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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Between Nostalgia and Phantasy...















Event: Theatre
Title: Rural Phantasy
Genre: Socio-political Satire
Author: Kalki Krishnamurthy
Adapted & Scripted: Gowri Ramnarayan
Language: English (original Tamil)
Venue: Museum Theatre, Chennai
Dates: 10 - 12 March 2006
Produced by The Madras Players in collaboration with Just Us Repertory

"I know that when I set about writing a comedy the idea presents itself to me first as a tragedy... If the characters were not qualified for tragedy there would be no comedy... (FRY, Christopher - "Comedy." Drama Review, 4,3 (Mar.1960): p. 78)

Set alongside this a statement by Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt, the Swiss-German playwright, "comedy is like a mouse trap." It traps the audience into laughing and as they laugh, nudges them into listening and before they realise, they are actually laughing at themselves.
There are two ways of looking at Rural Phantasy. As a play and as a production. It all depends on whether one wants to look at the text or the context. On the surface, after the first reading, yours faithfully shared the view with several others that it has a paper-thin plot and was very episodic and fragmented with patriotism and Bharatiyaar for fervid excuse. The characters were caricatures with perhaps the endocorp more meaty than the epicorp. This was a play within a play within a play.
There is the author of the original short story trying to tell us a tale of a village. Then there is the Narrator-Man telling it to the audience at the performative level. And then there is the Narrator-Woman along with the man telling us the current predicament of theatre in Chennai. Somewhere down the line, at the production level, the script also morphs into a post-modern self-reflexive meta-theatre wherein the Narrator-Woman also steps into the screen to become the "Pudhumai Pen" (The New/Neo/Neuve/Revolutionary Woman - not Picasso's but Bharatiyaar's) that she talks about in her prelexia (if they call the end Dyslexia, why not call the intro Prelexia. I hear you G. Why or how can they make fun of Dyslexia in the epilogue. But if we want to feel abrasive we have the right to. Only, it was not a medical or "challenged" dig. It further highlights our ineptitude and socail malaise in a very post-colonial, post-structural, post-modern world. So excuse the irreverence). And further to add to it, Bala who played the Narrator-Man also becomes minor roles in the course of the play within the play within the play's events. But those were roles that Andrea and Bala were originally cast for. What really made this Phantasy fantastically meta-theatre was what Bala did on Saturday afternoon show!

The costume changing was so tight before the first Ranganatham scene that guys who had gone for Bande Mataram dance were still dhoti-ing themselves in the scene... I was alone in the company of a topless Gandhi, courtesy The Hindu, 125th Anniversary issue sporting 1940s look. Shankar Sundaram was blissfully sleeping on stage. So Bala had to continue with ad-lib lines to occupy stage time because I cannot talk until I had co-actors to talk to. He ad-libbed and hung on as no one had managed to come on stage... and joined me. Moments like these go to make the genre of 'survivor tales'. From Sanjaya in Mahabharatha to Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man, 'survivor tales' of self-reflexive fiction would tell you that the narrator is invariably the one who had to go through a certain apocalypse and the ignominy of having to be present at the site of an event but could not participate or was marginal and hence subaltern as well... and survives to tell the tale. But these are the delighful characters that make up history worth listening to. Which is the core content of my post here.
Someone said in the comment to the previous post: "take away the music, the dance and the physical comedy, and what is left?" I aver. There would be nothing left as a story TO TELL; but give me also leave to disagree. The story is not about dance or music or physical comedy. It is all about the struggles our patriotic leaders of the past and freedom-fighters of colonial Bharat had gone through to get us where we are. Therein lies the strength as well as the weakness of the script. As "Kanayazhiyin Kanavu", as written by Kalki, it works. Well, now it works only as a good story. At the time it was written and perhaps for until a decade later it worked to inspire. But now... it just doesn't. Because we have too much freedom and democracy!

