Screen On & Off

Forum for freedom Season and the psyche

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 19.11.04

Forum for freedom

Confronted by the smart, ethnic lights, the manicured grass, trendy posters and an upbeat crowd, one wondered where the dark corners, the seedy crowds and slushy grounds had vanished.

It was a passion-streaked show at Curzon Park on the first day of the Forum theatre festival, organised by Jana Sanskriti ? the first Indian platform that lets theatre of the oppressed interact directly with the audience.

?This is the first time such a festival is being organised in Calcutta. With theatre being a popular medium in the city, forum theatre ? which was conceptualised by Augusto Boal in Brazil and in which the audience are invited to hold forth on pieces being enacted on stage ? is bound to be a hit,? reasoned Rohini Mukherjee, member, Jana Sanskriti. ?And it seems we have struck the right chord on the first day at Lalan Mancha.?

Rohini couldn?t have been closer to the mark. An enthusiastic crowd of over 400 listened intently, stood up in excitement, cheered the performers, kept beat with the rhythm of the dhol and clapped in appreciation during the charged performance of Ladli Hamara, a production by Jana Sanskriti representatives from Delhi.

As the performers enacted scenes from the typical social custom of a girl being checked out by a prospective groom?s family before finalisation of the marriage, it looked like everyone in the crowd had something to say.

Subroto Ghosh, who works with the NGO Behala Bodhayan, was one of the many in the audience who went up on stage and did a great job performing with the actors of the group.

?The group was inciting the usually inert audience to come up with ideas, and the provocation was so enjoyable that I just had to go up there and say something,? explained Ghosh.

For those like Ghosh to the factory worker on his way home, munching jhalmuri, the usually bored policeman now all smiles to French forum theatre legend Jean Francois Martel, Canadian film-makers taking a break from the film festival action at Nandan to a group of college students on their way to Millennium Park, the evening had begun with Jana Sanskriti?s oldest and most popular production Gaayer Pala, followed by a dance performance from Andhra Pradesh called Kolattam.

Julian Boal, son of the father of the forum theatre concept, who sat intently, ?despite a leg that fell asleep?, has recently conducted forum theatre workshops in Madhyamgram.

Though unable to understand a word of Hindi, he was full of praise for the festival on Wednesday. ?I have been working for forum theatre in Brazil, France and many other places. But this is real good stuff? one of the best I have seen anywhere in the world,? said Boal.

Season and the psyche

A collage of dance, poetry, music and enactment welcomes the nip in the air next week. Organised by Spandan and The Saturday Club, Falling leaves: Ode to Winter celebrates the season with a medley of performances by screen and stage artistes.

Among tinsel stars, Suchita Raychaudhury will read Jibanananda Das? poetry, Deboleena Dutta will perform a ballet to the tune of Enya, Sudipa Basu will read out Manik Bandopadhyay?s horror story Halud Pora, while Rupanjana Mitra will read from Nabanita Dev Sen?s works.

There?s more in store with western songs by Gopa Ghosh, Rabindrasangeet by Suchanda Ghosh, plus poetry-reading by Renu Roy and Rita Bhimani. Actor Arindam Sil is slated to recite from Nirendranath Chakraborty and Sunil Gangopadhyay?s poetic works too.

?The show is part of my season series, which I began this April with a farewell to spring,? said Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee, who has conceived and executed the show. Sujoy will read excerpts from a story by Brecht depicting the relationship between the season and the psyche.

Ode to Winter will be held at Saturday Club at 7 pm on Wednesday.