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!!!

Folk Theatre of India: Bhand Pather

Bhand Pather is the traditional theatre that is enacted in the Kashmir Valley. Historically Bhand Pather, represented the secular fabric of the valley with both the Muslims and the Pandits being a part of the performances. Post-1990, due to all the upheaval in the Kashmiri social structure Bhand Pather has had a significant impact for it stood as an emblem of peace, harmony and brotherhood. Since then there has been a tinge of decrease in the glory and the brilliance of the Bhand Pather.

The word ‘Bhand’ means the traditional and the age-old folklore entertainers from India, Nepal, Pakistan. Historians are of the opinion, that the Bhands entered the Kashmir Valley from Persia due to the onset of Muslim royal courts in India around the 14th Century. Bhand Pather is etymologically derived from two Sanskrit language words “Bhana”, which is a drama of satire and is sourced on the Natyashastra by Bharata, and “Pather” which means a character in a play.

The folk theatre is an amalgamation and a unique striking blend of singing, acting and storytelling. Farce is the centric component of this art form which is complemented by the satirical and the humorous Pathers or storylines.

The abode of Bhands in modern-day Kashmir is predominantly in Gondpora, Shaangus and Muhipora of the Anantnag district. They are also found in some other places like Kokernag, Frisal, Qayamooh.

Bhand Pather is considered as an ancestral endowment, a knowledge a skill that is passed down the generation as legacy and with the will to keep the theatre form alive. The Kashmiri societal fabric is the central theme of all the plays and is at the very core of these performances. The nature of the theatre asks the performance to be lively, energetic and high interactive. The play performances are designed such that they are best enjoyed in open spaces such as under the shades of lofty Chinars, open compounds, in weddings with the aim to invoke satire, humour and bring a reflection to the society. A conscious effort has been made to ensure that plays do not deal with tragic subjects.

The form had thrived and grown manifolds during the peaceful times in the valley. However, with the rise of anti-societal elements, the art form has given the theatre form a huge setback. Society must progress towards peace and let the lost theatre form regain its formal glory.

Independent Project by Abhinav Sharma

Guide ⇒ Prof. Manohar Khushalani

References :

  1. The Other Kashmir Problem

Natsamrat NatyaUtsav Schedule March 2022

Natsamrat Natyautsav Season 2022

During the six-days there will be participation from ten different directors on one platform. The directors are: Chandershekhar Sharma, Vishaw Deepak Trikha from Rohtak, Rajesh Tiwari, Ashraf Ali, Varun Sharma, Sunil Chauhan and Shyam Kumar and the plays are ‘Lajwanti’ , ‘Gadhe Ki Barat’ , ‘Kambakht Ishq’, ‘Jaanch Padtal’ , ‘Charandas Chor’ ,‘Aadhe Adhure’ ‘Digdarshak’ , ‘Shikasta Booton Ke Darmiyan’ ‘Chuhal’ & ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’.


Over Ten Theatre Groups will participate in the theatre festival

NATSAMRAT Natya Utsav has now come of age. Oscar Wilde once said,

“I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being”.

If you agree, head to a fun fest that is all set to salute the spirit of Indian Theatre, Organized by Natsamrat Theatre, the 19th Natsamrat Natya Utsav which is all set at comedy, romance and tragedy-emotions that are key to any well-lived life at Narenjayan Studio Auditorium, 53, Bharati Artist Colony, Vikas Marg, New Delhi-110001.

Audience at the Awards
Always a jam-packed Auditorium at the performances and the Awards

Natsamrat has been at the forefront of Capital’s amateur theatre movement for the last 24 years, presenting entertaining and socially conscious theatre, participating in the prestigious theatre festivals and organizing every year theatre festival featuring work of leading theatre directors. Under the inspiration guidance of its founding director Shyam Kumar, a seasoned director and actor, Natsamrat has instituted awards which are given away every year to theatre practitioners –
directot, actor (male and female), playwright, backstage performer, critic, lifetime achievement,
theatre promoter – of eminence.

During the six-days we will have participation from ten different directors on one platform. The directors are:
Chandershekhar Sharma, Vishaw Deepak Trikha from Rohtak, Rajesh Tiwari, Ashraf Ali, Varun Sharma, Sunil Chauhan and Shyam Kumar and the plays are ‘Lajwanti’ on 11th March at 3:30 pm & ‘Gadhe Ki Barat’ at 6:30 pm, ‘Kambakht Ishq’ is on 12th March at 6:30 pm, ‘Jaanch Padtal’ is on 13th March, at 6:30 pm, ‘Charandas Chor’ will be performed on 14th March at 3:30 pm & ‘Aadhe Adhure’ at 6:30 pm, ‘Digdarshak’ on 15th March at 3:30 pm and ‘Shikasta Booton Ke Darmiyan’ at 6:30 pm and on 16th March ‘Chuhal’ at 3:30 pm & ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’ at 6:30 pm.

The event will also witness the 14th Natsamrat Theatre Award in eight categories – Best Writer, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best in Back-stage, Best Critics, Lifetime Achievement Award and Best Theatre Promoter for those who have contributed significantly to the theatre. The award committee is consisted of award-winning playwright D.P.Sinha, Writer & Critic Jaidev Taneja, Writer & Critic Diwan Singh Bajeli, Award-winning light designer R.K.Dhingra and Writer & Director J.P.Singh.. at Muktadhara Auditorim, Banga Sanskritik Bhawan, 18-19, Bhai Vir Singh Marg, Gole Market, New Delhi-110001.

