Equal, a festival by Ranga Shankara, explores resilience and justice, through plays, dance performances, concerts and discussions

Here's what to expect 
A scene from Aurat! Aurat!! Aurat!!!
A scene from Aurat! Aurat!! Aurat!!!

This October, Ranga Shankara completes 15 years of service to theatre. Of its national and children’s festivals, Equal is one that stands out. “All the other festivals are celebratory and don’t really question real issues that need to be brought into public discourse through the arts,” theatre personality and artistic advisor to the organisation, Arundhati Nag tells us. This weekend, the festival brings plays, dance performances, concerts and discussions that explore the various definitions and ideas of equality. 

The festival kicks off with Naseeruddin Shah’s play, Aurat! Aurat!! Aurat!!!, which boasts an all-female cast, and reflects a concern for the state of womanhood. From Dhrupad concerts to folk song performances and a play by the children of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti (an area in Delhi), all the events portray masculine and feminine impressions emerging from memory, violence and lived experiences. “In an age where every thought and action is sensationalised and trivialised by the media, we felt the urgent and crying need for a fest that is fearless in its curatorial brief,” Arundhati adds. 

The play, Nerve, for instance, is a performance art piece, rooted in the expressions of the voiceless people of Manipur. The choreographer of the piece, Surjit Nong-meikappam says, “We have pored over the dissonance that has been perpetuating through various conflict and human rights violations in our homeland. The silent torture that we go through has been appropriated into our performance. Although, grounded in the Northeast, the struggle is universal.”

Filmmaker and co-founder of Maraa, Ekta Mittal, who speaks at Love Stories, an interactive spoken word session, will delve into equality through the lens of diversity, with topics such as power, violence, heartbreak, inter-generational love and same sex love. “All these topics show diverse expressions of love and sexuality,” she says.

In future, the biennial festival aims to go global. “We hope to enlarge the footprint of this festival by going international by the next edition. The pattern of inequality is not exclusive only to India!” Arundhati concludes. 

Aurat! Aurat!! Aurat!!!, a play directed by Naseeruddin Shah, based on 
stories by Ismat Chugtai. September 13, 7.30 pm 
Keynote address by activist Aruna Roy. September 14, 11 am
Panel Discussion on the topic, The Censored Body: Faith, 
Desire and Identity. September 14, 12.30 pm
Freedom Begum, a muliti-lingual play written by Rumi Harish. September 15, 3.30 pm 
Dance-theatre performance, Nerves. September 15, 7.30 pm

Entry free (except for plays). Plays Rs. 200. Until September 15. At Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar 


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