The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Changes scripted on stage

Actions, they insist, speak louder than words. The theatrical exploration of Ovid’s work Metamorphosis, a collection of Greco-Roman mythological tales from 20 BC, began with no script and a motley crew of amateurs and pros. After a three-week-long workshop, organised by the British Council, it ended in a powerful depiction of the evolution of nature and man.

Staged on August 22, at Kala Mandir, Kinaetma’s The Changing Room was the result of a workshop conducted by three professionals. National Award-winning actress Konkona Sen Sharma, Calcutta girl Royna Mitra, actress and dancer and now a faculty member of the theatre department of the University of Wolverhampton, UK, and Nigel Ward, also a teacher of drama at the University of Wolverhampton, led the way. The rest were 12 ardent amateurs and students, selected from a preliminary round after registration.

The group took four stories from the 250 in Ovid’s epic, starting off with Creations, about how God makes the world, creating order out of chaos. The tale of Echo’s doomed love for Narcissus and his obsession with his reflection; Pygmalion’s passion for his ideal woman sculpted in ivory; and Myrrha’s struggle with her conscience to curb the desire for her father, followed. With no costumes and using text, physical action and impersonation, they addressed thought-provoking and often-disturbing human emotions.

While Bikram Ghosh and Mrinalini Sen’s performance of Pygmalion and his statue raised a few eyebrows, the duo claimed that the comfort and camaraderie between the participants, including the three ‘teachers’, meant “no inhibitions” and “breaking down of barriers”. Bikram has just finished Class XII from Calcutta International School (CIS) and is a member of the theatre group Red Curtain. Mrinalini, a Class XI student of La Martiniere for Girls’, has performed in school plays and with the Utpal Dutt Foundation. But for both, this was an “entirely new experience” and quite “unforgettable”.

Roohi Khanna, a Class XII student of CIS, has so far only taken part in school plays, while Samapendra Banerjee, 28, is studying drama and has performed in numerous public productions. But the two had no problems getting along, and there were no generation gaps. “Because no one told us what to do, we came up with everything ourselves,” says Roohi.

“The best part about these kids was that they were so completely dedicated, committed and hardworking,” smiles director Nigel Ward. “It was a pity we had so little time, but the youngsters gave all their time and energy. You would never see that from students in the UK.” And although Royna Mitra has never done a theatre workshop in Calcutta before, she says the experience was “much more than we had expected. I would come back in a flash to do another, given the opportunity.”

As for Konkona, “I think I speak for everyone when I say I’m really going to miss the workshop. It was such great fun to do. There were moments of nervousness and panic, but in the end, it was all worth it.”

— Nisha Lahiri


Answer time

The indoor stadium at Jadavpur University (JU) came alive on Saturday afternoon as nearly 70 teams matched wits at Qriosity 2003, the competition organised by the JU quiz club, Enquiry. The participants were selected through a preliminary written round. The 30 questions included the identification of three audio and four visual clips. Eight teams stood up to the challenge and qualified for the final.

The super eight racked their brains to answer the teasers tossed by quiz-master Debkumar Mitra of Derek O’Brien & Associates. The finals consisted of eight rounds — visual, buzzer, straight questions, two innovative connection segments and one on AIDS awareness.

Questions like ‘what is the connection between Salvador Dali’s painting and Gregory Peck’ left many flummoxed. But the gap was bridged for the audience by the top quizzers — the famous painter created the dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Spellbound and the Hollywood actor was a member of the cast.

After eight rounds of frantic quizzing, The Doors of Perception, comprising Amit Dey, a member of the JU team at BBC’s University Challenge programme, Debarghya Das, from IEM Salt Lake, and Anirban Chari, from the University of Middlesex, UK, clinched the coveted cup. The event was a quiz enthusiast’s delight and the exhilarating competition kept the audience on the edge of its seats all the way.

Aritro Ganguly,
Jadavpur University.


