Folklore and Hindi Films

Folklore and Hindi Films

India is the largest film producing country in the world; it produces about 900 films annually. Indian films are not only seen in South Asia but also almost all parts of the world love to watch “the song and dance routine” of Bollywood. Indian films are popular in Russia, Canada, Australia, Middle East, United States and Mauritius just to name a few countries. Incidentally, Raj Kapoor a popular actor of the 1950s and 1960s attained the status of a folk hero in some parts of Soviet Union. His film Awaara in 1951 was highly acclaimed and popular not only in Russia but also in Africa and countries like Turkey.

Cinema opens a new window into culture by studying it we get a deeper understanding of the customs, behaviour patterns, values and arts and crafts of the Indian people. Deeper insights into the complex process of modernization, colonialism, nationalism and freedom and status of women can be acquired through Indian films. Cinema not only mirrors culture but also shapes it. By studying Indian cinema we can see how they have in turn shaped and promoted modernization, westernization, urbanization, secularism and emancipation of women.

Folk ideas and folk motifs have also found its way in Indian cinema and have regularly been used in particularly in Indian film songs and dances. Several folk tunes for example songs sung by Latha Mangeshkar in the film directed by Gulzar Lekin, Yara sili sili and Kesariya Balama are based on popular folk tunes. S.D. Burman, highly inspired by the Baul singers of Bengal, also used several folk tunes of these Bhatiyali while composing music; this can be seen in a very popular song Sun mere bhandu re in the film Sujatha. One of the best and popular music composer, who has won the Oscar, A.R. Rehman is greatly influenced by folk tunes, (said to be composed by Ghazi Khan) that can be seen in his composition Limbuda in the film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. He also uses sufi music to large extent that is heavily popular not only in India but also the west.

Many dance numbers also borrow folk concepts and Saroj Khan the famous dance choreographer is heavily influenced by folk dance of India. This can be seen in the dance of the famous actor Sri Devi in Morni Baaga main boli aadhi raat ma in the film Lamhe. Hybridized folk dancing can also be seen in many other films like used in Jhanak Jhanak Payal Bhaje. Another form of dancing was also popularized by actor Vyjayanthimala who in the film New Delhi combined Bharat Natyam dance steps with Kathak dance and Bhangra, a Punjabi folk dance.

By studying Indian cinema we can enter productively into the thought worlds and the performance worlds of other traditional arts such as the folk ones. Many Indian film directors from pioneers such as Dadasaheb Phalke to directors like Satyajit Raj, Ritwik Ghatak and Shyam Benegal have sought to employ creatively the visualizations and the colour symbolisms that can be seen in folk dance, music, mime and theatre. In the use of song, dance, humor, structure of narrative, the melodrama, the folk plays of Lavani, Tamasha of Maharastra, Jatra of Bengal, Bhavai of Gujarat, Nautanki of northern India and Terukuttu of Tamilnadu have had great influence on popular Indian filmmakers.

Perhaps the greatest influence of folk in films can be seen in the genre of mythology. The first Indian feature film Raja Harishchandra directed by Phalke was based on the mythology from the Ramayana. Phakle was highly influenced by the film the Life of Christ and he decided to make a mythological film. His 50 minute film Raja Harishchandra became immensely successful that saw its influence on many other films based on the same genre. The myth has a strong cultural- religious tradition and the Indian mind is deeply attached to it. This can be seen in later films like Jai Santoshi Maa which helped in resurrecting a little known provincial goddess to a grand overpowering level where new temples for her have sprung up in all over the country. Among the most popular myths have been from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and the countless tales connected with Lord Krisna. These have been repeated frequently and we can give a number of instances such as Shataram’s Surekha Haran, Vijay Bhatt’s Bharat Milap and the actor Dara Singh playing lord Hanuman in Bajrangbhali. Many animation films like Hanuman and Return of Hanuman are also being created now to find the audience amongst children and keen adults.

Mythological themes like good fighting and destroying evil (Sholay by Ramesh Sippy,) brothers uniting (Kabhi Khusi Kabhi Gam by Karan Johar), reincarnation (Om Shanti Om by Farah Khan), sacrifice (Mother India by Bimal Roy) and tolerance (Bombay, and Roja by Mani Ratnam) can also be seen in films. Historical anecdotes and instances can be seen in films such as Mohenjadaro and Jodha Akbar.

Folklore legends about holy men and women (example Sant Tukaram and Savitri Satyavan),kings and queens ( Mughal –e- Azam, Ruzia Sultana and Jodha Akbar) and even outlaws and dacoits (Reshma aur Shera by Sunil Dutt) can be seen in films. There are also stories about legendary love pairs who have lived and died for love which have been made into films such as Heer Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal, Mirza Sahiban and Dhola Maru. Fantasy based and magic films were made by Kikubhai Desai as early as the 1930s. Today we see that Subhash Ghai and late Manmohan Desai have raised this genre to the opulent levels of grand, multistar films, good examples being Dharam Veer, Amar Akbar, Anthony and Parvarish. Pure fantasy films have also been made such as Alladin, Alibaba, Sindbad the Sailor and Thief of Baghdad. By and large, all the non myth genres in films have functioned as mythological by products, existing in a supernatural miracle world and promoting old world beliefs and superstitions.

