Two Malayalam plays have been nominated for India’s most coveted theatre awards
Everyone has a story to tell. Nevertheless, some folks are just better storytellers than others. At the forthcoming Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) showcase, a weeklong national theatre festival and awards programme, 10 such artistes and their productions will take the limelight. What’s interesting is that two out of the 10 nominated plays are in Malayalam, namely Nona and Higuita: The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. Both these productions have been drafted across many of the 13 competitive categories including Best Play, Best Ensemble, and Best Original Script.
Kannur-based Jino Joseph, the director of Nona, explains, “To be shortlisted from amongst the 330 entries this year, from more than 280 theatre groups across 22 states representing more than 20 official Indian languages and 10 regional dialects, is a real honour.” However, META 2018 isn’t this humble 32-year-old’s first time at the rodeo. Back in 2015, Jino took home four accolades at the event, including Best Director and Best Production for his play on the consequences of capitalism titled Matthi.
Unlike most of the other theatre houses headed to the carnival, Nona is presented by Kozhikode’s Black Theatre troupe which is comprised of amateur thespians, many of whom are day-labourers. “There are over 40 artistes, technicians, and even a few hens involved in the play! Despite being a two-hour satirical story, set in a rural community, it is heavy on the production front with a revolving platform. The plot primarily deals with contemporary subjects like casteism, pseudo-nationalism, fascism, and misleading campaigns like India Shining,” explains Jino, who has created close to 30 productions during his 15-year tenure behind the curtains.
Taking centre stage
At the 13th edition of this gala—which hopes to highlight diversity in Indian theatre—subjects ranging from war crimes, religion, and politics, are tackled. Not surprisingly, spurred by global movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up, close to half the plays focus on women and gender issues. Some of the must-watch productions in this light include Caucasian Chalk Circle, Item, and Shikhandi: The Story of the In-betweens.
Another luminary from Kerala’s theatre sphere, Sasidharan Naduvil, will also exhibit an independent dramatisation combining the outstanding works by N S Madhavan (Higuita) and Peter Handke (The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick). Sasidharan, a celebrated theatre activist with almost four decades of experience, presents the tale of a football-loving priest who decides to rescue a tribal girl from certain doom.
META 2018 takes place in New Delhi.
From April 13-18.