The Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival goes digital; pre-recorded plays by Shankar Nag awardees will be streamed online

The plays deal with the challenging times the world is living in

Ayesha Tabassum Published :  22nd October 2020 11:02 PM   |   Published :   |  22nd October 2020 11:02 PM
A still from the Swedish version of the play Salt

A still from the Swedish version of the play Salt

The joy of laughing with others is missed. The excitement of finding a seat close to the stage is a blurred memory. The happiness of sharing a cup of tea with a stranger who loves theatre as much as you is sort of a distant dream now, courtesy the pandemic. However, the iconic Bengaluru venue, Ranga Shankara is gradually adapting to the new way of life.

The Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival 2020, which kicks off on Tuesday goes by the tagline ‘delivered digitally’, which means all the plays will be streamed online. But for those who despise watching a play on their gadget with headphones plugged in, there’s a reason to be happy. “The plays will also be screened at the foyer of the theatre. The number of viewers at the venue, however, will be capped at 50,” says Arundhati Nag, managing trustee and artistic advisor of the nonprofit Sanket Trust, which runs Ranga Shankara. The plays will be available online for six days.

Cast members of The Colour of Loss

Dialogue exchange
The plays that will be showcased in this edition are by winners of the Shankar Nag Award — artistes who have been recognised for their contribution to the field of theatre over the last six years. “The focus is on these young theatre persons who are multi-dimensional, and are not just actors or directors. These are people who have the ability to build a network for the community, which is basically what Shankar Nag was about. We thought every six years, we must showcase the work of these awardees. In this edition, we are looking at their current work and what their response has been to the pandemic,” explains Nag.

The six awardees are Abhishek Majumdar, Mohit Takalkar, Quasar Thakore Padamsee, Anurupa Roy, Toral Shah and Sankar Venkateswaran. Salt by Abhishek, Lunch Girls by Quasar, The Colour of Loss by Mohit, Criminal Tribes Act by Sankar and Teelapur ka Rakshasha by Anurupa will be showcased. “Everyone has learnt to stand on their feet during this pandemic and so has Anurupa. She is a puppeteer of repute and has created the entire play with cameras, and miniatures. Mohit’s play is based on a Korean novel. He has blended his knowledge of cinema and theatre, and has brought out brilliant performances by his cast. All these plays give an idea of how young urban Indian theatre directors have adapted to the change,” she explains.

A still from the video recording of Teelapur Ka Rakshasha

Global conversations
Toral, who is a production designer, will host a virtual workshop, Producing in the New Century: Changing Perspectives, which will bring female production designers from all over the world on the same platform. Sankar’s Criminal Tribes Act, which premiered at the 2017 Zürich’s Theater Spektakel and was staged in Japan’s Theater Commons Tokyo last year, will be recreated for the Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival. A performer from Delhi and another from Bengaluru will enact the play, which explores the “Criminal Tribes Act,” which was in effect from 1871 – 1952 under the colonial British government in India. Abhishek’s Salt looks at how the pandemic has impacted people in India.

The playwright wrote this as part of the Urgent Drama programme of Folkteatern Goteborg, Sweden, and it was first performed in Swedish. At Ranga Shankara, it will be presented in four languages — Swedish, Gujarati, Hindi and English. The play follows a mother and her two daughters who are coping with the pandemic and the sudden lockdown. Every day, when they sit down to eat, they realise that as days go by, the rice on their plates is getting lesser and the mother is forced to replace it with salt.

“The story revolves around dignity,” says Abhishek, who was inspired by his experience of helping migrants who were living around his home in Bengaluru during the lockdown. “Hunger is also about dignity. There is shame attached to hunger. Bread winners who are not used to asking for food, took some time to understand that it was their right to ask for food because these are not normal times. So, the story of Salt is not just about starvation, it’s about dignity as well,” he explains.

The Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival also includes ‘Ancillary Events’ such as the RS Walk, a walk through the nooks and crannies of the venue, an audio installation titled Dangling Conversations, and Propped Up, an art installation of props used in the plays that are being staged.

Rs 200. October 27-November 1