Im-Pact: Innovative Digital Theatre Based Corporate Training Practices

Theatre has the ability to transform, to bring about a radical change and also the tool to enhance productivity by opening us creatively. Theatre often makes us work against our own body, our own emotions by getting “into the skin of others”. This art makes us think beyond us, and only create the characters. As we are living right now in insecure times, in total social distancing and also in grave economic implications theatre based digital training programs will solve many of the grave implications.

The economy has deeply impacting not only the daily wagers but also companies such as the aviation sector, education, lifestyle, wellness and beauty just to name a few. What hence is needed is that the company looks for solutions first and foremost to increase the productivity of the employees.

Training of the soft skills like boosting the morale of the employees, improving
communication skills, stress management does increase the productivity of the employee;
however training has to primarily focus on increasing the revenue of a company and
bringing in more sales. For this what is critically needed is that while the company works
on the soft skills of the employees they also focus on the solutions to provide ways in which the revenues can be generated.

Here, is where Digital Theatre based Corporate Training Practices comes in. The Digital
methods that are focused not “inwards” or simply to “improve the soft skills of the
employee” but are “outward” driving most empathetically towards “enhancing production of the company.”

Here, one should realize that one should adopt the means of “gentle power of persuasion”
for employees to see and understand the needs of their mother company. Theatre being extremely persuasive and while keeping emotions as the cornerstone can further help in the this “gentle power of persuasion”. The employees should be urged to look beyond
themselves, their traditional roles in the company and think of the multiple ways they can
reinvent themselves in this stressful situation.

Rewards can be given to good solutions which could mean words of encouragement in a
mail forwarded to all employees or even small gifts and monetary benefits. No step should be seen as “not worthy enough”, if it is considered not worthy it enough then it should be analyzed why it is not worthy enough and what can be done to make it more effective.

Theatre does not discard any action but looks at it critically. The same should apply in this
Im-pactful theatre- based training practice. We are here looking at times that need
innovation, reinvention and reconsideration of what we know. It’s time to SURGE

SO YOU GET WHAT YOU WISH a play by Gouri Nilakantan

A Children’s Play by Gouri Nilakantan
(For performing this play, read the corollary at the bottom)

Zooli/Mr Anthony Lobo
Wise guy/ Rohit
Fullon-rockon/ Puskar

(Anthony lobo enters the stage. He has a strange hairdo and is wearing a long red overcoat)
Lobo/Zooli: good evening and greetings my dear little friends and all their grownups. I know introductions are entirely unnessacry sometimes and the play should speak for itself but I need to explain why I am here. NO you don’t want to hear…ok then let me tell you all a secret…I make…I make…I make wishes come true…yes yes….just like the fairy god mother of Cinderella or a fairy queen but only I am a man in this case….no not man…actually let me let you know my real name my name is ZOOOOOOOOOOOOLI…Zooli…from the nether nether world…the world that only I know…hey I can hear someone…its time for my disappearance but don’t worry friends only to appear once again…

(A house setting. Three children on the stage, one child is playing on his train set and the other two enter)
Freeman: There he is (pointing to fullonrockon) hey pushkar

(Pushkar does not respond)
Fr: hey puskar… (Waits a second and then goes to him and gives him a loud push, pushkar falls on the floor)
Fullon: what did you do that for my dear dear rahul?
Freee: because my dear dear dear Pushkar…what is your name? Pushkar…yani push…karo…pushkar