Symbolism and Stanislavsky

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According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, Symbolism is defined as- the art or practice of using symbols especially by investing things with a symbolic meaning or by expressing the invisible or intangible by means of visible or sensuous representations: such as
a: artistic imitation or invention that is a method of revealing or suggesting immaterial, ideal, or
otherwise intangible truth or states.

b: the use of conventional or traditional signs in the representation of divine beings and spirits.
However, Symbolism signified something much deeper than its modern counterpart, for the
French, The Russians, and the Belgians in the 19th century. Symbolism was an art movement
of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts seeking to represent absolute
truths symbolically through language and metaphorical images.

Symbolism was a reaction in favor of spirituality, imagination, and dreams. symbolism originated
in the revolt of certain French poets against the rigid conventions governing both technique and
theme in traditional French poetry, as evidenced in the precise description of Parnassian poetry.
The Symbolists wished to liberate poetry from its expository functions and its formalized oratory
in order to describe instead the fleeting, immediate sensations of man’s inner life and
experience. They attempted to evoke the ineffable intuitions and sense impressions of man’s
inner life and to communicate the underlying mystery of existence through free and highly
personal use of metaphors and images that, though lacking in precise meaning, would
nevertheless convey the state of the poet’s mind and hint at the “dark and confused unity” of
inexpressible reality. Some writers, such as Joris-Karl Huysmans, began as naturalists before
becoming symbolists; for Huysmans, this change represented his increasing interest in religion
and spirituality. Certain of the characteristic subjects of the Decadents represent naturalist
interest in sexuality and taboo topics. Still, in their case, this was mixed with Byronic
romanticism and the world-weariness characteristic of the fin de siècle period.

Such masterpieces as Verlaine’s Romances sans paroles (1874) and Mallarmé’s L’Après-midi
d’un faune (1876) sparked a growing interest in the nascent innovations of progressive French
poets. The Symbolist manifesto itself was published by Jean Moréas in Le Figaro on September
18, 1886; in it, he attacked the descriptive tendencies of Realist theatre, Naturalistic novels, and
Parnassian poetry. He also proposed replacing the term décadent, which was used to describe
Baudelaire and others, with the terms symboliste and symbolisme. Many little Symbolist reviews
and magazines sprang up in the late 1880s, their authors freely participating in the
controversies generated by the attacks of hostile critics on the movement. Mallarmé became the
leader of the Symbolists, and his Divagations (1897) remains the most valuable statement of the
movement’s aesthetics. In their efforts to escape rigid metrical patterns and to achieve freer
poetic rhythms, many Symbolist poets resorted to the composition of prose poems and the use
of vers libre (free verse), which has now become a fundamental form of contemporary poetry.
The Symbolist movement in poetry reached its peak around 1890 and began to enter a precipitous decline in popularity about 1900. Symbolist works had a strong and lasting influence
on much British and American literature in the 20th century, however. Their experimental
techniques greatly enriched the technical repertoire of modern poetry, and Symbolist theories
bore fruit both in the poetry of W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot and in the modern novel as represented
by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, in which word harmonies and patterns of images often take
preeminence over the narrative.

Symbolist painters favoured works based on fantasy and the imagination. The Symbolist
position in painting was authoritatively defined by the young critic Albert Aurier, an enthusiastic
admirer of Paul Gauguin, in an article in the Mercure de France (1891). He elaborated on
Moréas’s contention that the purpose of art “is to clothe the idea in sensuous form” and stressed
the subjective, symbolical, and decorative functions of an art that would give visual expression
to the inner life. Symbolist painters turned to the mystical and even the occult in an attempt to
evoke subjective states of mind by visual forms.

Dramatists also took their lead from the French Symbolist poets, especially from Mallarmé. As
drama critic for La Dernière Mode during the 1870s, Mallarmé opposed the dominant Realist
theatre and called for a poetic theatre that would evoke the hidden mystery of man and the
universe. Drama, for Mallarmé, should be a sacred rite in which the poet-dramatist revealed the
correspondences between the visible and invisible worlds through the suggestive power of his
poetic language. For the Symbolist playwright, the deeper truths of existence, known
instinctively or intuitively, could not be directly expressed but only indirectly revealed through
symbol, myth, and mood. The principal Symbolist playwrights were Maurice Maeterlinck in
Belgium and Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam and Paul Claudel in France. Also influenced by
Symbolist beliefs were the Swedish playwright August Strindberg and the Irish poet and
dramatist W.B. Yeats.

In 1904, Stanislavski finally acted on a suggestion made by Chekhov two years earlier that he
stages several one-act plays by Maurice Maeterlinck, the Belgian Symbolist. Despite his
enthusiasm, however, Stanislavski struggled to realize a theatrical approach to static, lyrical
dramas. When the triple bill consisting of The Blind, Intruder, and Interior opened on 15 October,
the experiment has deemed a failure. Meyerhold, prompted by Stanislavski’s positive response
to his new ideas about Symbolist theatre, proposed that they form a “theatre studio” (a term
which he invented) that would function as “a laboratory for the experiments of more or less
experienced actors.” The Theatre-Studio aimed to develop Meyerhold’s aesthetic ideas into new
theatrical forms that would return the MAT to the forefront of the avant-garde and Stanislavski’s
socially conscious ideas for a network of “people’s theatres” that would reform Russian
theatrical culture as a whole. Central to Meyerhold’s approach was the use of improvisation to
develop the performances.

When the studio presented a work-in-progress, Stanislavski was encouraged; when performed
in a fully equipped theatre in Moscow, however, it was regarded as a failure and the studio
folded. Reflecting in 1908 on the Theatre-Studio’s demise, Stanislavski wrote that “our theatre
found its future among its ruins.” Nemirovich disapproved of what he described as the malign
influence of Meyerhold on Stanislavski’s work at this time.

