The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
On a soul-search sojourn

The spirit of Anne Frank has come to symbolise hope amidst holocaust, honesty amidst deceit, laughter amidst fear, life amidst death… Some of that eternal spirit and the contradictions of life have been captured in Roysten Abel’s play that opened in Delhi last Friday, before it travels to Calcutta, via Bangalore.

The timing of the tour is no mere coincidence — The Spirit of Anne Frank, “inspired by the consequences of extreme nationalism, persecution and destruction” debuts on Babri Masjid demolition day. It ends at Ahmedabad seven days after the Gujarat polls.

The play, presented by The Royal Netherlands Embassy, brings together a five-woman star cast in a train compartment — a history teacher (Zohra Segal), a tarot-card reader (Shabana Azmi), a textile designer (Nandita Das), a Hindustani music student (Mandakini Goswami) and an Austrian dancer-choreographer (Ansatacia Flewin). The journey on wheels becomes a metaphor of life, traversing love and betrayal, truth and lies, intolerance and compassion.

The Spirit of Anne Frank will come alive on the Vidya Mandir stage on December 16 and 17, at 7 pm. This marks another couple of red-letter dots on the packed Spandan calendar. “Bringing this play marking 400 years of Indo-Dutch collaboration and boasting such a powerful cast and talented director is a real pleasure,” says Renu Roy of Spandan.

The Park Street-based culture hub has been particularly busy this year, with three productions in eight months and two more to go before the curtains come down on ’02. It began with Mantri Mandal, moved on to Kal College Band Rahega, before bringing Renu, Konkona Sen Sharma and Niharika Seth together in Pinky and Asha Mary, under the watchful gaze of Sohag Sen. The stage is now set for Koi Ek Raat, with Renu and Nandini Chatterjee playing mother-daughter. The December 22 show of the Ashok Singh play promises a dramatic twist at the end of a long night’s journey into day. The last day of this year has been booked for Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound.

Next year begins on a high with the National School of Drama (NSD) festival featuring Ek Violin Samundar Ke Kinare, Dimage Hasti and Janeman. Another must-see will be Cassandra Now, a Scandinavian dance drama between January 23 and 25, followed by Twelve Angry Men and Glass Menagerie. Other Spandan firsts to watch out for are Aparna Sen and Konkona taking the stage together; and maybe Victor Banerjee making a move towards the city stage!

And it’s by no means just theatre that’s keeping Spandan busy. Fourteen diverse events ranging from music to story-telling to star talk have been lined up at Landmark. Art exhibitions will be on at the gallery throughout. But before all that, December 23 will find the Eureka orchestra playing for underprivileged children at Raj Bhavan, on the special request of Governor Viren J. Shah.

On-stage action

A taste of the dramatic from across the country is coming to town again, with the 19th chapter of Nandikar’s National Theatre Festival. Starting December 16, this year’s selec¬tion is as wide as ever, despite flagging interest and funds from the corporate sector.
The shows to be performed at the Academy of Fine Arts include Phullake¬tur Paalaa by Bohurupee on Monday. Local groups Sanskriti with Winkle Twinkle, Samatat with a children’s play, Wajeb Miyaar Biyaa, Nandikar’s own Shesh Saakshaatkaar and Sundaram’s Saajaano Baagaan are set to take the stage.
The first outofstation crew to per¬form will be Nata Bendele from Bhopal with Chanda Bedni on Tuesday. Rang Saptak’s Rangbhoomi, Kaatha from Oris¬sa, Ritusamhaaram from Manipur, Sha¬yari from Amritsar, Urubhangam from Thiruvananthapurm, Kutte from Mum¬bai, Ek Qatra Khoon from Ajmer and Peyythther from Pondicherry will follow. Bringing the curtains down on Christ¬mas is the sole act from Bangladesh, Chhoy Behaaraar Paalki.
“I am looking forward to seeing Natya Chetana perform, as well as Surendra Sharma’s play Rangbhoomi,” says Rudraprasad Sengupta of Nandikar. Natya Chetana, based near Bhubanesh¬war, lives in a commune, while Sharma is a “nonceleb” National School of Drama graduate. This will also be the premiere of Peyythther by ThaliKKol, performing in Tamil.
The end of the festival will not be the end of the festive action from Calcutta’s leading group theatre outfit. The Women’s National Theatre Festival is set to make a comeback from February 27 to March 3, with a group from Switzerland also expected to make an appearance.
Nandikar has also, finally, started off a training centre for 25 actors and ac¬tresses under 30. “We have not been allot¬ted land for a centre, so currently we are working out of a hall in Bagbazar,” ex¬plains Sengupta. The oneyear “produc¬tionoriented course” has just started off this month. “Unless we start with chil¬dren and young people, there will be no hope for a brighter future.”
An award ceremony and photo exhibi¬tion to commemorate the late Vivek Das’ contribution to theatre is also lined up at the Academy.

Screen test

An elderly schoolteacher and a boy who challenges his fibre, on screen. A veteran from Bengal —Dhritiman Chatterjee —and a one-film-old youngster — Amol Mhatre of Leela fame – are brought together on film by Rajshree Ojha, who started out in Calcutta.

Badger, a 25-minute film, will be screened at Priya on Saturday morning, 9.30 am. Though this screening is meant mainly for family and friends, the thesis film has already won the Spirit of Excellence Award at the American Film Institute (AFI). It has also gained an entry into the festival circuit, having been accepted at a French short film festival, and the San Francisco Asian Film Festival.

The Los Angeles-based director chose the California city as locale. “But it is such a Calcutta story that I wanted it to be screened here as well,” explains Rajshree, in town for the screening. The ex-student of Ashok Hall, who went on to Bangalore, New York University and the AFI, also held a screening at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute on Friday.

While working with Dhritiman, who “came highly recommended”, was a great experience, she also had Satyajit Ray’s former cinematographer Subhendu Roy on board for some of the sequences. “I wanted them all to see the final product,” says the 28-year-old. Amol, on the other hand, was working on his second film. “He is a great friend of ours, and he and Dhritiman got along very well,” says the young film-maker.

Rajshree, who has directed a number of short films as part of her course, is embarking on another project based on the short stories of a Delhi-based writer. She hasn’t yet acquired the rights, nor has she chosen her location, but she has not yet ruled out Calcutta.

House on Net

A brickandclick combination is what the future holds out for us, they say. And so, Virtual Reality hopes to offer the onestop solution to home shopping. Part of the Virtual Group, “one of the largest Di¬rect Marketing Associates of IDBI Bank”, the company promises to provide customised solutions to both builder and consumer. With six branches in and around Calcutta, the recentlylaunched firm (details are at virtualhomes@ could well be in the right place at the right time, with residential hous¬ing in the city riding a wave.

Harp on harmony

Fun City, the amusement park near Thakurpukur, has come alive with a twoday Bangla band carnival on ‘world peace and harmony’. Popular bands Chandra¬bindoo and Paras Pathar took the stage with Nachiketa and upcoming outfit Pratibimba on Friday to rock the theme park, the highlight of the highvoltage evening being a chorus ‘peace song’.
Saturday is expected to be equally ex¬plosive, with Silajit, Cactus, Bhoomi and Sahar belting out favourites, besides

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