The fate of Gowri's "Rural Phantasy" is the same as Evam's "Evam Indrajit". Again... it doesn't question the efficacy or cast aspersion on the palpability of Kanayazhi or Indrajit. Like Jennie Malone (sorry to bring in Neil Simon in an Indian context, especially when at the beginning of "Rural Phantasy" the Woman says she's bored of english theatre from Shakespeare to Neil Simon. but then we are dealing with the same actress no? So, coincidences galore! Also we are discussing Rural Phantasy in comparison with Evam Indrajit vis-a-vis the fate of the production. So... so much more!)! Anyway, like Jennie Malone tells Leo in Chapter Two, "May be the timing was wrong!" Yes... YEs...
YES! The timing. Sure Thing. It's all in the timing, as David Ives says! A story such as Rural Phantasy does not relate to the youth following theatre today, as much as they could not relate to Evam Indrajit. The opening night was a rave. Of course we had three encore curtain call Namastes on the second night because we had the audience giving standing ovation in three waves... in three instalments... but still, IMHO, the opening night audience was the best in terms of response; simply because they were audience from the Kalki era. From the pre-independence era. You get the point? The mortality rate in Chennai is still high. Yes, it was an aged-audience and again IMHO they have turned up to listen to Carnatic music, get nostalgic about Kanayazhiyin Kanavu and see some good dancing of the traditional variety (which unfortunately was made shitty by a certain fly - yours faithfully! If you don't believe me, ask the cast around about my struggles with the Bilahari Swarajathi.) Cutting digressions, the play works only with people who can relate to the content of the story within the play. Like Gowri said during the curtain call on Saturday night, the cast knows nothing about Freedom struggle. C'mon... besides Shankar Sundaram, I was the oldest member of the cast and am just stuck with my mid-life blues! Our lighting manager who flashed the Indian tri-colour flag on the white cyclorama was not even born when I had completed my Bachelor's. So you can imagine our ignorance. Under such a condition how do you expect the quintessence of the script to percolate through the cast. And if you don't understand the script, how could you relate to it? Even if you understood, it would only be surface understanding, not felt experience. Also, we are dealing with a whole lot of cast and crew who are in it for the experience of doing theatre. I dare challenge anyone with total abrasion and armed with cannon-ball when I say this. Besides perhaps Bala pick me one member in my co-cast who has a theatrical ideology and does theatre out of a certain political belief?
All theatre - am making a sweeping gesture here - would continue to remain nicely put together piece of aesthetic junk if art is not practised out of conviction to communicate something. Even if the creator believes in his/her conviction, the ensemble must feel the same, else only artifacts. No artifice. No conceit. No art. No Theatre. Which explains why I am getting so many messages, posts and calls about the lack of depth in the performance (and I strictly mean the performance), when the euphoria has died down.
CLAIMANTS WHO DARE CHALLENGE ME RAISE YOUR HANDS AND WE'LL SETTLE THE ISSUE ANY WHICH WAY YOU LIKE!
So, to cut the long explanation short in response to EyeFry's statement that if you take away the music, the dance....blah blah, let me say, unfortunately what came through this production was only the music dance and physical caricature which you were tongue in cheek enough to qualify as comedy because the hall was resounding with echoing laughter. The play has a finer humour that never came out, unfortunately. IMHO it is a brilliant script. May be I prefer DARK HORSE for its tautness, but THIS IS A FINE SCRIPT. The priorities sadly on the production front were different. The accent was on the musical-ness of its genre than on the discourse about the freedom struggle, patriotism, independence and our political heritage. And despite the director's repeated attempts to inculcate us with Kalki's politics, we sadly could not rise above the basic muck of dishing out few aaahs and oohs and ahhhhaahahahas to the audience who paid 100 bucks to buy a piece of heritage.
This is a trend am getting scared about in Chennai Theatre right now. We have a generation of actors who either produce Call Center Theatre or another set of people who package nostalgia in the form of Heritage Theatre. At least, Heritage teaches us some inspiring moments, but Call Centers are threatening to make the Jayathirths into Jays, Srivatsans to Steves, Mariammas to Mary-Anns etc etc. We are getting evangelised to commodities of KFC culture. We need to go beyond the threshold of nicety and do a lot more 'in yer face' theatre to wake up an audience that is fast becoming addicted to I don't want to say what! Theatre should not be nice or packaged. It is an art that aims to edify through entertainment. We need to be hyper-critical and moon on each other if theatre here needs to satisfy beyond a few kicks. All right, let's now go empty our bladder. It's been a long 2 hours sans intermission :-))

33 comments:

Karthi said...

Your blog is listed in chennai bloggers list. If possible place a link in your blog to chennai bloggers list.
http://chennaibloggers.blogspot.com/

Thanks,
Karthi.

eyefry said...

Call-Centre Theatre! What a beautiful/terrible allegory! And just when I was beginning to think nothing was left to be outsourced...