Girish Karnad – Remembering A Multifaceted Mesmerising Actor, Writer, Director

Girish Karnad’s demise on 10 June 2019 marked the end of an era in Indian Theatre. He was 81 and for the last two years suffering from a respiratory ailment that forced him to carry a portable oxygen cylinder and a thin tube across his nostrils; this however, did not prevent him from attending Gauri Lankesh’s first death anniversary and solidarity meet where the friends and admirers of the courageous journalist murdered by goons of the Hindu Right Wing, had gathered in the name of sanity and humanity.

Karnad’s passing was headline news and even those who did not know that he was one of creators of modern Indian theatre and its most intellectual contributor were aware of his highly influential presence because of his activities in other fields namely the cinema as an actor and director, and on Television, where he is remembered as Swami(Nathan)’s father in the hugely popular Television series Malgudi Days, directed by Shankar Nag, based on R.K. Narayan’s evocative short novel Swami and his Friends set in the fictional small town of Malgudi in the Madras Presidency in British India.

All said and done, his genuine versatility taken into account, he will still be remembered as a playwright who used history and (Hindu) mythology to make often telling connections with the mores of contemporary world and how they reflected the socio-political mood of the times. This is all the more creditable because his plays proved to be consistently popular and their performances well attended not only in Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka but vast stretches of India as well, over forty years or more.

Modern Indian Theatre has not really been a paying proposition except in small pockets of Bengal and Maharashtra, even there the progenitors usually sustained their Theatre activities doing other jobs: Utpal Dutt financed his highly successful Bengali productions with his earnings from commercial Hindi and Bengali films where he was very popular and well paid. On a smaller scale, Ajitesh Bandopadhyay, a charismatic stage actor and producer also used a similar strategy, when for a while he was a sought after character actor in Bengali films but had not resigned from his lectureship at a Kolkata College. How the brilliant, irascible Shambhu Mitra, sustained himself and his theatre Troup, Bahurupi, is anyone’s guess. Mitra, though, appeared in some Bengali films as an actor and as director was considered good enough to be hired by Raj Kapoor to do Jagte Raho in Hindi, and the same in Bengali as Ek Din Ratre. Having said that one may add, that neither Shambhu Mitra nor Ajitesh Bandopadhyay were professional playwrights, Utpal Dutt did write plays but only three namely Manusher Adhikare, Tiner Talvar, and Jalianwala Bagh actually hold up as gripping plays.

Girish Karnad’s case was different, he was a playwright whose plays were translated and staged in many Indian languages, in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil, Bengali. He was paid a small royalty for the groups that staged them were cash-strapped and their efforts were appreciated by audiences who bought tickets at a very moderate price. Capitalism and its implementation in the financing and the sustaining of the arts, namely the Theatre had not allowed as yet the sale of exorbitantly priced tickets, that has become a norm in metropolitan India in the last decade.

Strange as it may sound, Karnad became a playwright by accident. He wanted to be a poet and write poems in English, win the Nobel Prize for literature; he declared tongue-in-check in a documentary made on him by K.M. Chaitanya for Sangeet Natak Akademi possibly five years ago. He wanted to be with the likes of T.S Eliot, W.H. Auden and others, of course destiny had others plans for him.

He read Mathematics and Statistics for his B.A. at Karnataka Arts College, Dharwad and stood First in the University of Karnataka. This enabled him to proceed to Bombay to pursue a Master degree in Maths and Statistics. It was from there he applied for a Rhodes Scholarship and got it. His father Dr.Raghunath Karnad was not happy with the idea, neither was his mother Krishna bai. His parents were uneasy about their son going off to England (though they would have been proud, in retrospect). They did not know if he would choose to settle down there or marry a white woman!

The result of his parents reservations on his sailing to England (even Rhodes Scholars had to travel by ship in those days) was the writing of the first draft of Yayati, based on an episode from the Mahabharata. The play was written in Karnada, the language of his endeavours in the Theatre. The story of Yayati was of the protagonist being cursed by his teacher Shukracharya for his infidelity. Yayati, then asks one of his sons, Puru, to give him his youth as a sacrifice! Karnad observed in the SNA documentary on him that the idea for the play may have been triggered off by the reactions of his parents just before his journey to England. Yayati’s first draft did not overly impress G.B. Joshi, the publisher- owner of Manohar Granthamala, Dharwad. He told the fledgling playwright that he was moved by the monologue of a dasi (female servant) towards the end of the play! It was polite way of saying try again! A re-write was read by G.B. Joshi and Manoharan, an astute literary man, and the news that Manohar Granthamala shall publish Yayati helped Karnad make-up his mind to come back to India for good.

The Rhodes Scholarship enabled him to read for a PPE (Politics, Philosophy, Economics) Degree at Magdalen College, Oxford. He also became the became the President of the Oxford Students Union, a singular honour for a student. Oxford opened up his horizons and at the same time taught him to focus on his own cultural inheritance. He knew, perhaps because of his training in Mathematics how to clearly and logically.

On return journey to India, by ship he wrote Tuglak, based on his readings on the 13th Century Sultan of Delhi Mohammad Bin Tuglak, also considered by many to be a mad genius who was prevented by his emotional affliction from achieving the social and political harmony he craved. Tuglak, over time became Karnad’s most successful play. Even today, in some corner of India it is being staged in a local language.

