Thursday, 26 January 2017

500 Theatre Lovers Gathered For a Sleepover in Pune and It Was Awesome.

It's 5am in the morning. 500 people have been sitting in an auditorium for the last 8 hours and have witnessed three mind blowing plays. They refuse to budge. Instead they sit there for 3 more hours to watch another couple of plays, all of them written by under-30 year olds.

The city of Pune witnessed a historic occasion on Jan 25th, 2017. It hosted the very first Natyasattak Rajani, an overnight event of 5 terrific plays showcasing some of it's finest young talents. When the audience walked in at 9 o'clock in the night, there was an unmatchable energetic buzz. When they walked out at around 8 o'clock the next morning, they were overwhelmed, exhausted but exhilarated. It was a magical night and personally, I wouldn't hesitate to call it the best experience I've ever had in the theatre.

Here's a brief about the five plays that were curated:

White Rabbit Red Rabbit
An actor gets the script written by an Iranian playwright (Nassim Soleimanpour) directly on stage. With zero clue about what is in store, he performs the play. A new actor performs every show.
In this show, ace actor Girish Kulkarni stepped onto stage amidst thunderous applause. The applause refused to die out right till the end of the show. In the middle when he paused to ask the audience, "are you with me?", the resounding yes was almost reminiscent of a cheesy Rishi Kapoor song.

Binkamache Sanwad
An abstract and layered play, Binkamache Sanwad is a dark, hilarious and hard-hitting commentary on the social situation in the country. With a very strong ensemble, the play manages to make a powerful impact.
I had seen this play two years ago; it is scary how increasingly relatable it has gotten over time. What is also incredible is how much every line in the play has to offer even in the lightest moments. And the non-Marathi friend I was watching it with, not only understood the whole thing despite the language but was also as affected as I was.

A night watchman stands guard to a shut factory. It is his last night of duty, or so he believes. It's also the longest night of his life. Thankfully, his adorable antic keep both, himself and the audience entertained.
It won almost every award at Thespo. That's all I'm gonna say.

Three roommates encounter an unwarranted guest - is it a ghoul, is it a poltergeist, and does it want them dead?
This was one of the plays I had actually travelled to Pune for, and it was so worth it. The play manages to evoke equal amounts of gasps and giggles from the viewer; if you're not shrieking with joy, you're probably shreiking in terror.

A middle-aged Maharashtrian man finds himself stuck on a tree during a storm and with him, a little Kannada girl. A one-act play that took competitions by storm a few years ago, Ullagaddi potrays a poignant tale of love and loss.
I'd been hearing about this play ever since I joined college and was super-amazed to find that it lived up to every compliment it has ever received.

Maharashtrian Theatre is one of the fittest arts that has no intention of dying out. Ranging from the far East end of the state (Nagpur) to Bombay, college theatre continues to make its mark every year. So colleges from Ahmednagar come down to Pune for the Purushottam Karandak and students from small villages in the Konkan belt take home trophies from the Mumbai University Youth Festival.
But Pune is a city that stands tall above all.
As opposed to Bombay (where young theatre is often either abandoned or merely used as a stepping stone considering its proximity to the film industry), Pune really cherishes and nurtures it's talent.
all photos borrowed from Facebook
Natyasattak was one of the best examples of this. And by the end of the opening night (literally), it wasn't just a showcase. The Natyasattak was an expression of the pride the city has for its up-and-coming gems, replete in both the presenters and the audiences.

Organised by Wide Wings Media, the night shone on because of the many gifted participants.
Actress Pournima Manohar opened the night with an inherent sweetness and a warm demeanour that quickly put us, the restless spectators in comfort. Bhairavi Khot of Wide Wings was the resident emcee for the rest of the night and did an excellent job of keeping up the spirits of the auditorium with her zest and energy. Girish Kulkarni made the audience swoon  in the opening act.
all photos borrowed from facebook
My person favorite, Siddhesh Purkar hit a home run twice - first as the translator and presenter of White Rabbit Red Rabbit and then as a part of the able cast of Binkamache Sanwad. Suraj Parasnis, another Natak Company alumni produced Bhanvar and acted, co-directed Anathema as a part of his Theatre On Entertainment.
Jaydeep Vaidya, Devendra Bhome and Ketan Pawar of the band Misree won every heart in the hall with soulful renditions of Hindi classics.
Abhay Mahajan's tired Bhosanka, Omkar Govardhan's infectiously vibrant Aabeka and Laxmi Birajdar's pornstar Loly Loly in Binkamache.. deserve special mention, as does Chaitali Bakshi as the little Kannada girl in Ullagaddi.

But the night ultimately belonged to the golden boys - Shivraj Waichal and Virajas Kulkarni.
Shivraj Waichal single-handedly kept the audience hooked in Bhanvar, which he has co-written and co-directed with Kulkarni. It's not easy to not lose the audience's interest when you are performing a solo play at 2am in the morning. But it was no work at all for the unbelievably accomplished Waichal. And if that wasn't enough, he returned as the writer, director and lead actor of the heart wrenching Ullagaddi. So when he walked on stage drenched at the end of the night, one couldn't help but stand-up in applause.
Virajas Kulkarni who was a surprise package as the many voiceovers in Bhanvar and also walked away with the Thespo for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role for the same (without stepping on stage even once, I must add) is the other star we must look out for. With Bhanvar, he also wrote and co-directed Anathema. The script is witty, interesting and profoundly simple. It's the light moments in the writing that bring out the best in what is generically a horror story. Kulkarni's acting role in the Anathema only adds to his long list of achievements in the night. Not to mention, a lot of swagger (borderline rude at times, but well) as he came in to make announcements before the shows.

Natyasattak intends to host overnight every year on January 25. With the kind of amazing response their first year had, I can only hope that this initiative lasts for decades. Because as long ideas, artists and showgoers exist, we can all be sure that the city will continue to breed superstars and keep building it's cultural legacy onwards and upwards.
Hats off!

(The festival continues till the end of January. Check out their schedule here.)

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