(Wise guy also comes near and is eating a lollipop and starts laughing)
Wiseguy: hey that’s funny…push…kar…push kar
Puskar: stop it guys…you all know I hate my name…why don’t you call me what I am supposed to be called …that’s FULLONROCKON…I rock guys I rock
Wise guy: yes yes you do rock, you are as heavy as a rock anyway hahaha
Puskar: yes that’s why we call you wise guy…you wise guy…
Wise guy: I am a wise guy…the wisest guy in this gang
Freeman: but listen I am the boss of this gang…I am the eldest
Pushkar: says who
Freeman: says me…that’s who
Wise-guy: Rahul (freeman looks at him sternly)…sorry Freeman…
Freeman: guys don’t forget the rules…in this club we have to only call each other by our code names got it…wise guy?
Wise guy: yes yes got it freeman
Freeman: what about you? Got it Fullonrockon? Yes …or no
Fullon: yes yes got it. So whats our plan for today?
Freeman: well this week I think we have to draw out our plan for our club activities.
Wiseman: what about collecting insects this week?
Freeman: no we have done that last month, remember Chaluram our ant…how he died?
Fullon: poor little chap; he was suffocated, what an idea to keep him in an insect jar which had been an achaar jar poor fellow died of smelling all aam ka acchar.
Wiseman: now what do we do?
Freeman: what about getting all the dogs together and giving them a pet party?
Wiseman: my mother would never agree she absolutely refuses to part with her biscuits.
Fulon (looking very disappointed): now what do we do?
Wiseman: hey have you heard about that new neighbour of ours…he lives opposite my house.
Freeman: you mean that fat guy who keeps shouting at the drivers, yahan betne ki jagah nahi hain…bhaago
Wiseman: arre nahi that fat guy is in hospital…I heard that he had kicked a dog and the dog bit him
Fullon: arre nahi yaar, he ate too many old pizzas and the whole night he went (holds his nose) purr purr purr
Wiseman: how do you know?
Fullon: my didi told me …puskar beta…pizza mat kha…pata hain bechaar arora uncle hospital main hain kyuki kitna pizza khaya ki per hi kharaab ho gaya…bechare arora uncle…ha ha ha
Wiseman: arre nahi not arora uncle this is one strange guy, Mr Anthony Lobo…really strange…keeps all his doors and windows locked and curtained even during the day and only sets out at night after seven when it is all dark
Fullon: really
Wiseman: and children say that he wears a dark red clock in the night…
Fullon: baap re…dar lag raha hain
Wiseman: yes…and I also heard that he drinks the blood of cockroaches and hearts of frogs for dinner…. (Makes an eerie sound)
Freeman: ok then decided…its Anthony lobo then. This week we have to enter his house and enter his bedroom
Fullon: baap re…enter his bedroom now that’s tough
Freeman: allright allright just make sure that we can enter his house and search for his red cloak
Wiseman: you mean the magical one
Freeman: that is our mission…everybody with me…Wiseguy?
Wiseguy: yes sire!!!
Freeman: fullon rockon?
Fullon: well I am not sure…this week I have a history test
Wiseguy: liar! History test in class one? History starts in class V allright…you better come rockon…see you are the youngest and the cutest mr lobo will never suspect you…never
Freeman: that’s right since you are the youngest you can make an easy entry and then we all can barge in…And while I keep talking to Mr lobo, you freeman try and get his coat
Fullon: and then…???
Freeman: we will decide that later…first we must enter Mr Lobo’s house
Wiseguy: ok operation LOBO …thumbs up
All three: THUMBS UP

(Freeze music is heard end of scene one)
(Music is heard enter Anthony lobo and goes to the dresser and pulls out a red cloak and removes his waist coat and mutters to himself)
Lobo: very good very good…I look fine….Zooli from zooli land…hahahah (hears a knock on the door) now who is hear let me check…first let me hide this cloak…no one should see it (looks through the window) three children…hmmm…interesting….three fine specimens for my next experiment…maybe I should call them in (door bell rings again)…wait a second….just coming (wears his coat and opens the door) yes…
Wiseguy: uncle uncle…we are children…
Lobo (sternly): yes of course I can see you are children…now what do you want
Rockon: uncle…I mean sir…sir…
Lobo: what sir…sir
Freeman: uncle we are selling raffle tickets….for our school party!
Lobo: school party
Freeman: yes sir…no sir…I mean school carnival
Lobo: so…???
Wiseman: so let us into your house
Lobo: into my what?
Freeman; sir ignore him…he is saying can you please please please buy our tickets
Lobo: ok
Freeman: sir sir…rockonfullon…i mean fullonrockon…I mean puskar is thirsty
Rockon: hey I am not thirsty
Freeman: of course you are (winking at him)….are you not
Rockon: yes sir…I am dying of thirst…water water….
Wiseguy: sir I think he will collapse if you don’t give him water
Freeman: sir he is fainting (holds him while he sways) can we take him inside your house sir
Lobo: ok ok…but make sure he is our as soon as he becomes better
Wiseguy: sir ham aaye aur gaye…I mean no problem sir
Rockon: paani paani paani chakkar aa gaya…paani
Lobo: ok ok before you faint at my doorstep come in…(Takes them inside)…you guys sit here…( turns to leave but comes back at once) and don’t touch anything especially that cupboard…just no touching

(He leaves and rockon grins)
Rockon: hey guys how was I…super cool right
Wiseguy: tu cool nahi fool hain…why were you overacting like that paani paani…I am fainting
Rockon: listen just because I was looking so cure he let you all inside
Wiseguy: OK cutie pie
Freeman: hey you two stop fighting…quick let’s try and find his cloak…you go there you search in that cupboard and let me see under the table
Wise guy: (finding the cloak) hey guys…I found it….here it is
Rockon: gosh it’s big
Freeman: hey don’t touch it…just let it be…it could be magical…