The year 1963 saw him back in India and with a job at the Oxford University Press in Madras (now Chennai). He was in the city till 1970 and also became associated with the Madras Players, a group of serious amateurs that did plays in English. Tuglak was staged by them, and shortly after, by Alyque Padamsee in Bombay (Mumbai) also in English. But a translation in Hindustani opened the flood-gates for the play. Ebrahim Alkazi, the Charismatic director of the National School of Drama, in Delhi, staged it at Purana Quila, a dramatic, stark, pre-Mughal fort that gave it both scale and eloquence. The play for no fault of Karnad’s became his calling card over the years-with the uninitiated.

He became a film actor and give a resounding performance as the school master driven mad by the kidnapping of his beautiful wife by the lustful brothers of the local Zamindar. He also gave a fine account of himself in Swami directed by Basu Chatterjee. He appeared as an actor in films and Television, not only because he could test himself in another medium but also to buy the freedom to pursue his activities in the Theatre, namely writing plays.

It has always difficult for playwrights and theatre directors, actors to support themselves financially and pursue their goals with dedication. One was left wondering how Vijay Tendulkar, the famous Marathi playwright manage financially. His plays, even the most successful ones like Ghasiram Kotwal, Sakharam Binder, Khamosh Adalat Jari Heye and Panchi Aesey Aate Hein, would not have brought in substantial royalties as most of the time they were produced by serious amateur groups with limited finances. Tendulkar’s forays into Parallel cinema as a script writer would have brought in steady but modest financial rewards. He did write the scripts for 14 relatively low budget films. Tendulkar managed to support his career as a playwright,y post -1970, as a film script writer.

Karnad, because of his activities in the cinema, and to an extent Television, was able to acquire a certain financial equilibrium to continue with his writing for the theatre. Badal Sarkar, his confrere from Bengal, was the Chief Town Planner of Calcutta. He resigned from this job as it impinged on his activities as a playwright and a theatre producer. He gave up the proscenium theatre for which he had written highly successful plays like Evan Indrajit, Pagla Ghora, Balki Itihas, Hiroshima, Saari Raat. He became an ardent activist of the street theatre, deriving his inspiration from the folk theatre of Eastern India.

Karnad’s making of a playwright was almost an accident. It was when the manuscript of Yayati was vetted with a hawk-eye by Prof. Keertinath Kurtukoti, his exceptionally kind and erudite mentor then living and working in Baroda, he was able to do a rewrite that was acceptable to G.B. Joshi at Manohar Granthamala. It was published in Kannada and caught on quickly. There were stage productions all over Karnataka to begin with, and then all over India.

He observes about his first play: “Oddly enough the play owed its form not to the innumerable mythological play I had been brought up on, and which had partly kept these myths alive for me, but to Western playwrights whom until then I had only read in print. Anouilh (his Antigone particularly) and also Sartre, O’Neill, and the Greeks. That is, at most intense moment of self-expression, while my past had come to my aid with a ready-made narrative within which I could contain and explore my insecurities, there had been no dramatic structure in my own tradition to which I could relate myself.” (Introduction to Three plays, Naga-Mandala, Hayavadana, Tuhlaq, O.U.P. 1994)

Making the theatre his vocation rather a profession was not easy. Karnad had to literally buy his freedom by working as actor in films and Television, directing films and making the most of the Fellowships and Awards that he got. His friend from the Manohar Granthamala days, the truly exceptional translator and fine poet A.K. Ramanujan, had deservedly become a celebrated scholar at the University of Chicago in the US, saw to it that Girish Karnad got the Fulbright Fellowship and wrote Nagamandala and got it produced by the students of the Drama Faculty of the University.

He managed his finances astutely and avoided being called a ‘rebel without claws’! He was certainly not a rebel against the establishment in his formative years. He came from the well-educated Karnataka middle-class, still under the spell of pre-independence idealism. In S.M. Chaitanya’s SNA documentary on him, Karnad says on camera, standing on the steps of an old bungalow in Dharwad that he had lived there as a child with the family when his father was posted in the town, and that Mahatma Gandhi had lived in one of the rooms on the premises! He also adds that he is the present owner of the property.

Dharwad figures prominently in Chaitanya’s documentary for many reason: first, because of G.B. Joshi and Manohar Granthamala, the publishing house that brought modern literature to the Kannada language; second, because it gave Karnad a start and then made him a writer; third, because he came to meet the major literary figures in the language, including Bendre, the great poet who always had an open house, and would happily grant forty five minutes even to an aspiring writer and sent him on his way after his son gave the traditional pinch of sugar.

Dharwad laid the foundation for the young Karnad’s literary future and also gave him, despite his genuine aptitude for Mathematics and Statistics, the confidence to study abroad and become a writer. As a youngster he used to do pretty good sketches of his heroes – the moderns of the English language like T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, and Sean O’Casey, who, incidentally, responded to Karnad’s request for an autographed letter by saying that he (Karnad) ought to become a writer so that others may ask for his autograph!

Dharwad also has the Someshwara temple, which, in popular lore has a connection with antiquity. It was in the tank of this temple that the boy Karnad learnt to swim. It is through this town flows the Shalmali river. He suggested to his wife Saraswati that they name their first born, a daughter, be named Shalmali, rather than Ganga or Jamuna, which were too far away for comfort. Thus the daughter of the Karnad’s was/is named Shalmali Radha.

Karnad’s literary journey had been marked by ups and downs and his quest of finding the right form for the right material been continuous.

