Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mad delights

This was the name of the play in which Parnab Da (Parnab Mukherjee) directed us. The whole process actually began when he conducted a theatre workshop at Disha, the youth wing of Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad, Calcutta. Initially, the workshop was a lot about body movements and exercises. Later, the script of the dialogue-less play, "Mad Delights" by Mohan Rakesh, was provided to us.

The best thing about Parnab Da's style was he just let us free. He gave us youngsters (there were about 7 of us) the freedom to experiment. We read the play a couple of times before coming for the workshop, and once more in his presence in the practice room. He asked us for our opinions, our interpretations and then brought in his own. Having given us a framework...sorry, I take back that word, for a 'framework' can be assumed by many to be restrictive. So, having given us a direction in which to proceed, Parnab Da vanished.

He allowed us to script almost the entire play according to our liking. He would just walk in, have a look at what we were doing and make certain suggestions. And mind you, most of these suggestions were extremely powerful. Imagine having a crude piece of paper being torn in front of your eyes, words of riot victims being written in red upon it and then the papers being burnt right in front of you. In your face, shouting to you about the attrocities that took place, yet quiet (much like India?). Somehow, it yet made a point because while one watches the play, one can smell the fire, see the paper burn and the room is filled with smoke.

For the final act, we presented the play to the Calcutta audience in a room and purposely not on a stage. This was street theatre, remember? And we sincerely believed that it was essential to remove the distance between the audience and the actors. Were we really actors? I think not. Most of the audience in the first sitting were our parents. The second time we put up the play at the same venue, most of the people who came belonged to the cultural elite of the city. Yet, we the actors had been transformed from mere children to both, the perpetrators and the receivers of violence.

I am sorry if this post fails in recounting the exact incidents that were depicted in the play. It is impossible to put it down into words. If we communicated without any words then, how shall I communicate with the help of words now?

I still do not know what the reaction of most of the audience was. Most of them went away very very quiet. Mom couldn't come to watch the play as she was ill when we put it up, but Dad did come. His first reaction when he reaches home? "I need to take a bath...I have a headache." Though this might send peals of laughter amongst some, it brought a smile to the lips of those who were a part of the play. The headache and the burning questions that we'd sent everyone back with were more important than the applause that came at the end of the performances.

But was there any applause at all? I don't recall loud applause. What I do recall is a terrifying silence. A silence which only told us that the message had been carried across. That death, in its ugliest form of riots, had affected the next generation.


shweta said... i will b the first one to comment on it for penning ws nice gng thru it ...inbtwn ...wel thts parnab da's style of street theatre ...he lets u wild nd hone ur skill...u tend to discover urself ...while gng thru the motions..
inbtwn do u use ne y-msnger ..we can keep in touch tht way also ...shwets

Shekhar said...

anna: Hi. Sure we can keep in touch. My yahoo id is

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