( Zooli enters and says in loud commanding tome)
Zooli: stop freeze all of you (the children look scared and see Zooli)…stop at once…come here (the children all come close to him)…did anyone of you touch the cloak
Rockon: sir…I…I
Zooli: you did! (he is pleased)…good good good
Freeman: good sir!
Zooli: yes good because you have broken the spell!!!
Freeman: spell what spell
Zooli: I think I better explain…I am actually a fairy god father…
Rockon: fairy god father…hahahah funny
Zooli: why can’t guys be fairies?
Wiseguy: ok ok so you are a wizard
Zooli: well technically you can say that but I am a good wizard…
Wiseguy: so you are not Anthony Lobo
Zooli: Actually I was doomed to become a man by a wicked witch. I accidently stumbled upon a secret that she was working on…a magic potion so she cast a spell on me and turned me into a man.
Wiseguy: being a man is not such a bad thing
Zooli: try being a wizard…I mean fairy god father and then you will understand the benefits of being a wizard. Anyway let’s cut the conversation short as I was saying
Freeman: we have broken your spell
Zooli: yes now that you have found my cloak and broken my spell I am only zoooli ZOOOOLI no Mr Lobo shobo…how I hated that…so I need to give you something in return for this….SO YOU GET WHAT YOU WISH
Freeman: get what we wish
Zooli: yes your wish is my command tell me what you want and I will get you that, tell me where you want to be and you can go there, tell me what you want to become and you can become that
Rockon: wow three wishes
Zooli: sorry only one
Rockon: but fairy god mothers give three wishes to people and we found your cloak, broke your spell …that’s not fair
Zooli: no just one wish…so what do you guys want
Wiseguy: I would rather I became someone…I always wanted to be something like my life
Zooli: your wish is my command
Wiseguy: I wanted to become a star all my life
Zooli: a pop star, a rock star, a bollywood star…amir khan, salman khan, sharukh khan
Wiseguy: no a star…a star in the sky….a star that looks upon the planets something like interstellar
Lobo: are you sure that you want to become that?
Wiseguy: oh absolutely, infact that swat I want most of all
Lobo: ok then
Rockon: ok take out your magic wand then
Lobo: no need for the wand let me just read your charm
Wiseguy: hey I haven’t changed
Lobo: it will start working once your back home, don’t worry. (Turning towards freeman) Ok now rahul….sorry free man what’s your scene?
Freeman: I don’t want t become some silly star….I just love candy….why don’t you make me a taster in a candy factory. My mother will never scold me for eating so many lollipops then…yummy I can see such good times coming ahead…candy for day and candy for night…please that’s what I want. Yes a candy taster…nothing more nothing less
Lobo: are you sure
Freeman: you promised
Lobo: yes yes so you get what you wish
Freeman: wow, thanks Zooli…you are amazing, marvellous and stupendous….A zillion, million thanks

(Zooli turns towards the last child, fullonrockon)
Zooli: so you are now the last and your wish is also my command, what do you want to become
ROckon: well actually I can’t tell you that since it’s a big secret
Wiseguy: hey how can he make you into anything if you don’t tell it?
Rockon: no people will alugh at me but I am really seious bout it I want to become that and nothing else
Lobo: go on speak your mind; no one will dare laugh at you while I am here
Rock on: well ok then…I want to become a rock
Wiseguy: a rock…hahahahah….
Rockon: see I told you that they would laugh did I not…now I am not talking to anybody…I don’t to become anything
Wiseguy: hey sorry yaar…really sorry batana
Rockon: I want to become a rock because I have a reason…actually I really hate my name…people keep on making fun of it. So if l become a rock no one will be able to push me anymore. Infact if they tried I could just roll over and crush their legs….hahahah
Lobo: that seems only like a fair deal…I think it’s high time you became a rock….that’s right…
So guys…happy now
All three: absolutely, you are the best…this is great
Lobo: remember one thing fellows; we will all meet in a week time. This spell needs weekly rejuvenation its needs its weekly dose. So do meet me next week, bye and best of luck

(Music is heard, and enters lobo)
Lobo: A so dear friend one week is over and it’s time for my liitle buddies to start arriving. Hope everything will go according to my plan…fine little specimens I found and they all walked straight into my plan…good good wait I can see them

(Enter the three kids looking very very sad and downcast)
Lobo: hey kids how are you…
Three: (in a very small voice) hi Mr. Zooli
Lobo: so how has it been going for you all fine?
Freeman: hmmm ok I guess
Wiseguy: yes just fine
Rockon: (looks very upset)…hmmm fine…oh what do I say…and starts crying…not fine not fine…I can’t stand this torture anymore
Lobo: why guys…look sit down relax and tell him what happened
Freeman: sir…sir
Wiseguy: sir we are not happy just not happy…infact we are not only sad but miserable
Rockon: please sir…I have my old self back…I don’t like this get up…I hate this
Lobo: ok guys just relax first and then tell, you start freeman
Freeman: I was so happy being that candy taster at first…nestle, cadbury, lollipops, sweets, hajmola candy…life was perfect…but I had to eat only that for one whole week..(pulls out his tongue)…see this my poor taste buds…I hate the idea of anything sweet…I want to eat simple dal roti chawal and aloo ki sabji…mummy ke haath ka khana…never an chocolate again in my entire life…the idea of even a small piece of candy makes me want to… yuck
Rockon: sir sir…I hate being a rock, at first I was so happy that I could just sit and laze around, relax and chill in the sun…imagine no school, no homework just lie down and feel happy and I was so happy no one could dare push me. But all that sitting down has made me so sad, I want to walk normally, play and run
Lobo: and what about you wise guy
Wiseguy: I well…I wud hate to tell a lie but being star is actually no fun. I thought I was sooper cool guy in this whole galaxy…but I was in this huge space so far away from my home. I could only be seen in the night and i was far away from my friends, my mom dad everybody…and it was cold …my gosh so cold in the galaxy and I could not even wrap myself in something warm because I was too big. I want my old self back…please please
Rockon yes sir please sir
All three: pleaseeeee pleaseeeee
Lobo: ok ok…but this spell is permanent
Wiseguy: no you can’t say that, you are a good fairy father not a wicked one, we will do anything
All thre: yes sir anything…
Lobo : anything
All Three: yes sir we swear
Lobo: well will you be good children, not fight with each other, help each other and be the best neighbours?
Three: yes sir
Lobo: will you be kind to mr.Arora and not barge in people’s houses just to harass them and
Three: yes sirs never never never disturb the old and the sick?
Lobo: will you help your parents in the house and do your homework without winging and whining
Rockon: do homework…sir
Wiseguy: ignore him sir…sir I will dp jhaadu, poncha baratan, cook the food and do my homework…i promise
Lobo: do you promise to be generous and kind and share everything with other children…even your best toys
Rockon: my best toy
Wiseguy: ignore him sir
Freeman: yes sir, yes sir
Lobo: allright then…your spell will wear out as soon as you leave my house. Let me tell you a secret I came from the nether world looking for the best specimen for this experiment and now I can return back to nether world.
Freeman: experiment
Lobo: yes experiment, I wanted to teach children never to wish for something that they don’t know about. Because YOU GET WHAT YOU WISH so one should only wish for the best and nothing but the best. Now that my job is done, I can return back happily to netherland. Ok guys one last thing now what do you all want to become when you grow up

