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Let’s script a summer high

Post-exam summers… Vegging out, watching movies, checking out all the new hangouts…

The breather is all of that and more. To a bubbly gang in Calcutta, the break is the perfect chance to do something, anything, productive. And the flavour of the season has been theatre. The last two weeks have seen two student productions that have had nothing to do with schools. All the world is truly a stage as students are getting together to use their time productively, and showing off about it.

It was a dark twist to the fantasy world of fairytales. An ensemble cast from various city schools and colleges came together to form Two Left Feet, and Malice in Wonderland was its first venture.

The musical was conceived, written, directed and presented by students ranging from Class IX to first year college-goers. What if there was rebellion in wonderland and the characters we know and love refused to behave like they were meant to' Mayhem would result, proved these creative kids, who raised funds to put up the show sans sets at GD Birla Sabhagar. If Prince Charming could dump Cinderella for having a bad attitude, anything was possible.

“The production was a transition between a play and the Impact event we usually take part in during fests,” explains Abhishek Sengupta, who donned Jafar’s robes on stage.

Though the intention was to do a serious show, they all just ended up having fun. Songs, written and composed by the gang, and dance choreographed by the students jazzed up the act. It was all well thought out. “We didn’t think we had the talent necessary to put up a drama with only dialogue. The other stuff helped keep the audience glued to the stage,” adds Abhishek, who just cleared his Boards from La Martiniere for Boys.

It was Neha from sister school La Martiniere for Girls who had come up with the idea of the play. “After the ISC, there was a long period when we were doing nothing. We wanted to do something productive to kill time,” recalls Neha, an all-rounder who scored over 95 per cent in the exams and is now headed for the University of Pennsylvania. “Then, momentum picked up and things started taking shape. In school everything is so controlled. Out of it, we had the freedom to say what we wanted, and we had the chance for a creative collaboration with people we wouldn’t usually work with,” adds the girl who played the wicked stepmother.

Not only did the crew of over 20 have a whale of a time, they also “learnt how to work with people” during the “no negatives, only positives” experience. Hopefully, Two Left Feet will be back the same time next year, when the gang, many of whom are going away for college, should all be back in town again.

For Theatrecian, a group of young drama enthusiasts who have been working together for a couple of years now, fitting in a play or two whenever they have the time has become habit. Last week, they took their first shot at coffee theatre with Method to Madness.

“Nirmalya from La Martiniere for Boys had approached us with a script, and we decided to put it up,” explains Tathagata Choudhury of Theatrecian. What was a chance venture proved to be a success in the confined space of Coffee Pai (a hall was hard to come by), and more such plays should be forthcoming. The group is already working on its next major production — an English translation of Kabuliwala. “We are sticking close to the original story, and it should be ready by August,” says Tathagata, currently busy preparing for his final year law exams. They have a venture lined up for the winter, to be staged in both Calcutta and Delhi. The team is also experimenting with “terrace theatre” where the elements are integrated as a character.

Think big, think fun, think proactive. If you thought English theatre was dead, take a page out of these guys’ script, and get into the act.

 

Britain boarding

A month in Mallory Towers. Or almost. Thirteen-year-old Aparna Chaudhuri will get to spend a month at one of Britain’s top-bracket summer schools as one of the three winners of the Independent Schools Scholarship Scheme (ISC Scholarship Scheme) 2003. This is the first time that a Calcutta student has made the cut for the award instituted by the British Council, in partnership with the Independent Schools Council, to promote UK boarding schools internationally.

Aparna, a Class VIII student at Calcutta Girls, was one of the 10 students shortlisted nationally. “I was required to write a 500-word statement on why I thought I deserved to be selected for the scholarship,” says the teen, who was one of the five students to have been handed a British Council entry form by her school through “a kind of internal selection”.

The British Council received approximately 180 applications this year. Aparna’s essay won her a seat in front of a giant screen at the British Council, Calcutta. With her were two boys from St James and a girl from Modern High. The six other finalists were scattered across the country — all of them between the ages 11 and 15. Recalling the video conference, the class topper and former school vice-president admits that the experience was “a little frightening at first” but the butterflies in the stomach settled down a few minutes into the Q&A with the three-member panel sitting in Delhi. “I was asked generally about myself and how I would present my country’s image abroad.” Aparna’s answers stressed on the unity-in-diversity theme in India’s culture, cuisine and costume.

The scholarship in pocket (and the visa and the air ticket as well), young Aparna’s mind is set on the journey. She will be attending St Felix and St George’s School in Suffolk through June. “I have checked the school’s website. It seems straight out of Enid Blyton,” she says excitedly. Her top priority is picking up net ball, the school’s predominant sport, which is sure to require skills different from either Bharatanatyam or Hindusthani classical music in which she has been receiving training.

It is unlikely to be all play and no work, though. “I am expected to follow the school’s routine along with the other girls there.” But she is unperturbed at having to fly alone across continents. “A lot of people expect me to be scared. But I am not,” is the resolute answer from the green belt holder in the Kyokushin style, who picked up the champion’s medal at the West Bengal Open Karate Tournament three weeks ago.

 

Hotelier hopes

They are braving SARS, they were prepared to soldier on even in the face of the war. The determination of the students of the Institute for International Management and Technology (IIMT), Bengal, is seeing them travel the globe for their first-ever internships at some of the world’s most renowned hospitality establishments.

The second-year students of the three-year-four-month B.Sc degree course in hotel and restaurant management, conducted in conjunction with the Oxford Brookes University, UK, will travel from their sylvan campus at the Radisson Ffort, Raichak, to England, the US, Singapore, Australia and Malaysia. One year of the course consists of supervised work experience in the industry.

Slightly nervous over the SARS threat, with some change of visa plans caused by the war in Iraq, some of the students are yet to depart, pending work permits.

Those who had been initially scheduled to go to the UAE had to find new destinations. Some have opted for domestic internships, but some have already left, while others are ready to go.

The Radisson Edwardian, London, is already the workplace for around 10 students of IIMT. Five of their classmates have left for Chennai to get their travel papers in order, and will leave for the Out Back Steak, Malaysia, month-end. Those who have opted for domestic placements have landed posts with the ITC Sheraton Hotels, the Taj group and Radisson Hotels in India.

Abhishek Dey is one of the students headed for Kuala Lumpur. “It is a six-month placement, and we expect to be in service for most of our stay,” says the excited 20-year-old.

Food and board — and the anti-SARS masks — are on the Outback Steak, a well-known chain of eateries. “I want to be in the service line so this is perfect for me,” adds his classmate Avijit Sarkar, also placed in Malaysia.

 

Country questions

To remind the youth of India of the potential and glory of the nation, the All India Chinmaya Yuva Kendra is organising a national quiz on ‘Awakening Indians to India’.

Open to all between the ages of 15 and 21 years, the competition will be first held at the institutional level, before moving on to the inter-institutional, divisional, regional, zonal and national phases, kicking off in September and finally ending in January.

Applications — to be submitted at the local Chinmaya Mission offices — are open till July 10.

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