That apart, some questions -

* From what I can see, English theatre in Chennai is largely (though not comprehensively, of course) of the amateur variety AKA Acting as Timepass: so is it really impossible for someone to moonlight as an honest, ideology-waving actor ("John Q: mild-mannered designer by day, Mr.Histrionix by night!")?

* Is there a genuine lack of original scripts to go around? As you say, theatre (like all forms of art) is best when reflexive. Aside from the rare exception such as 'On Account Of Being A Woman' that you recently reviewed, there doesn't seem to be much being performed in Chennai's English theatre - to merit the usual signs of popular acclaim such as newspaper reviews, at least - that isn't salvaged from the past or purloined from the West (or, much less criminally, translated from local lingo). Having a very limited knowledge of the history of Indian theatre, I'm unable to judge whether the renaissance that seems to be taking place now is cultural or simply commercial. English is possibly the most democratic of Indian languages, and there are more writers in it now than anytime else. So, coming back to the original question, is no one writing plays in English, or is theatre in English - in the role of a catalyst of social change - dying?

This confusion, because I genuinely know nothing of this trade. Most of my formative years, unfortunately, were spent watching too much film and not enough theatre...

Krishna Kumar said...

Oh yes... these are days of offshore and onsite developments in theatre too. There are groups who cash in on the audience here and try and sell their brands elsewhere or establish elsewhere. And there are brands who "Rob Peter to pay Paul" as they say... perform here to full houses and seek artistic cooperation here and contribute to the growth of art and theatre elsewhere. No names yet. But I have very very reliable information of 'local swindle global spindle'. So Call Centre Theatre is not wrong. We are abreast of times, no?

About Mooning... well all theatre in Chennai is not only amateur but most theatre is amateurish simply because we are too stuck with the commerce and the number games and footfalls and box office that we are not conscious of the art. If anyone looks at the artistic side they are too busy bothering about the colourfulness of sets and teh zaris on the angavasthrams rather than aesthetics of acting. The stage etiquettes and FOH PR seems to have taken importance even in art than pushing the boundaries of the craft of acting. But there are a few individuals (about 5 to 7) in English theatre who take themselves more seriously the craft than most. Too much mass and too little class!

Scripts and the lack thereof? Yes there is a paucity of good scripts though there are plenty of local or indigenous scripts. "On Account..." is a rare script that combines the commerce and the cause. And I know there is a heckuva lot to come from that little woman!

When has Chennai relied upon its nativity? Or originality? The trouble is Chennai - and is no different in that sense for Coimbatore or Delhi or Mumbai - is always trustworthy of others than themselves. Leave along whoring after western gods... have we ever supported local playwrights in the past? The idea to support Chennai-based playwrights has not gotten popular beyond Madras Players. The secret is this: most of the theatre community - I mean most - do not read as much literature, especially theatre literature and as a result their depth in theatre literature is not good enough. There are a few directors and a handful of actors who read a lot of plays. But again, it just stops with plays. No idea of history or theory or practises to augment their depth. And they are all just interested mostly in running from one rehearsal to another and mugging one passage to another and doing one role to role. It's all for socialising and self-satisfaction of soul or ego of the putrid variety. What catalysis? What catalyst are we talking. You will never get Chennai to get a Kieslowskian or Kachyna-esque thinker.

Well, Masquerade is kicking off a community initiative this year for a year-round program of discovering local playwright and local short plays beginning April and culminating in a Festival of Short Plays in February 2007 and hopes to make it an annual feature. We'll talk more of it later.

astlck - I am suspecting Blogger is coming with WV a-la google. It not only keeps its WV in line with the matter of the post but also the mood of the post...

Krishna Kumar said...

Eyefry...

to further add... all this does not mean that Chennai cannot get better. It has to start taking itself more seriously and that lies only in the hands of the directors who need to stop getting desperate about filling halls or encouraging actors they find prurients. If at all there is any future for serious contribution to indigenous theatre in English language it should come from Chennai. I mean, Chennai-ites are like Swiss. They were too close to the happenings of national struggle and other upheavals that happen across the nation from time to time and not really get involved in it. That should endow them with a certain objective distance to create works that reflect upon society and times, with a dash of humor or lightness or satire. That's what happened to Switzerland during the late 40s, 50s and up until early 70s. The guilt of non-participation in the WWII left a huge scar on them that they created great works. Also, they proved a great haven of refuge for artists running away from the Holocaust, thus preserving art. Chennai could become that. Only if it recognises itself. And only the youth could do it anymore. But they have to get a little more purposeful than farting around at rehearsals and sms-ing between scenes. All this might seem like the words of a loser who can't get to enjoy himself, but there is a limit to enjoyment because we are enjoying at the expense of some producer some director some scriptwriter.