His choice of a language for literary expression was curious. Not without a touch of humour. “While preparing for the trip [Oxford], amidst intense emotional turmoil, I found myself writing a play. This took me by surprise, for I had fancied myself as a poet, had written poetry through my teens, and had trained myself to write in English, in preparation for the conquest of West. But here I was writing a play [Yayati] and in Kannada too, the language spoken by a few million people in South India, the language of my childhood. A greater surprise was the theme of the play, for it was taken from ancient Indian mythology from which I had believed myself alienated.” (Author’s Introduction, three plays, Naga-Mandala, Hayavadana, Tuhlaq, O.U.P. 1994)

The choice of such material would not be surprising in retrospect. He had said in the SNA documentary, that his doctor father on his retirement from service in the British Indian Government in 1942-43 was given in a three-year extension and posted to Sirsi, a malaria-ridden settlement in Maharashtra. It was there that he learnt all his “Itihaasa and [tales from the] Puranas” and which stayed with him for life. His exposure to folk theatre was indeed important for his development as a writer.

“In my childhood, in a small town in Karnataka, I was exposed to two theatre forms seemed to represent irreconcilably different worlds. Father took the entire family to see plays staged by troupes of professional actors called natak companies which toured the countryside throughout the year. The plays were staged in semi-permanent structures on proscenium stages, with wings and drop curtains, and were illuminated by petromax lamps.” And then he follows up with the second example: “Once the harvest was over, I went with the servants to sit up nights watching the more traditional Yakshagana performances. The stage, a platform with a back curtain, was erected in the open air and lit by torches.” (Author’s Introduction, three plays, Naga-Mandala, Hayavadana, Tuhlaq, O.U.P. 1994)

He, like Tendulkar and Sarkar, was a product of post-independence modern Indian Theatre that dealt with the social and political problems of the day, each influencing the other. Karnad, in the SNA docu he said he considered Bijon Bhattacharya’s, Nabanna to be the forerunner of modern Indian theatre for it was written as an immediate reaction to Bengal Famine of 1943 in which 3.5 million died. The British responsible for holocaust believed that the figures of the dead were 5 million! There was a bumper harvest that year but the Second World War was on and the Japanese were marching through Burma towards India. All the boats meant for transporting the rice were burnt to impede the possibility of a Japanese invasion, what could be transported to the British army, was done, the rest was left to rot or dumped into the sea or seized by the Marwari black marketers in Calcutta. This digression aside, Nabanna was an epoch- making play. Karnad also criticized Rabindranath Tagore’s plays for being ‘too poetic’ and short on action though he readily admitted that Tagore was a great poet and had influenced important poets across languages in India in his time and a generation later.

The crypto-communist (at least he was one in his youth) Vijay Tendulkar took the Nabanna lesson to heart, and further developed it to his advantage. His important plays are set in contemporary times, and even Ghashiram Kotwal, a period piece about evil doings in public life during the Peshwa period seems like it is talking about India today.

Badal Sarkar, the Civil Engineer from Bengal Engineering College, Shibpur, who also got a Masters in Comparative literature from Jadavpur University in 1992 at age sixty four, began writing about the problems of individuals from an urban middle-class stand point, the classic example being Evam Indrajit, gradually lost faith in the existing socio-political system, including its pseudo-Marxist avatar the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) that ran West Bengal and employed him as Chief Town Planner, a position he surrendered in 1975. He took to street theatre, mainly in small-town and rural Bengal. A new string of plays based on folk theatre forms emerged : to mention a few, Baghala Charit Manas, Dwirath, Ore Bihanga, Manushe Manushe, Janma-Vumi Aaj.

Karnad’s choice of subject to reflect the psychological and socio-political realities of our times is unusual. If Yayati, Hayavadana (based on Thomas Mann’s Transposed heads via Katha Saritsagara) and Nagmandala are set in ancient times, and Tuglaq and The Dream of Tipu Sultan, respectively from early to late medieval times, they do reflect the structure of existing societies and the classes within patriarchy and its values and have a modern ring to them. In each of plays, that number just under a dozen, including the last experimental one, Broken Images, that had an actress interacting with her image on a television screen. He was trying to juxtapose what are considered to be eternal verities with the ethical and moral demands of the contemporary world.

He writes in the introduction to Tale-Danda, set in medieval times that has enormous relevance for our times. ‘’ During the two decades ending in AD 1168, in the city of Kalyan, a man called Basavanna assembled a congregation of poets, mystics, social revolutionaries and philosophers. Together they created an age unmatched in the history of Karnataka for its creativity, courageous questioning and social commitment. Spurning Sanskrit, they talked of God and man in the mother-tongue of the common people. They condemned idolatry and temple worship. Indeed, they rejected anything ‘static’ in favour of the principle of movement and progress in human enterprise. They believed in the equality of sexes and celebrated hard, dedicated work. They opposed the caste system, not just in theory but in practice. This last act brought down upon them the wrath of the orthodox. The movement ended in terror and bloodshed.’’

  ‘’ Tale -Danda literally means death by beheading (Tale: Head. Danda Punishment).’’

It is difficult to ignore the reverberations these words carry for our times. In the last hundred years or more, there has been a steady erosion of human values: the introduction of mustard gas in World War-I, the dropping of the Atom bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan by the Americans to end World War-II and the holocaust in the same war, that resulted in the most gruesome deaths of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis. After that all morality and ethics in the world (not excluding India) seems to have collapsed- hopefully not for good. Karnad’s play-writing must be appreciated in this perspective both for its artistry and courage.

He was after all an enlightened believer in rationality, in the efficacy of civil behaviour in civil society and a conscientious citizen and artiste. Towards the end when he was barely able to get about, be it to express outrage along with many concerned fellow citizens after the murder of Gauri Lankesh, and other equally heinous happenings. He proudly carried small placards around his neck that said, ‘Not in My Name!’ and on another occasion, ‘I am an Urban Naxal!’ He knew how to protest in a forceful, civilised and peaceful manner.

