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Longest theatre fest

Thirty Days in September will be staged in Calcutta as part of Theatre in Motion

Calcutta is not the best place for theatre workers, Anant Mahapatra, the founder of theatre group Srujani, told Metro recently. Having grown up watching plays of the IPTA, Utpal Dutt and Sombhu Mitra and forming the first serious theatre group of Odisha in 1963, Mahapatra expressed his disappointment at the lack of professionalism in West Bengal.

“Tom Alter is on stage most days of the week, his flight schedules are maintained in such a way that no time is lost. In Mumbai sponsors are there to back a play from its first group reading, which encourages more productions and people to experiment. In Delhi one only needs to approach the right ministers and they will give the funds, but in Calcutta one still has to pay taxes on all tickets above Rs 60 and one can’t get a venue of choice even if one starts trying a year in advance.”

Over the past two years Mahapatra has been shuttling between Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi trying to initiate his dream project — Theatre in Motion. It’ll possibly be the longest theatre festival in India.

Starting on October 5 simultaneously in GD Birla Sabhagar, Calcutta, Veer Savarkar Auditorium, Mumbai, and LTG Auditorium, Delhi, Theatre in Motion will stage performances on Saturdays and Sundays through October, November and December.

Mahapatra noticed the difference in attitude while fine-tuning the administrative part of the festival. “Groups in Mumbai are keyed to success. There are no taxes on theatre tickets and they look for sponsors and select plays and cast keeping in mind audiences in other parts of India and abroad. Calcutta is still clinging on to its group theatre morals. Thinking in terms of monetary profit is not considered decent here. Corporate houses and the state are only half-awake to the needs of theatre and none come forward to help out. It’s sad, because people here are still theatre-crazy. In Delhi funds can be found but viewers are scarce,” he rued.

“Groups often perform out of their homes before a niche audience, depriving other theatre lovers the opportunity to see them in action. As a result very few people in India, even theatre practitioners, know of what is being done in other states,” he pointed out.

As part of Theatre in Motion, groups from Calcutta that will perform in Mumbai and Delhi are Sundaram with Ja Nei Bharatey and Sajano Bagaan, Nandikar with Ajnatobas and Anto Adi Anto, Samstab with Bhutnath and Chhariganga, Rangakarmee with Hum Mukhtara and Chandalika and Gandhar with Kaachher Manush.

Calcutta can look forward productions of theatre group Rage, which will come with Mahua and One on One, a collage of 10 different plays. Then there’s Dayashankar Ki Diary and Yaar Bana Buddy written and directed by Nadira Zaheer Babbar, Rakesh Bedi’s solo act in Massage and Lillete Dubey’s renditions of Adhe Adhure (Hindi) and Thirty Days in September (English). Pierrot’s Troupe will stage Cut Cut Cut and Ghalib while theatre group Asmita will stage Court Martial and Chukayenge Nahi, both directed by Arvind Gaur. New Delhi Theatre Workshop will present Aurangzeb and Nayasa will present Samshan Kurukhetra and Suryasth. Sanket group from Odisha will show Mughal Tamasha. Om Katare-directed Chinta Chhod Chintamani and Hadh Kardi Aapne will also be performed.

Pakistani truck art as Puja decor

Pakistani truck art is making its way to a north Calcutta puja pandal this year. Pakistani artist Haider Ali, along with his colleagues Mumtaz Ahmed and Mohammad Iqbal, have been deputed by the organisers of Nabin Pally to design their pandal located near Nalin Sarkar Street at Hatibagan. The trio recently participated in an exhibition-cum-workshop, Art on Wheels, held in association with NGO Aim, Nabin Pally and ICCR. The exhibition highlighted various genres of Pakistani truck art.

At the inauguration, the artists were asked to paint an iron board that resembled the back of a truck. Dibyani Jha, a Madhubani artist from Bihar and Firoz Khan, an Indian truck artist from Calcutta, also participated in the workshop.

Anant Mahapatra in Calcutta. (Pradip Sanyal)

There are various stylistic differences in the truck art of Peshawar, Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Balochistan and Lahore, the visiting artists explained at the exhibition. Trucks from Sindh usually have motifs from nature like hills, gardens and meadows while those from Balochistan show emblems of dates and swords. Lahore trucks sport mosques while those from Rawalpindi focus on pictorial representations of the Khyber Gate.

Thirty-two-year-old Haider Ali was overwhelmed with the reception. “I’m a messenger of peace and love,” said the artist who has shown his work at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, and Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton, UK.

Health bread

Health awareness is spreading everywhere. Seen on the wrapper of a small loaf of bread sold from a roadside stall: Vita Bread. DELICICUS DIET for INVALIUS & CONVALECENCE.

(Sebanti Sarkar, Showli Chakraborty and Chandrima S. Bhattacharya)