Split wide open

Dramatic ties on campus

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 3.12.05
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Diana Raval in a moment from Mrs Moorthy. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

Sometimes the script and just passionate acting are enough to carry off an otherwise mediocre production. Take Mrs Moorthy, one of the events at the four-day Gujarat Darpan hosted by Gujarat State Sangeet Natak Academy, Anjika and Sanskriti Sagar.

Mrs Moorthy, staged at GD Birla Sabhagar, was a first in many ways. It was director Varun Maira?s first presentation in Calcutta (though he has for long been a champion of amateur theatre and was co-founder of Ahmedabad?s oldest English language theatre group, The Play Cart). Mrs Moorthy is also reputed Gujarati writer Madhu Rye?s first English play. It was probably the first time that strobe lights were focussed directly on the audience to ?alienate them and make them think? (a directorial misadventure of sorts which upset an otherwise poignant play).

The play, moored to a single set and just one actor, stretches unbroken by scenes. The lights just go off and on to suggest the passage of time. ?We can?t fit it into any genres,? claimed the director. It was a play Rye wrote immediately after a visit to the US, touching upon the problems of Indian immigrants, especially women. ?We marry off our daughters and sisters believing that heaven is over there, but we rarely find out how they really are and sometimes it is too late,? explained Maira.

Diana Raval, a veteran of Gujarati stage and TV, played the role of a victim of split personality disorder. For most of the play she is Mona Khanwalla, a middle-aged travel agent booking escape routes for a much abused Indian housewife, the unseen Hema Moorthy. It is only at the end that we learn that Mona is Hema, a mental asylum inmate for whom the backdrop posters of ?World Travel? will always remain wishful thinking. ?I had to work hard to get that heavy middle class Gujarati accent,? Diana told Metro.

Dramatic ties on campus

Concern for the climate is the focus at the third annual college drama festival, jointly hosted by British Council and Presidency College on December 6. Drama ?ties?: The College Drama Festival will be a daylong fare (from 9 am to 5 pm) with seven teams showing off their stage skills on a makeshift podium on the Presidency College grounds. The theme this year is ?The future?s for us to see?.

The contest will pick the best play, the best actor, the best actress and the best script. The participating colleges are Presidency, Jadavpur University (English and Comparative Literature departments), South Calcutta Law College, St Xavier?s, Ashutosh College and IIM Calcutta.

?Around 10 to 12 colleges had submitted original scripts of 30-minute duration in English, from which seven groups were selected. They went through a weeklong acting workshop under theatre artiste Imogen Butler Cole,? said Samarjit Guha, head, programmes, British Council.

An exhibition is being held alongside on diverse themes, from environment to human rights to leadership.