Girish Karnad was singularly lucky in finding a soul mate like Saraswati Ganapathy, a doctor trained in New York who married him when he was forty two and became his anchor. Together they had two lovely children; the first Shalmali Radha, a daughter, and the second a son, Raghu. The family served on many an occasion as his emotional and moral compass.

He had resigned as director of Film and Television Institute Pune, in 1975 after the imposition of the Emergency by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi; when he died there was/is an insidious, certainly more dangerous, undeclared Emergency in place with the BJP in power for yet another term. He had faced both events with grace and courage and practised his vocation in the arts with utmost sincerity.

Ruchi Kishore’s : DIRTY CHAI, a hip hop Bollywood musical

DIRTY CHAI, a hip hop Bollywood musical, is a colorful & crazy dramedy, full of heart!

Chaya Chandrika Gopi, or “Chai” as she likes to be called, is a rebellious Indian-American bride-to-be. Chai’s parents have promised her to a nice Indian boy and the wedding is in ten days. With her back against the wall, not yet ready to give in to this assault on her freedoms, Chai leaves home but unexpectedly falls in love with a charming & mysterious stranger, making a powder keg out of an already complicated situation. Chai finds forbidden love with a fearless American girl, Ronnie, and is trapped between upholding her family’s traditions or following her heart, which goes against everything she’s been taught.

Chai is a messy concoction of two very different cultures, two conflicting identities, and two opposing desires, just like the dirty chai she orders each morning- a perfect brew of espresso and chai (tea).

Her Indian father, Mr. Hardik Gopi, is a traditional Hindu man.

Her White American mother, Mrs. Rani Gopi, converted to Hinduism after falling in love.

Filled with excitement and sarcasm, DIRTY CHAI challenges the walls of formality, fear, and judgment that separate people. Every cause has an effect in this intricately interwoven dramedy about human lives, embracing family, and the chaos of falling in love.

P.S. There will be a wedding so, “chai” not to miss it! o.O

Directed by Adam Marcus
Starring Ruchi Kishore as “Chai”
Sponsored by Café Cafe Mobile Coffee

Now Watch the play online on this link:


As tributes pour in on Surekha Sikri’s demise listen to her Swan Songs

Veteran actor Surekha Sikri passed away this morning, Friday the 16th July 2021, following a cardiac arrest, her agent, Vivek Sidhwani informed. In a statement shared with the media, the agent said the actor had been suffering from complications arising from a second brain stroke. She was with her family and her caregivers who requested privacy at this time.

Surekha Sikri (19 April 1945 – 16 July 2021) was an Indian theatre, film and television actress. A veteran of Hindi theatre, she made her debut in the 1978 political drama film Kissa Kursi Ka and went on to play supporting roles in numerous Hindi and Malayalam films, as well as in Indian soap operas. Sikri has received several awards, including three National Film Awards and a Filmfare Award.

Sikri won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress thrice, for her roles in Tamas (1988), Mammo (1995) and Badhaai Ho (2018). She was awarded the Indian Telly Award for Best Actress in a Negative Role in 2008 for her work in the primetime soap opera Balika Vadhu and won the Indian Telly Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the same show in 2011. In addition, she won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1989 for her contributions towards Hindi theater. Her last release Badhaai Ho (2018) got her immense recognition and appreciation from viewers and critics. She won three awards: the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film.

As a fitting tribute to the great performer she was we will listen to her mellifluous recitations of Hindi and Urdu Poetry. But before that, here are some of the tributes which poured in on social media and otherwise from her millions of admirers, and eminent people whom she knew, including actors and directors from film, television and theatre.

Ashish Abrol, Income Tax Commisioner, laments: “Surekha Sikri or Surekha di as we called her passed away today morning. I cannot get myself to accept that she is no more. I came to know her in 1985 when she was a faculty member in NSD and came completely under her thrall as she became a mentor, teacher, older sister and a maternal figure for me. Her panache, idiosyncrasies, brilliance as an actor and her erudition… often when her silences taught you more than lectures of so many others. Her love for chaat and the occasional joint… later of course she could not eat much courtesy the intestine problems. She was perhaps the greatest theatre actor ever in modern India; some one who could emote and yet be aware of her own performance as if standing out of her body observing herself perform. More than that she was always overflowing with warmth that traveled to you through her twinkling often mischievous eyes. She was so thrilled when her son Rahul had an exhibition in The Habitat Centre …I was not in touch with her for some time more since her paralysis and with her inability to speak. A triple national award winner; Surekha ji was known to the country at large courtesy her TV and film roles…in Tamas, as Dadisa, in Mammoo but it is her oeuvre in theatre that is stunning; she owned the stage, set it on fire and then doused the flames with her voice and gentleness. RIP Surekha di my mother in another life you live on in your performances and our memories”

“She was one of my personal favourites .. a lovely actress .. will never forget her Nsd work when I was in college in delhi .. god bless her” – Lillet Dubey

“There is a total immersion in life…have deeply admired her work, her persona from the Nsd days, so fully engaged in enjoying everything that came her way intensely” – Amba Sanyal

“Surekha my dear dear friend! We were in the same batch! A consummate actress,very strong woman , determined and brave! ! Never let go of her beliefs and strong options! I shall miss her dearly” – Amal Allana

“Very very sad news. We have lost another great actress. Surekha Sikri left for her heavenly abode. Heartfelt condolences to her family. May God rest her soul in peace” – Satish Anand

“Another great loss to theatre and films. She was a great actor and inspiration to all her juniors at NSD. Will never forget her superb performances. Rest in peace Surekhaji” – Anila Singh Khosla

“Deeply saddened – was always uplifted by her rendering of Faiz’s poem- may she rest in eternal peace” –Salima Hashmi