(Zooli laughs and the others join him and music is heard)

The Playwright, permits theatre practitioners to perform this play Royalty free, with one request, please message us in the comment box if you are interested in doing this play. Also if and when you schedule your play, inform us and our readers in the comment box about it. Who knows someone might amble into your show after reading your message.

Looking at Alternate Spaces for Performance in Delhi – NCR

Putting up any production can be most daunting for most theatre practitioners in India. It is customary for most Indian directors who many times, run small amateur theatre groups to not only foot all bills but also look after the needs of the artists involved. The most challenging of this cost is that of the auditoriums. Most proscenium auditoriums in Delhi and Gurgaon can cost anywhere between 15,000 ( around $220) to 1,00,000 ( around $950) depending on its size and capacity. Furthermore, there is a long waiting list to get the required dates, most weekends getting booked almost a year ahead! Hence, the supply versus the demand is either beyond one’s means or it requires tremendous patience for the group to perform.

The need for finding alternate spaces for performances hence is rapidly growing which is being met to some extent by a few in India. There are several around Mumbai but here the article will focus on two spaces created. The first one in that of the group, Rang Parivartan, in the growing rich cosmopolitan Gurgaon created by Mahesh Vasistha and the second one , the Teesri Manjil, of Ruchika Theatre group, created by Feisal Alkazi in South Delhi. It is important to focus on these two spaces, as the city of Delhi besides being the capital of India, is the Mecca of theatre training, while Mumbai largely focuses on film production and the thriving industry of Bollywood.

Delhi, has been timelessly known for its intense theatre training that is both affordable and also provides the correct knowledge to the aspiring actors. The prestigious National School of Drama is situated here, along with Sri Ram Centre, the school of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University that offers not only the masters course in performance studies but also a Ph.D in theatre and also the newly formed Ambedkar University that offers bachelors and masters in Performance studies are also located here. Besides this we also have an a diploma course offered in theatre by Indira Gandhi Open University, that is lesser than $25 for six months, as an distance program.

As training in theatre is of high value in Delhi, there is a need for students to experience the stage as much as possible. It becomes impossible for students to do theatre without the experience of a stage,lights or sets. Both Mahesh Vashistha and Feisal Alkazi have found the answers and that too within their own homes! Both these thespians have created beautiful auditoriums within the upper floors of their homes. Both these spaces are intimate and are not open for the public, which in other words means is not for commercial gains but rather for training and also for holding small intimate shows for a discerning audience.

Feisal is of the opinion that one must allow theatre to enter homes and allow the audience to become a part of his large family. He says, ‘ Most actors have been with me for as much as 25 years and above and they have been an integral part of my life, hence I see new audiences as the same. I am just extending the Teesri Manjil,or my third floor to my family who should not be taken as some disconnected people.’ Radhika Alkazi echoes much the same as she receives each one of her guests with warmth and enthusiasm and both she and her son Arman take immense joy in serving each guests fresh home made kebab rolls, biryani and wine.

Mahesh Vashistha whose students have painstakingly made the auditorium with him extends his performance space free of charge to theatre practitioners not only across Delhi and Gurgaon but anyone who wishes to perform there. Both these auditoriums might seem like one as small steps but careful attention has been given both by Feisal and Mahesh regarding the technicals of an auditorium. Feisal has painstakingly thought of the lighting ( having over 20 set lights including pars and LEDS and a dimmer) and the correct sound proofing of the stage. Mahesh has not only kept the lights and stage setting in mind but has also kept the make up rooms in mind of the actors, and also has carefully insulated the place.

It is heartening to see such magic being created and to be lucky even to have open access to these performance spaces. Such free flowing needs based training venues are going to bring more thespians to do the same with their homes. This will make as Feisal wishes and does, a family of theatre and not mere disconnected spectators who come and do not feel the intimacy of theatre due to the daunting presence of the mighty auditoriums.