Srini said...

Sir KK,

I am not qualified to comment on the theatrical facet of it, but as ever there is something just more than theatre even in your theatrical posts. I love the sub-texts.

It is extremely pertinent that you should quote that Chennai theatre is hanging from two ends, which are over-compensating - the evangelising and the heritage, as it were, in your own words. Having read through some of your posts on theatre, art, literature and other issues on life, I know how passionate how you feel about certain things in life. But pray tell me Sir KK, are people passionate and clear-minded at all these days?
Are they left to be so? Your generation - and those past yours and a few in the present - is a fine one, still bold enough to admit realities, going ahead to critique them and even change them. But in the modern mayhem of cutoffs, marks and IIM grads earning $193, 000 I am sorry to say but no one seems to give a damn for the finer aspects of anything.
As for your discerning view of humour, I believe the same, too. What we make comedy today is a fowl frisson of empty laughters smeared upon themselves and on the players by the audience. A healthy enlightening smile - as you said laughing at oneself, sans ridiculing oneself - is indeed the very essence of humour, which courtesy our humour, I reckon we have lost for good.
Tata...

eyefry said...

Oh, for the birth of a desi Arthur Miller, or even, for that matter, a Woody Allen...

Krishna Kumar said...

Dear Srini

to your query, I would answer so. People are always definitely passionate in any age any clime. Only the priorities are different. Without passion nothing happens. As for finer aspects of life, well! Each unto his/her own. Some look at decor, some look at internal aesthetics, some go for metaphysical quality of life. At some point of everyone's life the glitter and glamour ceases and a higher reality takes over. It's just a question of time. As they say, once the gloss of skin-deep attraction settles down or wanes, the eyes and senses get tired (or is it the other way round?) and then the real quest begins. Give everyone time.

Krishna Kumar said...

Eyefry, why couldn't you wish for an Indian Dryden or Wilde or T.S.Eliot or Pinter or Beckett. Should we look to the other side of Atlantic pond always? What's wrong with Mahesh Dattani or Shreekumar Varma or Anushka Ravishankar?

eyefry said...

Apologies. I'll throw in an Ibsen, Shaw and Wilde, along with grand old Will Shakes, for good measure.

S.K.Varma, the good guv'nor, I cannot objectively comment on, Ravishankar I have never had the pleasure of viewing or reading, and I'm not too crazy about Dattani (I'm of the opinion that he distorts events, issues and catastrophes into improbable and somewhat naive scenarios. I once watched a play he wrote on the Gujrat earthquake - in which an old woman and a kid trapped under a load of rubble chat philosophical goose eggs for hours on end - and was compelled to walk out midway due to its sheer absurdity. As a survivor of the same earthquake, I believe I have some right to say that his reading of the situation was bordering on the comically surreal (wholly unintended, I'm sure). I'm told he treats all his subjects in a similar irrelevant/irreverent/unresearched/inconsiderate/ridiculous way...)

But. Point taken.

Srini said...

Sir KK,

Today's quote is excellent. Another of Gibran's famous quotes comes to mind on seeing that.

Indeed Sir KK I think it was wrong of me to have asked are people "passionate...?" these days. Well, the whole problem then, departing from your own response is where are these passions emitted, stored or bestowed upon? Well... I accept what you say in this regard, too: each one unto his/her own self.

But I have this foreboding, I do not about you, that with things running away at as rapid a pace as they are - I always believe in the dictum of steadiness over speed; the somewhat long-standing over the transient; and in your own words the genuine quest over the oblivious glitter - we are close to a major emotional breakdown. And your generation might just out-survive it. I cannot even think of the world into which my kids might step into.
Anyway I have digressed enough from the post I guess. Sorry. So much for that.

Srini said...

Oops (Sir) KK!!!

More than a couple of grammar mistakes on that comment. Sorry about that.

Krishna Kumar said...