“Shocking news. She was one of the few who defined theatre for us in our youth. What a great loss for all of us” – Rajiv Bhargav

“Last of the greatest products of NSD..and loved and respected hugely for her talent and principles. Will be sorely missed” – Dolly Thakore

Tail Piece: Surekha Sikri was very fond of poetry. Listen to her reciting poetry by Faiz, Raghuvir Sahay & Sarveshvar

Satish Alekar: Remembering Dilip Kumar

Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu at Turf Club, Pune.
Behind from left: Satish Ghatpande, Dilip Gokhale, Avinash Limaye, Arvind Thakar and Suresh Basale

In 1975 to celebrate 100th show of our Theatre Academy, Pune’s original Marathi Production Vijay Tendulkar’s: Ghashiram Kotwal, we invited Dilip Kumar and Shashi Kapoor as the chief guests. Thereafter not many know that Dilip Kumar became our friend. There were many occasions where Jabbar Patel, Anil Joglekar and me were invited to his home on the Pali Hill. Several story ideas were discussed to make film. Story drafts were discussed but never materialised. But we became friends. Dilip Kumar used to speak Marathi fluently. He had seen many popular Marathi Sangeet Natak’s. Sometime at his home he will take out harmonium and sing old Marathi theatre song made popular by Bal Gandharva. Dilip Kumarji and Saira ji used to visit Pune during weekends. They used to stay at famous Turf Club and used to invite Ghashiram actors Gang for a high tea and chat. Above is one photograph of their 1993 visit to Turf Club Pune. Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu seen with ( from left: Satish Ghatpande, Dilip Gokhale, Avinash Limaye, Arvind Thakar, and Suresh Basale) We lost all these three actors over the years.

100th Show of Ghashiram Kotwal in 1975 Dilip Kumar seen with Shriram Ranade, Chandrakant Kale and Shashi Kapoor
100th show of Ghashiram at Shanmukhanand Hall, Mumbai
Dilip Kumar is with the artists.

Five minutes monologue of Dilip Kumar in 1953 film Foothpath written and directed by Zia Sarhadi

Aneeta Chitale: Sojourn to Maldives – Book Review / Interview

Book Cover: Sojourn to Maldives

Manohar Khushalani: You are a poetess at heart Aneeta Chitale, and, with an anthology to be released soon, how did you think of writing a novel?

Ans.  I have been penning poems since the age of eleven. I used to write and keep them as treasures! I was a bit shy I think when it came to presenting it. But I had strong streaks of an artist; I was very active in theatre and writing, even during my Pune University days. 

Q2. Can you tell more about your journey as an: “ Appreciated Poet-from India”. You have just received “Gujarat Sahitya Academy Certificate from Government of India Year 2020- and Motivational Strips” the largest Forum for writers all over the world.

Ans. I have been very fortunate to write poems on varied topics, especially on the environment, unprecedented times of the Covid 19 – where life has become a challenge to lead a normal lifestyle. I wrote on a wonderful theme: ‘Striving For Survival’ collection of my poems OPA Forum, out of which three of my poems have featured in OPA International Magazine this year. I am happy to say that my poems were selected from more than 600 + poems from Global Poets-

Most of my poems are on Europe’s most acclaimed ‘atunis.portal’. I am most humbled by The Chief Editor Sir Agron Shele’

My poems ‘ The Three Witches’,’ Gypsy’ and ‘Rhapsody’ made waves. The Best Poets almost 162- contributed to a Quarterly OPA@ E- magazine/Print Year-2020 & For the month –July 2020. And the best part was I have got accolades & given an ‘International Spot Light- from The Government of Seychelles – Island and by World’s Largest Forum Motivational Strips.’ My three poems were widely read: Devi, Grasshopper and Himalayas.

I give my sincere ‘Thanks’ to Ms. Maggie Vijay Kumar & Sir Shiju H. Pallithzeth Founder President of (MS) Motivational Strips.

Recently on 17th August 2020, I received the news that my writings; my novel “Sojourn To Maldives” and poems have been ‘Globally’ appreciated and in India as well overseas. I also write in ‘Bi-Lingual’ journals. Have contributed to few journals especially in Egypt and Greece.

Aneeta Chitale : Author

Q3. You have been associated with the teaching profession for the last twenty years in different countries. How did writing happen to you amid such a demanding lifestyle?

Ans. I have been lucky enough to have travelled to different foreign countries like Sultanate of Oman, UK, and The Republic of Maldives during my long service, in teaching filed. When you are working abroad, you have to work hard and cope up with the international standards, and which is highly qualitative work according to the quality frameworks. I have taught to the ‘Sophomores’ which again is very challenging, but at the same time very eclectic I should say. I was always on new locations and amidst the ‘multi-cultural’ society, which provoked me to write. I had been writing in my diary all along. It was only recently, I could write the full novel. I had to write brick by brick, I must admit.

Q4. Having travelled to various countries across the globe; why did you choose Maldives as the setting of your debut novel, ‘Sojourn to Maldives’?

Ans.  The Republic of Maldives  is an archipelagos, it is formed by a chain of tiny islands; one thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine islands. It’s situated to the south west of India, in the Indian Ocean. It has bioluminous beaches and most exotic water villas, in the whole world. I was mesmerized by the turquoise   green waters and the   serenity, and its unique topography. Some islands are absolutely remote and miniscule and situated in the deep ocean. When I saw all this, I was fascinated and I knew this was the going to haunt me.  Much later, it emerged as a backdrop for my debut novel.  Maldives is famous for adventure- water sports

Q5. How is the story of Aari, and Brad in ‘Sojourn to Maldives’ different from the run of the mill romance?