For & against

Shakuntala Rohatgi Smarak Bitarka Pratijogita, an inter-school debate competition, was held at the Indumoti Hall, in Jadavpur Vidyapith, on August 16 and 24. Organised by the National Council of Education, West Bengal, the event saw the participation of around 70 students from 35 schools in the preliminary round, with each speaker arguing both for and against the motion.

The motion was ‘For science, commerce and technology students, studying literature is a waste of time’. Eight students from four schools were selected for the finals — Ivy Pushilal and Debatree Roy Chowdhury from Shri Shikshayatan, Damayanti Sen and Sebati Sarkar from Ballygunge Sikha Sadan, Paromita Sinha Roy and Tousha Banerjee from Kamala Girls School and Mainak Sinha and Debojyoti Mukherjee representing hosts Jadavpur Vidyapith.

While the house voted against the motion, Jadavpur Vidyapith emerged the champion, followed by Kamala Girls, Ballygunge Siksha Sadan and Shri Shikshayatan. Mainak Sinha of Jadavpur Vidyapith, who spoke for the motion, was adjudged the best speaker. Some students, who had participated in the preliminary round ,were also felicitated for their individual skills.

— Subhajoy Roy,
Class XII, Mitra Institution

Action call

One of India’s major inter-school festivals finally comes calling after six long years. The seventh edition of Activity 2003, presented by Horlicks, will debut at the Don Bosco Part Circus auditorium on August 30 and 31, with no less than 25 schools already signed up and raring to show the stuff their students are made of. Featuring in eight cities, the categories cater to students from Class I to XII, with something for everyone. Cartooning and cooking, vegetable carving and flower arrangement, hairstyling and mehendi art, the activities on offer range from traditional theatre, writing and dancing to the creative and unusual. Not to forget the fact that there are collective prizes for the schools, as well.

The winner from four categories -- quizzing, personality contest, speaking and Hindi antakshari — will be taken to Bangalore for the national finals in October. There are scholarships worth Rs 1 lakh for two deserving students, too. Since this is Activity’s debut in town, registration is free.


Street smart

Don’t cry for Park Street, just yet. True, Calcutta’s fun street and heritage symbol seems to have lost much of its old charm, but an effort is on to get it right back on track. Recently, under the guidance of People United for Better Living In Calcutta (PUBLIC), founded by Bonani Kakkar, the Nature Clubs of Don Bosco Park Circus, Ashok Hall, La Martiniere for Girls and St James carried out a massive project, over three days, with the express aim of reviving good ol’ Park Street.

Students worked hard to remove the posters of films, concerts, magazines, etc, that have made a mockery of the walls. Buckets of water and tireless scrubbers finally attained the impossible — cleaning the long stretch of walls and ridding them of their unseemly look.

We also planted saplings at certain spots. Seniors and juniors, be they from Class VI or IX, worked side by side, digging up the sidewalk with their muddy fingers and planting the saplings. Later, we visited the neighbourhood shops, offices and restaurants with letters requesting their co-operation in giving Park Street a facelift before Durga Puja.

We spent three holidays — Independence Day, Sunday and Janmashtami — working in the sultry heat, but the rewards were more than satisfactory. Several pedestrians stopped to admire our work and some even joined in the vigorous clean-up. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has promised to be with us during our next Park Street project. Public awareness is increasing, thanks to PUBLIC and some enthusiastic student volunteers.

— Inam Hussain Mullick,
Class XII, Don Bosco Park Circus.


Stress tips

Calling all principals of schools to act stressbuster and help the tots, tweens and teens to cope, in school and at home. Prerna Montessori will hold a seminar on ‘Stress and the School-going Child’ on September 7 at The Park. The participants include Brendan MacCarthaigh, clinical psychiatrist Zena Deb, psychiatrist Aniruddha Deb and Prerna administrator Nandita Agarwal. The show will be moderated by educationist Ayesha Das. “Today’s children are too prone to harm themselves, so we have to be sure we do not give them the wrong signals. This is the first of a series of workshops that we are planning,” says Agarwal.

Coming up: Sanlap Youth Group will stage Judhistirer Jua O Amra, a play on child rights and child protection, featuring participants of schools and colleges at GD Birla Sabhagar on August 27.

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