On the morning of 29th October, I hunted through my clothes and pulled out a 5 year old black collared T-shirt. Considering how much I have grown in the last five years (vertically and horizontally), this T-shirt stands at the risk of soon turning into a crop top. But what save grace are the three printed words behind this Tee. MITHIBAI, DRAMA & TEAM.
IPTA (Indian People's Theatre Association) is one of India's oldest theatre organization. For the past 45 years it has been hosting a Hindi Intercollegiate Drama Competition, popularly known as IPTA's ICDC or more simply just IPTA. The IPTA rotating trophies carry a grand legacy and names of all the previous winners are engraved on this trophy. Last year, Theatre Potato's Art Illustrator Mati Rajput won the shield for Outstanding Performance. A couple of years ago, I got the privilege of having my on name engraved on one of the trophies. The names behind these trophies are quite equally divided - some of them now revered as legends and some quite forgotten, people who probably discontinued being a part of the creative world.
So of course I have been going to IPTA every year, to catch five or six fresh plays performed by hundreds like me, stepping nervously into the world of theatre, one play at a time. So here's a look at the 6 plays (+1) that featured this year, the good parts and problems intact.
Performed by Viva College
The play is a 40-minute conversation between two army officers at an army base on whether or not to rape the Pakistani spy they've held captive, with a twist in the end.
The Good Part: The play holds an interesting premise. Both the boys who play Major and Captain respectively, are strong actors with a lot of potential. Both boys were awarded with a consolation prize. Captain, who is hell bent on taking advantage of the captive also gets his fair share of good points.
The Problem: This was IPTA 2016's biggest problem play. What could've been a strong commentary on the rape culture of the day, ends up rather making a joke out of rape itself. Lines said to the captive that loosely translate to "You shouldn't worry about getting raped here. You forgot, this is not your nation, it's India" and "Us Indians, we even force ourselves on others with love" garnered applause from the audience but were enough to leave the sensible citizen shaking their heads.
Performed by S K Somaiya College
A 17 year old girl meets a 32 year old man online and has sex with him. The man is later revealed to be a serial rapist. Her single father and a woman who's either a police officer or a therapist has to make the girl understand that she's been raped.
The Good Part: In the wake of recent events and success of the film, Pink, consent is a subject of conversation fast garnering importance in the nation. The girl's struggle to understand why her age nullifies her consent, the struggle of her single father to balance between a friend and a figure of authority makes up for good Drama.
The play absolutely fell short in comparison to other plays. It would be quite unfair to call the play amateur given that college theatre is in a way supposed to be amateur but given the level of competition and the importance of this platform, the play was quickly discarded and with it, it's message.
Performed by Mithibai College
Kharr-Kharr is a semi-fictional biography of Indian freedom fighter Usha Mehta. It traces her life story from 1928-1947, her early years and her handling of the Secret Congress Radio.
The Good Part:
A tight script, wonderful direction and earnest performances by Mati Rajput, Dharmaj Joshi and some 40 odd other actors brought the play and the era it is set in to life and rightly walked away with majority of the awards. A deviced stagecraft, impactful lights and applause-worthy lines made the one-act a wholesome product. It's also a brave retelling of a Gandhian's tale, in an era where abusing Mahatma Gandhi has become commonplace bravado.
It's harder for me to pick a bone in this play, given my proximity with the team. But with the intention of scrutinizing, I must make two points. Firstly, the attempt to extract laughter by putting a half-abusive line in the mouth of a little boy becomes unnecessary in this otherwise wonderful play. Secondly, there's points where lines in the play tend to lean a little towards cheesy. But then again, that's what seems to work.
Performed by Nagindas Khandwaala College
After a Population Control Policy and a child tax on the second child in a family, the bread earner struggles with the decision to have his wife abort the second child or keep it, amidst much family drama, emotional music, infertile women and anti-abortion messages.
The Good Part: This play belonged to what can called the 'Gujarati Commercial' line of theatre. Walking a tightrope of the Kapil Sharma genre of comedy, the play did end up making its point well. The climax was also a good tight slap.
The Problem: Everything else. Sending out a message against abortions is not what we should be dealing with right now. The old people in the audience might nod their heads in agreement and wipe away a tear or two at the proposition, but what's frightening is that a team or 50 youngsters readily performing this. The play also banked on a bunch of stereotypes to create humour. Matlab chhee, dude.
Performed by Pillai College
A young woman's husband passes away on her wedding night. The virgin bride is subjected to solitary confinement and falls in love with her younger brother in-law.
The Good Part: Now I did not watch this one act on the night of IPTA, choosing a plateful of Ideal's tasty Biryani instead. But I did see this one a year earlier at Lokankika and I liked what I heard. What worked for this play was it's melodious Urdu and the performance of the female lead who walked away with the accolades.
The Problem: A bunch of people from a certain community caused a havoc outside Tejpal Auditorium for misrepresentation. I don't know if that's good or bad, really.
Jhoola Dheere Se Jhulao
Performed by Maharshi Dayanand College
A North Indian family is in chaos. Their oldest son is planning on doing something unspeakable and spoiling the family name. They soon discover that what he intends to do is get a Vasectomy done. Further chaos ensues.
The Good Part: I almost missed this and I can't stress on how terrible that would have been. This play turned everything #Bheed stands for on its head. Nuanced performance was it's strongest point. The hilarious arguements were not for a moment senseless. Extremely well written, it had me at the edge of my seat for most of the part. Not once did the play become preachy or unbelievable. So when the climax came and the family dissuaded the protagonist from getting Vasectomized, I sighed with just as much grief as him and his poor wife. The very subtle expulsion of hypocrisy and modern problems in an orthodox setting set the play apart from everything else that happens in Intercollegiate Theatre. The very first words I uttered when the play ended were "Dude, this was Shyam Benegal level brilliant."
The Problem: Tigmanshu Dhulia didn't seem to think the same (He was one of the judges). The play walked away with mostly nothing and certainly much lesser than what it deserved. It was also annoying that so many people around me thought the play was a big bore. I hope this one goes places though.
Dulhan Ka Dil Deewana Lagta Hai
Performed by Dahanukar College
This play did not make it to the finals due to logistical issues but is also one of the best products I have seen in the year. IPTA rewarded it with the Critic's Choice award. I intend to do a separate article on this play and he team behind it but I'm only waiting for the team to get the accolades they deserve in INT and other competitions.
Mithibai walked with Best Play, Best Writer, Best Director, Best Actor (male) and the very coveted Balraj (Balraj Sahni Trophy for Outstanding Performance).
Nagindas Khandwala took the Second Best Play, MD college stole Best Actor, acting merits, a special award for the Set and another for Costumes.
The judges were Tigmanshu Dhulia, Meghna Malik and Bharat Dabholkar.