Oh and I have a couple of - rather 4 - up and coming exciting playwrights that I either personally know of or currently working with or have had the single great luck of having recently worked with! All very young and very good with their words and very 'in' on topicality. Gautam Raja - the Bangalorean whose works we at Masquerade would be producing this 2006 year, Harsha Dandapani - another Bangalorean but who has since relocated here for survival and has become a bit of slouch with playwrighting and whom I intend kicking on the rear sooner than later, our own dear Anupama Chandrasekar of the Closer Apart fame (she's a bit of crazy duck as well, has not been contributing to Chennai of late and needs a wrap on her head too!) and our own Ms. Manasi Subramaniam (who has loads of her works tucked away and wouldn't show them and is in no hurry to surface). Well, there used to be a time when the playwrights came from Bangalore, the actors from Chennai and some directors from Mumbai. But we are catching up on all fronts and rears of late. Give us another 2 years and chennai is going to rock with writers if they don't peter out! As regards Mahesh... well, I don't see him different from other playwrights from other cultures milieus and climes. I suppose all writers use a bit of distortion exaggeration etc etc to make the point. The problem with your Ray and Ghatak type of art films were they were too realistic to give a goodly paced entertainment. On the other hand these are days of art movies or offbeat movies which still get the box ringing. Similarly, Mahesh does issue based theatre and yet gets people to the seats. That is the bottom line. I suppose his Tara, Dance Like, Final Solutions and Seven Steps are all good plays. Not to mention Where There is a Will. Oh yes, sometimes you do bad work too. But one can't be too consistent. Billy Bard had some rank bad works too!

Krishna Kumar said...

Dear Srini... but wait!

I thought you had decided to stay single and bachelor!!! I thought women were the only ones allowed the previlege of being fickle. I know one very fickle woman. :-))

Krishna Kumar said...

Eye... to continue name dropping!

There is also Ramganesh Kamatham the young turk from the youth wing of ART Bangalore - he writes well too. I have read one of his work. Amit Singh of ASAP Productions has read and was almost on the verge of producing another recently. And then, there is Poile Sen Gupta - another Bangalorean who has relocated to the same Delhi Anushka has moved to. Well, she's been around for a while now. Mitran produced her Inner Laws - a total woman charactered play and a brilliant satire on the Tu Tu Mein Mein serial types. It was a romp. And Bagyam produced a few years back her play Thus Spake Shoorpanakha, So Said Shakuni - which I am planning to produce sometime - once I get Poile's permission. A good subversive take on Mahabharat and Ramayan in the contemporary terrorist context. The trouble is, we theatre artists who produce direct and act are so caught up - rather stuck up - we think Indian works are not polished enough to put up. I feel if the work is good enough as a read, it really is in the director's hands to give it a certain finesse on stage. And only with such productive encouragement can the art of playwriting survive and flourish. Only when a writer sees his/her work at rehearsal will s/he get an idea what works and not and what to revise what to edit, delete etc. We have to give people chances. So... if SKV's genes have been passed on to you and you have any works let me know.

Carte Blanche...

And hey, I am right about the WV thingie I spoke of in one of the comments. The algorithm does churn out something from the content of the post. My current one is nrehswyt - contains reh - short for rehearsals. The other day it produced three wv's of similar nature in the comments i posted in various blogspots. Fun eh?

eyefry said...

As a matter of fact, I've been struggling with a play for some time now. So far I've written short stories, poems, comics, even attempted several novels (hahahahahahahahahaha), but the play has eluded me. So, with some encouragement from the pater, I recently started on a play about defective relationships in the cyber age. Once a month or so I tentatively slink over to the file in which the damn thing lurks, and give it an experimental nudge or two. Sometimes it grunts, turns over and goes back to sleep, and sometimes it roars at me in barely-contained fury. One day, some day, I hope to tame the beast. Until then...

Btw, very cool observation on the WV thing. You ought to put up a post about your discovery, spread some enlightenment. At the very least, it'll engage the likes of Samanth and Vinod G at the next QFI...

Krishna Kumar said...

Eye!

The trouble with people who write and are young - as a matter of rule - is they start with ideas and artifices and expect the spark to divine a narrative work: play or whatever to happen. Without a story, without characters and without plot nothing happens in the first place. The golden rule still and will always hold. Prio 1 - you are telling a story. So focus on the story first. Then tell it the way you want it. The technique can come later. Craft of the writer is to write the what first then in the next stage rework on the how of the packaging! Since everyone is aiming to write a postmodern, abstract, absurd or whatever type of work rather than tell stories most trains derail even before it starts!

Yeah... Samanth and Vinod might find it useful. But more than that antickpix may find this conspiracy theory interesting.

eyefry said...