The informal performance spaces have come up because theater is becoming un-affordable because of lack of revenue and astronomical cost of auditorium spaces in Delhi. Leaving you images of some of these spaces which offer hope for survival of Amateur theatre in Delhi. More about it in the next piece by Gouri Nilakantan

Playwriting for Children

Children Performing

Its 2017, a time to retrospect in the new year and yet bask in the old. I was rummaging through my old files on the internet and came across a few plays I had written for children. It was both enlightening and amazing to see the play across the screen, I re read them renewed interest…yes they spoke…I could see the language across the stage, the actors and the magical sets with the green yellow hues across the stage and the twinkling lights. Each one of the childrens’ plays that had been written by me made sense to me and the actors. It made me wonder if they were worth publishing and whether it would be liked by others. I was just not sure, since such few plays are actually published and find their way into the market.

So essentially what makes a good play script for children? What makes it “tick”? What will create an market for the scripts to be published. This reminds me an incident that made me realize what “ not to do “ in a children’s play.

In my early years of my career as a theatre person I was teaching drama for children between the kids of 8-14 in a prestigious school in Gurgaon. The principal, a very uptight and proper person requested me to write a script on Mother’s day. I was excited since I really had not written much before it would be challenging to write something that was interesting enough to watch. I decided to write a script set in contemporary Urban India, a place like Gurgaon and then use an ancient time period as the main episode in a flashback. So I decided to show the changes in time by changes in the way we speak English. After much deliberation I decided to use slang and words like “ cool” “ dude” “ yaar” etc in my script. I thought I had created a masterpiece. Actually I was quite delighted.

I was surprised that the principal called me to her room, I was confident that she had liked the script so much she wanted to congratulate me in person. As soon as I walked in, she seemed a trifle upset and set the script before me. I was shocked to see my entire script covered in huge red circles. Cuts and cross marks all across the page. It looked like my the results of class tenth maths exam paper. Each of my contemporary words had been circled and crossed out. I was indignant..all I could say was “ why…”. She sternly told me how improper my English was and how I could no use such words. She insistent that I choose not to use any colloquial language in my script since “ it would spoil the vocabulary of the children.” I tried to reason out with her that since the play was set in urban Gurgaon the actors had to use such words. But my protests was put down by her adamant refusal to see reason.

That incident made me realize that something was wrong in the way people understood children’s scripts. They read it through the spectacles of an adult and forget that they are first and foremost plays meant for young actors. Hence plays written for children need not follow rules of grammar and conventional usage of speech. Neither they need to make sense, for example, in the musical Wizard of Oz, the girl is thrown a tornado and her whole house is lifted in it. Charlie and the Chocolate factory we see Agustus Gloop being thrown into the rubbish bin by squirrels. All they need to be is appealing to the child and the adult viewer. They need to interesting! In all my plays that I have written for kids, I have only kept the child in mind and shall continue doing so

I would like to end this by only giving the 10 golden pointers to be kept in mind while writing children’s plays.

1) Do not be afraid of using contemporary language and one can even throw in few phrases in Hindi, if the need be. Make it Hinglish if you want.

2) Children love comedy. They might not have the same taste as adults and might find things like “ farting” “ throwing up” comic. Add them to the script, they just add to the flavour. Please do not become prudish.

3) Another thing that fascinates children is the idea of mystery and surprise, you can use them too.

4) One should avoid, small sentences. We sometimes like to say a lot when we try and explain things. For eg. If a child has to say, “ ma I will back soon.” He can say, “ ma I will be back soon…please don’t die worrying don’t go out me and ringing up all the neighbours and searching for me all over the block. I will be back by 7 and that’s a promise!”

5) Do not worry about repeating yourself. For eg. Son says, “fine”. It can be; son says, “ fine ma…ma fine…are you listening FINE!”

6) Do keep it in mind that adults will also watch your show, so you can throw punches at them which might make them laugh. For eg. Son: Ma, why do all mothers have to say that you must eat dal, roti chawal…why can’t they say we will make healthy home made pizzas for dinner tonite! OK I DONT MIND EATING A DOUBLE CHEESE PIZZA WITH BROCOLLI TOPPING!!!

7) Don’t be eager to finish the script in 3 pages, any good script should be at least 10 pages long, 12 font roman single spaced.

8) Dont forget minor characters…please don’t make children into trees and make them wave their hands in the air doing nothing, make it interesting like a “ old white haired talking tree” or a “ saucy sarcastic cactus”.

9) Do add a song or a jungle or some silly rhymes they make the script more readable and watchable.

10) Last but not the least, enjoy the task…and forget daunting principals…goodluck!!!

The Universe within the Womb / Gouri Nilakantan

Does the cold womb speak to the warm vagina,  are we meant to be bound  and knit into the body, so much so we do not seem to belong, not to have any identity ever?  The guess is not in the mystification nor in the pontification of the  “female” in the eyes of society. Nor it it amongst the peering eyes of manhood and by keeping them as some elusive or exclusive superior race.  It  lies in the individuality and the recognition of the self amongst all.  For once let us not see ourselves only through the wombs , the vaginas, or paling breasts but only as having separate yet same voices.  This through which we can declare strongly enough to be defined as all belonging to each other.

