Utpal Borpujari

January 4, 2010

Coming from Pak to India – Kalidas’ Abhijñānaśākuntalam

By Utpal Borpujari

That’s what will be on show, for the first-time ever in India, at the 12th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the country’s biggest theatre festival organised by the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi.

The Urdu play Shakuntala, adapted from the play written about two millennia ago by the great poet and directed by Zain Ahmed of Karachi, will probably be among the most eagerly-awaited events at the festival this year, to be held from January six to 22.

The play has been translated by Ahmed Himesh and adapted by the director himself, is a production of Karachi-based National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) and its cast includes Mohsin Ali, Kashif Jamal Farhad, Ali Rizvi, Paras Masroor, Maria Rubab, Sana Hasan and Uroosa Siddiqi.

The songs in the play have been composed by Paras Masroor and Aimen Tariq while the rest of the music has been composed and performed by Alan Simon and Ahsan Bari.

Ahmed, a NAPA faculty member, says that his institute chose to adapt the play to explore cultural notions about love, sacrifice, fate and the role of god in human affairs.

“Shakuntala is a great love story full of elements that we find repeated in our modern plays, films and television. While being an ancient text, it is remarkably contemporary in the themes that it embodies and shows how deep a people’s cultural memory can be,” says Ahmed in his director’s note.

“The aim of this production was to move away from the spoken word and use movement and sound to convey meaning,” says the director, who . The production was an exercise in deconstruction and creation for the whole group, that were forced to push their personal boundaries to create something unusual in form and yet so familiar in content.

Sushma Bahl, the festival project coordinator, is excited about the play coming to India. “It will be very interesting for theatre enthusiasts in India to find out how a Pakistani group has adapted one of immortal classics of Indian theatre,” she told Deccan Herald.

The festival this year will stage 87 plays, including 13 from abroad, selected from among 450 entries representing the immense diversity of theatre activity. Incidentally, this year’s selection comprises only one Kannada play in the form of Samkutty Pattomkary’s adaptation of Euripides’ classic Medea.

Girish Karnad-scripted English play Broken Images, directed by theatre and advertising veteran Alyque Padamsee, will also be staged during the festival which has other highlights like a trenchant critique of censorship in Sunil Shanbag-directed Hindi-Marathi play S*X, M*rality & Cens*rship.

A special tribute will be played to B V Karanth and Habib Tanveer through photo exhibitions chronicling the lives of the two departed giants. Karanth will be further honoured through a special presentation of music from his plays, said NSD chairperson Amal Allana and director Anuradha Kapoor.

The 13 international productions in the festival are coming from Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Singapore and the UK.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 04-01-2010)



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