I usually go at anything from a definite plot and then build the narrative around it. But I'm not particularly familiar with the mechanics of theatre. In fact, to be completely frank, the whole reason I've been edging myself into the theatre community of late is so I can get a broad understanding of the more prominent devices you guys use (in the hope that I may one day be able to write a play of some substance... and also to understand acting itself, for when I make my next short film).

Srini said...

Dear Sir KK,

My children was just a manner of speaking (lol) though I guess you might have no reason to believe it at all... I meant the future generation in general.

Anyway good to see the avalanche of productions coming up at Masquerades. Bonne Chance Monsieur KK!

Srini said...

And Sir KK,

Posted Part II of my long poem... Let me know once you have read it. Good day!

Krishna Kumar said...

Eye.... as they say in the commerce Caveat Emptor. So you fishing in the pond to sell later to the pond owners eh? Got that one. But come again... when you make your next short film? Where and when was your first one?

Krishna Kumar said...

Dear Srini

yes we have a lot coming up at Masquerade. Btw, to split a thin hair, if you noticed it is Masquerade - singular and not plurals! Anyway, think nothing of it, am used to it. Lot of people pronounce it so!

Krishna Kumar said...

Sorry... Srini, forgot to add. Will read the second part of the Long Poem. Lol! btw, whatsup with Anand? I can't seem to access his Dwaraakavaasin blog. It keeps repelling me saying 403 Forbidden URL! And haven't heard from his a-while. Gone a-visiting Maalola temples has he?

Srini said...

Dear (sir) KK,

Sorry about that. I have been under the impression all along that it is Masquerades, a plural. Now that you have told me I'll correct the reference.

Have posted Chapter 7 of my novel too. Do not know how far you have read, but just keeping you informed. And yes Anand's blog wasn't accessible until yesternight. Now it is. Have a great weekend.

Crazy Duck! said...

Hi KK
Dropped in to to get/share some gyaan on musicals -- or on reviewing them -- when i chanced across your comment on my freaky fowlish nature! You made my day!

Read a couple of reviews of RP in the papers. I think the primary confusion of the reviewers was whether to review it 1) as a play which has music and dance or 2) as a music-dance fete which has a play. The reviews read by and large like those of concerts (what raga a song was etc.)

I remember asking a Brit director of a whopper of a musical (Mamma Mia!) what she looked for during the audition. She told me the first thing she looked for actors who could dance and sing. She found one. So finally she settled for singers who could dance and dancers who could sing! Acting be damned! I watched the production - great music and dance and pretty decent acting! The Abba songs were integrated into the script in very startling ways.

My point is: RP was not just a string of songs (wonderful though they may have been). It was a musical -- a unique platform for song and dance and story telling -- and should have been treated as such by the reviewers.

Anu

eyefry said...

Made two short films with fellow film students two years back (they did the rounds of the usual student film festivals, not much else), made some corporate shorts (again, with a larger team) for HP. Have some scripts in incubation, but the disconcerting thing is, the ideas are all for full-length feature films! So I'm putting things off until I hopefully get to do a masters in filmmaking. Don't want to jump into the big bad fray unprepared...

Krishna Kumar said...

Anu... dear anu... at first I wanted to ask which anu is this? The anu who danced in the play I acted in (RP) or the anu of the ananth or chandrax. Then I re-read the message for clues. Ok, this Duck happens to be chandrax. Who else would run into someone who made Mamma Mia! and be back in chennai to relate that. Anyway, yes, Mamma Mia! is an amazing musical. And yes she seems to have a point. But with RP as a production everything was misplaced in terms of prio. The "production values" as Samanth terms it in his blog. I feel it is wrong in our milieu to seek actors who can dance and vice versa. The things is... there is a general conception or mis-conception that anyone can act as much as in summer everyone offers a little module in dramatics in the name of theatre workshop as part of summer workshop for kids. I mean anyone and everyone. Every tom with a hairy dick to make the cliche sound different even if gross! It is like this. Except for Sunder in the cast who is properly trained in the cast, none can act and dance. That includes Andrea on seeing how she struggled to get the swing dance, if you remembered. Andrea may be one in a few acting/singing/dancing capability in chennai, but even she had difficulty. The main problem is this: this was not a 8 week production out of which the entire cast probably got to meet on a regular basis only during the performance dates! I mean, this is a potential risk Chennai is running into. We are not yet ready for full time professional theatre mentally and are not yet out of the amateur theatre mentality. It is a convenient choice to say we are amateurs like some middle-aged people conveniently say "what to do, we are after all women"! It sucks. I am sure if they really wanted (the producers and director) they would have taken extra pressure if not pleasure to get what exactly they want. Everyone wants to stop pushing the bar at a certain comfortable point for them, see. When one could get 7 dancers (6 girls and a guy), when they wanted to get 5 actors and hide the 6th actor who turned out to be a dancer, if they really wanted they could have. We all don't want to go the distance to make the effort complete. Which is why, even if the quality of plays suck from Mumbai or Delhi or elsewhere their production packaging looks slick. The right things are in the right place. This was purely an ego-massaging trip for all and sundry involved to showcase their enthusiasm and backpat each other saying We have done this in Chennai!