The time to be in categories of gender has long gone, it needs to be attacked and discarded as worthless.  These binaries and super binaries that do not see women as individuals first but use the safety net of phrases of gender are to be  shot down as  fallacies. We have been honoured enough by given powerful names by our ancestors.  We have been given recognition for sounding phrases strong.  Enough of gendering, enough and more than enough, it’s time to think ahead, as “you and me”, and “we all”, “as all of us” that belong entirely to each other.

This will allow us to love unconditionally, to let go unconditionally and remain forever within the societal definitions of a “ wife” “mother” “ daughter” or “sister”.  It will thus also not negate the man as a “ husband” “ father” “ son” or “ brother” and bondages will only only grow stronger and stronger.  Such singular terms of unity therefore allows one to outgrow force and coercion that often come within societal  relationships.  The urge here I see to all of us  only as me and you and forget the male, female, alpha male, alpha female etc.  The society will then accept unconditionality in loving and wanting to be loved.

For once live only for you and me and forget all expectations from each other, not because god says so, or you have enlightened and seen Buddhahood, or emerged victorious from the caves of inner meditation, but only because you truly and truly believe in the selfhood of each person. Wombs will then create the universe with its totality and spirit of mind.  Enjoy and embark in this unconditionality of living and letting to live.      

Memories of the Recitative Past

Mind over Misery

All of us are born with memories that we wish to forget and discard like faded photographs having hazy blurry images or the thrown pennings of blue inland letters and creamy pages fading with endearing attachments. We would rather regurgitate the past than carry it within us. Are we in the real sense of failing to remember or do we wish not to hear the words of the recitative past and not get the truthful recollection of the echoing sights? To be called only as a witness is easier than to bear and pour out the visions we wish not to see. The ability to see things as they are, are so difficult to break, that to escape into the light hearted day seems much easier and much more uncomplicated.

No one wants to resound pain, express trauma or grieve for a loss. The identity of the self to happily live only within the confines of the day, going from hour to hour and knocking down the doors of the minutes that dissolves then into seconds, is true serenity and peace. However, many times we need to challenge the tranquillity we have falsely created and listen to the polyphonous sounds of the dead and buried. The graves of the bygone as much as you bury, as much as you decide the deepest depth the coffin should lay, needs the embalming, only and only to cleanse your soul.

To gain the convincing reincarnation of this lost spirit, is only possible if we allow ourselves to cry, lament and mourn for the forgotten memories. Just by dismissing the bygone and not evoking the emotions of sorrow, by not shedding the salty reservoir, we are creating only adulterated personifications of what we term as today. Its reason is enough to moisten the sodden earth of the buried past, so that the watering down can reach the submerged coffins. One has to sometimes open to see the enclosed skeletons and beat one’s breast to lament for the faded photographs or tethered inland letters or torn creamy papers that are screaming to be heard.

So, hear the cries within, grieve for the past, sob along with the beats of your heart and let your tears become the pulse. It will only allow the recitative past to become beautiful, melodious verses of songs of your life you will want to hear again and again.

The Exodus Needs a Companion / Gouri Nilakantan

A home is without any doubt a safe space, an extant that has the infinite capacities to being ourselves; where our clothes need not be washed or ironed and made to be presentable all the time; our unkempt unshaven looks draws no contempt from the gazing mirrors; cutlery can be limited to eating straight out of the pizza box  with greasy tissues thrown carelessly all over the floor; and leisure is our pass time and idyllic conversations the only competing games. The debate arises then, if  we choose to keep this space out of bounds for others, however familial or close.  It is the truth that only when we get this free entitlement to closing these doors of our room, shutting  out those as being totally  non transgerressable, barring these latitudes out of anyone’s reach, do we get a veracious sense of belonging.  The arguments arise loud and the cacophony grows louder  only when we keep these augmented heavens exclusive  for our winged flights, leaving others alone and far behind in what they see as their black earth.

Adoring such realities, one, is discerned to be “ unconventional” or can I say “ odd” to the normal public eye.  However, if we all sieve through the thoughts running in our minds, we  come to this realization, that all of us wish for an exclusive home, that only belongs to us and only to us.  This hearth does not see the privilege only of the “single status” fancy holding few, but to all, men, women or children.  All, I see as wanting to  create an expanse of an unparalleled area that echoes our only headrooms.  We  then come to conclude that we are faithfully heard.  Our tete-a tete might be  limited to the capacity of recording random intramural thoughts, however, inner, however wordless, or however out of tune for others,  it forever plays as a  beautiful melody for our ears.

