your plays...

also check out www.paritrana.org
the new party floated by youngsters, their philosophy sounds interesting...

SARVAM SRIKRISHNAARPANAMASTHU!

Krishna Kumar said...

Dear Anand

You it the nail. After all, blog is the sphere where people - not necessarily isolated or needing society - meet to exchange ideas and communicate thoughts, in some cases not always serious and hence trivial, to satisfy a certain inner need to talk. I call it a medium for certain things for which we may not get the platform to air or in certain ways a self-help kit for inhibited to speak people. However, the notion of what is important or trivial is by itself highly relative as everything is relative, relatively speaking! So a lot of blogs descend to discussing a lot of junk that clogs the space. Well, I always feel we Indians, especially the proliteriats as well as the educated young bourgeosie have genetically inbred with the art of misusing communication tools that now we have started assaulting the blogosphere that is a brilliant tool for writers who needs space to express. When electronic typewriters came into existence, it cost as much as 25 rupees a page to print, then came photocopy, the price of electronic printout came down to under 15 while photocopying cost 6 bucks a page... then came cheap photocopying, cheaper photocopying... the same with Phones... std isd booths that helped us communicate comparitively inexpensive across continents... and domestically as well... and then came pco culture. And then cellular phones. I am the owner of a 9 year cellular connection. I started when mobile minute for 18 rupees... and every sms cost. So one was considerate in usage. Now look at the status. And then Dial-up... I started at the age of telnet and later lynx. I still own an NCSA Mosaic app browser. Now broadband misuse. And the latest of all Blog misuse to Blahg! So you are right. But why oh why are Indians the only indiscriminate breed? Why do we misuse and are leading everything to brinkmanship where we say "Oh, but look at what is happening?". The younger generation - I meant younger... meaning I am still somewhere in the peripheries of being young - doesn't know the value of things... feelings, emotions, words, expressions, relationships and MEDIA! Anyway, I shall check this site later. From Monday next week I am back wiht more time for the Web World. Is the name of the website evolved from the GITA?

Rock 'n Roll Aint Noise Pollution said...

KK-- KAY KAY---Krisna Kumar!! come on dude i dint know ur into blogging and all kk! stumbled upon your blog through aashir's!
by the way this is NInju

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

Dear KK,
I do see he blog world as a place where one can express ideas and of course interact with people of a similar ilk, across geographic distances...
it is all about self-expression and philosophy even, but some sites just become caught up with things that are not exactly the author's own ideas ...

I agree with you on the point concerning the attitude of the younger generation...(though I am 21, I do not identify with the younger generation, or any other generation for that matter)
Generation Next was merely a concept created by some marketing whiz...not an independent reality...

glad to have you back in action...
SARVAM SRIKRISHNAARPANAMASTHU!

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

Dear KK,
The party is named paritrana because they believe in alleviation of distress...yest it does have a sanskrit basis but whetehr it is from the Gita I cannot tell...
besides the guys who have set it up use quotes from the Rig Veda and speak of ancient wisdom, on their site...looks like they have a tough job getting people to vote in Tamil Nadu, where they are contesting elections...they have an interesting party philosophy that sounds JKish to me...and already it is being called a geek party by some papers and sites...however their earnestness seems credible and their desire to bring the country out of its present state genuine...

SARVAM SRIKRISHNAARPANAMASTHU!

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

Dear KK,
post on it if you like the party's philosophy and their ideas...I don't think my blog has enough reach in the blog world (despite being the Sovereign of the Blogosphere at that....lol)..

SARVAM SRIKRISHNAARPANAMASTHU!

Srini said...

Sir KK,

Have posted part 1 of my fourth longest poem... it can be, I reckon, regarded a poem in the non-prose sense (lol)

Please check it out if you can when you find time!

zazu said...

very interesting post kk,finally...aft like 2 years...i got to know what exactly what you thought about our play!!....thankfully it was'nt all bad;-)........

shreya