India's biggest campus theatre festival, Atelier’s Act Festival comes to Kolkata
Atelier’s Act Festival will be coming to Kolkata this week with three productions, beginning with Avalanche by LSR Dramatics Society on March 15, The Sweeties by students of Presidency and Jadavpur University on March 16 and Mahua by the students of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, University of Delhi, on March 17.
The Atelier’s Act festival is one of the largest campus theatre festivals in India, organised by the Atelier’s Theatre Society, which was founded by Kuljeet Singh in 2007. Over the past ten years, the festival has seen more than 500 performances by different college groups across the country.
The eleventh edition of the festival kicked off in Delhi recently, where out of 82 teams, 13 stage plays and 9 street plays were selected to tour four cities. “This is a non-competitive theatre festival. The main aim behind starting this festival was to encourage theatre activities among the college students on a more professional level. This festival is more about the celebration of theatre activities, so nobody wins or loses,” says Kuljeet Singh, founder, and director of the festival.
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“But we do shortlist plays from the total number of entries we receive, on the basis of presentation and clarity of thought,” he adds.
The stopover in Kolkata is the second leg of the festival, preceded by three performances in Chandigarh, which were staged last week. It included a street play called Today’s Special By Lady Sri Ram College, and Avalanche, a stage play by Lady Sri Ram College and Simurgh by the group Verbum from Sri Venkateswara College.
The first performance in Kolkata is an adaptation of Turkish playwright Tuncer Cucenoglu’s play Avalanche. The story of the play deals with a small town, which is under the threat of an Avalanche, nine months out of twelve.
To prevent any catastrophe, people talk in hushed tones and refrain from expressing themselves freely. The plot of the play centers on a family with three generations and has a pregnant woman from among the youngest generation. The main action of the play is focused on how the pregnant woman, who goes into premature labour, throws the entire stifling set up of the town into disarray.
While the story might seem to be quite literal, it operates on many levels, as the avalanche can be interpreted in many ways. “It is a subversive play which talks about dissent, patriarchy and how authority figures exercise absolute control over the lives of people,” says Pranati Haldia, a student from Lady Shri Ram College, who has directed the play, along with Anun Sood and Pratishtha Kohli.
“The play is quite relevant in today’s times and we tried to explore the paranoia that the administration in this regime has propagated among the people; where it doesn’t let its citizens laugh or cry,” she adds.
The Sweeties is the second play, which will be performed by the students of Jadavpur University and Presidency University jointly (Jadavpur Presidency Theatre Association). It is an English adaptation of David Campton’s The Cagebirds and shows the state, opposition, media, religion, the common man and leaders, all confined together- and controlled by a businessman.
A revolutionary character called The Wild One, who has been pushed into confinement forcibly, inspires others to break free but that attempt too ends up in failure, with surprising revelations. The play will be staged in a non-proscenium set up at Padatik, in a cross-formation performing area.
“The original play by Campton was performed by six women actors. But we have changed the context to suit the present situation in India. We wanted to convey how the game of power works and how the common people suffer the most in the game of the ceaseless trade-off between money and lives,” says Rwitobroto Mukherjee, a student of JU, who has written the script and directed the play.
“I have tried to interpret the theme a little differently here, as I wasn’t convinced that the play could end up on a happy note. But we have also tried to challenge some notions and conventions about society. We are trying to convey a very bold and strong message through the story,” he adds.
The third play, called Mahua will be performed by Leher, a theatre group from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce. The Hindi play combines extracts from the original text written by Akash Mohimen and has two parallel plots. On one hand is the village Bihabund in Orissa, where families are getting displaced because of industrialisation, and on the other, is the love story between Birsa and Gilli.
“The play deals with the pathos of a tribal family which is destroyed in the name of ‘rural development’. We have taken a jibe at the government through the frame story of Bohiya Raja in the play, who takes away the native land of people, saying that he will do them good, but only renders them homeless,” says Ravi Kalra, a student of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, who has directed the play.
Kalra has been assisted by Faraz Siddiqui and Kriti Agarwal, in a play which blends poetry, (written by their team member Nikhil), with the dialogues in some parts.
The performances in Kolkata will be followed by three performances in Bangalore, called Poems and 21st century by Shunya, a group from Ramjas College and Echoes on the Shore by Atelier’s Campus Theatre Collective, DU between March 22 and 24.
The last leg of the festival will see two performances in Mumbai, Simurgh by the group Verbum from Sri Venkateswara College and Echoes on the Shore by Atelier’s Campus Theatre Collective, DU on March 30-31.
Avalanche will premiere at Padatik Theatre on March 15 at 6:30 pm, followed by The Sweeties will premiere on March 16 and Mahua on March 17.