Seven years after Ranga Shankara came into being, its creative director Arundhati Nag has enough to be proud of. Apart from becoming one of the best-known theatre spaces in the city, Ranga Shankara has pretty much stuck to its credo of a play every day of the week except Mondays, Nag says, while announcing this year's edition of its annual theatre festival. Over 2,700 performances have thus been staged since inception ,most of them in Kannada, though there have been plays in 20 other languages too. The theatre, in JP Nagar, is the fulfilment of the dream of the late Shankar Nag, renowned actor-director and Arundhati’s husband.
This year’s festival, to be held from October 15 to 23, has “Politics in Play” as the theme. Nag says this is less about the political shenanigans of the day than the fact that theatre remains one of the few spaces that cannot be bought, unlike the horse-trading that takes place in veritably everything else. The festival is being curated by theatre personality and journalist Prakash Belawadi. “With this year's theatre festival, Ranga Shankara will bring to its audiences questions, conundrums and the ironies of our times through plays and displays of the folk idiom, proscenium theatre, street theatre, political cartoons, documentaries, installation art and graffiti,” says Belawadi.
Of the plays that are part of the festival, three are new productions — Kannada plays Kantu, and Nammoora Benkibaakaru and English play Tango. In Kantu, scientists and observers from all over congregate at a village in Karnataka that will witness a solar eclipse and is also under threat of being submerged from the construction of a dam. The ensuing upheavals and contradictory opinions juxtapose the opposing forces of science and superstition, faith and commerce and tradition and modernity. Of the other plays, Tango (an English adaptation of the play by Slawomir Mrozek) is set in the home of a Bohemian couple who fought for complete freedom in the arts and undermined social standards and values, while Nammoora Benkibaakaru takes its inspiration from the German dark comedy Biedermann und die Brandstifter (The Fire Raisers),by Max Frisch.
National School of Drama’s Comrade Kumbhakarna will also be staged as part of the festival, as well as Badal Sircar’s Teesveen Shatabdi based on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and its continuing effect even today, in a tribute to the late playwright.
What could stir up an interesting debate is the seminar titled “Identity, Allegiance and Aliention” which, Belawadi says, would touch on developments like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s attempts to carve a nationally acceptable identity for himself as well as the eternally controversial Bangalore versus Bengaluru question. Panelists include journalist Aakar Patel and academic Chandan Gowda.
The festival will also have a theatre appreciation course, a regular feature for four years, facilitated by critic Sadanand Menon. It will include sessions by dhrupad singer Ramakant Gundecha and koodiyattam exponent Margi Madhu. There will be screenings of the documentaries Iran (Is Not The Problem)“a response to the failure of the American mass media to provide relevant and accurate information about the standoff between the US and Iran” and Nero’s Guests, based on journalist P Sainath’s reportage of the thousands of farmers who committed suicide.
Nag says this time the festival does not have sponsors. “But we have done it without sponsors in other years too. After all, you never find any advertisement on the Ranga Shankar premises,” she says with a confident smile.
(Tickets for the festival available on www.indianstage.in and www.bookmyshow.com from October 8 and at the Ranga Shankara Box Office from October 12)
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