Actors must act and singers must sing and dancers must dance. If we don't have too many choices, then we should start the process early, do a workshop for actors to dance and dancers to act. No one did no training. As a result you couldn't hear the girls acting and couldn't afford to keep your eyes open when guys like samanth and karthik varma and myself danced. And the production was so short that we barely completed exploring the nuances in the lines and it left an unhappy feeling in me as to how much more, given some more time, I could bring to the script. There is no point saying if we can't do it within a time, we would never do it with extended time. Fair was foul and foul was fair. RP, when the dust has settled down and the echoes have died down the corridor, as an artistic exercise remained a nice exercise in trying to bring the three facets of performance arts together. And I am not surprised at the confusion of the press. It was a potpourri of roles and caricatures which were acted out severally and each role was not given enough scope to make a mark worthy of mention in the reviews. I knew right at the beginning what the reviews would contain. An approximate summing up and a couple of lines about costumes, T M Krishna and dance choreography. Not even the usual mention about Mitran's sets and lights. Everything was there and yet nothing was there. Again, like Samanth says in his blog (you can click the link on my blogroll), it doesn't matter what who learned from the production as an actor, it was all about making building establishing relationships and rapport with people. People just remained people. A perfect small town community production. I am not complaining about the experience at all. It was fun. And I got close quarters to watch some people at work, which brought me closer to them. But that's it.

Krishna Kumar said...

Eye... playing your chips carefully. Good for you.

Thinkopotamus said...

what is the high that gets people to the theatre? what is this magic that gets 1095 performances going in a single day in india (going by one rather painfully elaborate calculation)? right from the director to the runner-around, to the people who fill the seats, it's---well, a high. some people are serious drinkers who can analyze their drink, others just wallow and fall by the wayside. you, i know, are a serious drinker. the dilettantes lap it up. we all make up (or try) theatre.

Krishna Kumar said...

I have contracted Theatritis and need a Anti-theatre Anonymous to bail me out. Anyway, the dilettante are the ones making all the moolahs! Thanks Shri.

None said...

hey kk,

thanks for stopping by at mine.
interesting discussion here, eh, at the comments. i was thinking i would tend to agree with anu.
I prefer to see RP as an experimentation in form and i agree with you that content was wafer-thin.
as such (form), i admire the play for letting song and dance merge with script on stage in chennai. and if you ask me, as audience, i think the fact that some of you guys cdnt put one foot before the other (! :) ) din't really matter. no, that was subsumed in the stylised choreography.
but yes, like i discussed with you earlier, i have my quarrels with parts of the play - the epilogue was super top heavy, the language dialectics jarred, and here was an intelligent bunch of theatre people who i din't expect would rely so much on the bulesque and accent for humour.
and hey, i loved the perfectly mismatched-matched costumes! :)

cheers!
ramya

btw. i got qlnhtmenr for word verification. bah!

Krishna Kumar said...

hehehe... costume is another story totally. so... the subtext of all the comments here is that the sum of the gaffes override the individual positives and the summum bonum of this inference-athon points to RP as a classical version of Ilaya Thalapathi's classic family entertainer Ghilli!!! Blimey! Before you hasten to indict me, let me clarify you... the parallel stops to the point that both were absolute entertainers inspite of un-cerebralising of the text! The point of departure is that in the movie the protagonist sets out of town and in the play she comes to town. Anyway... we went to town for 4 days at Museum and yours faithfully had a jolly good game of kabaddi on stage while 11 others were dancing.

Does PELMI my WV has to rhyme with my Blimey on the comment?

The Used said...

Vikram royal blue???

Krishna Kumar said...

vikram prince blue...