We, unfortunately, are created as social byproducts and often have to assume suggestive capacity giving roles, inundated with responsibility and risk.  The risk that we can carve out then, for our own employment seems much easier and much more responsible. If created exclusively  for us,  they are results of accurate victories as  being free of failure in the eyes of others. As the endeavours seeked  are for our own purview; and we are un-mockingly forgiving towards ourselves, we sense a literal liberty.  Thus  being unrestrained from scorn, and disdain, we seek everlasting joy in solitude, and  despite being born into a home,  I see the human mind seeking and wandering eternally in the search of this unerring habitat. If our birth homes can define and allow such unconfined liberties, uncontested un-contemptuous ways,  will only then, this never ending sojourns of seeking of ours to belong, cease and stop to identify the true borders of a hinterland.  Let’s become companions to the exodus of the few and return thus to our realistic homes.

The Prosaic Names the Profound

The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else. Umberto Eco

 While we envision ourselves as heroes, we wish not to be called cowards.  We are living constantly in fantasies where we can rescue our own fears, our steps on our trepidations to us are totally daring.  While we wish, therefore, to be proudly displayed as shiny, victorious, golden, medals, however, they are nothing but self-created fallacies.  Are we really glories of validations or are we just self “constructed monomyths”?  We are only “heroes by mistake”.  While we have carefully constructed these high titled “notions” of being brave hearted warriors, these, unfortunately, are lying on the grounds of fiction; many times, they are only much “larger visions” of our invented individualistic personas. 

I do not wish here to destroy the embarking of the soul, in the tireless pursuit of life, or undermine human effort, but by creating ourselves as champions we are only becoming Don Quixote, wishing to somehow windmill away the troubled clouds soaring above us.  It sounds cynically true, but many times, we run behind the falsities of the moments but save our energy in doing mundane tasks and giving validity to the common.  I see the monotony having power, the vitality and momentum, that we fail to recognise, lies many times in the never ending, repetitive tasks of life.  This gives us only the much-needed vivacity to be a champion, a true victorious one.

Vibrancy comes not from creating something new and novel all the time, but in the unchanging ways we have adapted ourselves into.   The ordinary is the one that creates the true promise of the monomyth. We can find that much needed mentor in our everyday practices, who will help us thus discover the elixir of life and make us reach victory.  The observation of these humdrums will deliver the individual from the “cowardice of performing the ordinary” into the awakening of the hero. The paladin should be recognised in repetitive ticking; the recognition of the monomyth accordingly awakens the apostle, because of performing these monotonous instances.  

The honesty in recognising ourselves as cowards, to release the conventional within us to flow freely, creates an instant of true heroism to emerge.  This approach to “the innermost cave” as Christopher Vogler rightly determines, helps us to cross over to the thresholds of the uneventful one to being the victorious one.   While we all seek victory upon our daily returns and celebrate, much like the monomythical heroes that we have heard in the tales of our toothless and wrinkled grandmother; we are, therefore, trained not to give the due respect needed rightfully to the insignificant.  The honour we bestow on sometimes the dry, dull, and commonplace will turn the tables around and noteworthy ones will emerge. So, permit the unvarying and unvaried to herald the significant, entitle the dull to be bright, and… the prosaic will name the profound.                      

The Dance of the Hyperbole

Students showcase the penultimate piece, “Hyperbole,” in the Washington University Dance Theatre​*​

Living for the last two years masked behind a sanitized cloth; with a social distancing even from our loved ones, yet in the same home; sleeping alone in our rooms with our soft pillows as our only bedside companions; not being able to share our tea with our gossiping greying cacophonous neighbour; or even not being able to lend our inner stories to our restless dreams; we are constantly today, creating an artificial world.  In this excessive superficiality will we forget we are alive? Do we have voices? Do we have real living pain and words that can be penned?  My answer is NO.  We as humans are never created with a loss of memory and total negligence to ourselves.  We are created instead of choosing to forget, choosing to see our lives as three eased dots…

I see these moments of the easing gentle pauses, the “life moments of truth”.  For we as artists, as creators, those little dots are seconds of life, where we can shape and spawn, grow words into lines, lines into paragraphs – of stories, love songs, and poetry of yearnings and being alive in protests. 

These small breaths, to many, are simply just hyperboles of grammar, however, to the artist, these are intensely alive, strong, emphatic forceful portions of feelings, of coming to belong to what he only knows is the only truth…his art form.

Let us not even once, then, discount these as mere undecorated flecks, but as gigantic astronomical atoms, that pinpoint to the immense creativity and churning in the human mind.  If just one of these little mites gets charged, we create a gigantic reaction in our minds.  That chemical reaction is sure to explode, not to destroy but to give birth to a new vision. Despite, us being confined sometimes only to our bed, our Dunlop spring jail does not cause us fatigue or despondency, but becomes a renewed vigour to explore maybe a new set of chord structures; a grand opening line of a play; a brilliant myriad vision of the landscape; or the shy yellow golden sun waiting to be captured in your mobile phone. 

So, the point here is to urge one to carefully mark these seconds of the speckles in your life, and turn it around to something beyond our sight, even more, farfetched than we can imagine.  I see this applying to all, not only to the artsy right-sided brainers but also to the privileged, analytical, left-sided companions.  For we all, need those little moments where we can break into a song, rush and jump to paint, stroking colours green hues or act out each intense dialogue we only wish to hear again and again.  Come let’s join in the dainty dance of the hyperbolic few!     

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    Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./WUSTL