Ans. The protagonist in the novel, Aari is a strong willed woman of today, who has embarked her professional journey on the islands of Maldives. She is an ‘expatriate’ who   faces many challenges in her personal and professional life. She explores the new found land. She meets Bard Marquez, a Spaniard, who is an ‘International Champion’ a wind surfer, on these exotic islands; quite by chance the romance blossoms.  But the islands of Maldives have a political unrest and fate plays its part. Brad is an adventure freak, an   novum and Aari an aficionado of altruism! The relationship has a roller coaster ride! It is for the readers to find out. I would say.

Q6. What kind of research you had to conduct before writing this book which touches on the “political dimensions” between the two counties- India and The Republic of Maldives?

Ans. I had to do extensive research, as my novel is set in the backdrop of the Indian Ocean. The life on the ocean and especially on the remote island; is in total contrast compared to the urban lifestyle I have lived in India. The ocean routes, the seafarer’s and the boat journeys, was minutely, studied by me. The Muslim culture is the fabric woven in this novel. The social, cultural and religious beliefs and sentiments are much valued, respected and penned by me. The ‘Political Crisis’ is the discerning perspective here and it is a glaring reality, portrayed by me.

Q7. As an Indian author, writing a novel of this magnitude depicting an era of ‘Political Turbulence’ how difficult was it for you to incorporate the real – socio cultural milieu in your novel?

Ans.  This writing is not just a piece of fiction but it has charted the ‘International Boundaries and routes’ inked with skirmish between India and Maldives. Being a neighbor, have its pros and cons.

The turbulent times between the years spanning from 2008 to 2014 is presented on the canvas. The relations between the two countries were totally raptured in this era. The entire plethora of Indian nationals and foreigners   had gone berserk. I had to study it in detail and follow it consistently.

Q8. Your bio describes you as a ‘Solo Traveller’ round the globe. How has this helped you groom as a Poet/author?

  I got my highs and lows both in this journey as a teacher.  But ‘Highs’ has a price tag too! One learns to be more independent minded, be more brave and learn to face challenges with a smile! As an ‘Expatriate Teacher’ you have to walk on the unchartered routes be it on an ocean or a desert. You have to walk that extra-mile.  I had to face many obstacles too and the moment you leave your native country, and after the initial euphoria has died, one is left in a vacuum. That time is most difficult and one has to mature as a person. Being solo – as my son was very young that time. And I had to leave him in India with my parents and my husband. One learns from the book of life! There is no gain without pain.

Q9.  With an anthology to be soon published how did you think of writing a novel?

Ans.  I have been penning poems since the age of eleven. I used to write and keep them as treasures! I was a bit shy I think, when it came to presenting it. But I had strong streaks of an artist; I was very active in theatre and writing, even during my Pune University days.  But this novel is a surprise for me. I had my stories talking to me.  Writing a book is a huge task. I had the passion for writing for sure. Being an artist has always paved my way to success. I have done a small role in a Marathi movie when I was 21 years old.

Q10. You have written a story on ‘India’s Bi-Lateral Relations with Maldives’. Can you shed some light on this international relationship between the two countries?

Ans. Maldives is our neighboring country and has got a great strategic importance in ‘The Indian Ocean’. The recent political crisis had turned the friendly ties, into a feud with this nation.  There was a dark patch that altered the relations between the two neighboring counties for more than a decade. But India has always been very helpful and friendly. The other great powers, like China had a major role to play a gambit. But the bilateral relations were handled very sensitively by the Indian High Commissioner and Ambassador India, His Highness Dnyaneshwar Mulay -To the Republic of Maldives. Indian High Commission did a commendable job then. Indian Defence Services did a brilliant job, with the precision of eagle’s eye.

  One has to read the story, to know about it.

Q11. In this book you have touched on ‘global the water’ crisis?  Do you think this is a burning question even in Maldives?

Ans.  The one thousand and one hundred and ninety one islands of Maldives   have its own fate to face. With the sea levels rising everyday a great climatic shift is going to happen any time in future. The land which is habitable is only 300 kms and the mineral   water is most scare here. One has to depend on the two monsoons- this country gets annually. The rain water is the most treasured resource and some islands are totally isolated and if the water perishes there is no future for these islands. Rain water harvesting is a great practice Water is a Global Crisis. Indeed.

Q12. Which authors have influenced you the most in your journey as a writer?

Ans. I have be most impressed with the writings of Khushwant Singh, Girish Karnad, JK Rowling. Poets like Pablo Naruda , S. Coleridge, Maya Angelou and Rabindranath Tagore.

Margaret Mitchell, William Shakespeare. I have always loved reading Henrik Ibsen’s plays.

Q13. With a large number of paperbacks, as well as ebooks being published, how difficult is it for the emerging authors/ poets to sustain the competition?

Ans. I think writing world has got its highest spurt now and the eBooks and paperbacks are both equally, relevant in todays’ fast paced, high tech world.  It is a healthy world, where one has both the choices available. But it’s always a great pleasure, to hold the fresh mint paperback copy in your hands. New authors have to learn to ride over this wave.

Q14.  In today’s publishing world, a constant debate is going on about ‘Traditional vs Self-Publication’, what is your take on this?

Ans. I am sure the new authors/poets have a great choice to make and enjoy the benefits of Self-Publishing too. One can be happy to self-publish his/ her work, than be frustrated about not being approved by the traditional publishing houses.  Both has it’s plus and minus points, I feel.

Q15.  What is the message you would like to convey to the budding authors/ poets?

Ans.  If you have the skill and desire to write you must write and not be in a dilemma, should I or shouldn’t I write?  You must follow your heart’s passion. Writing should be a long term affair. There is no short cut to success.