As someone living all alone in Kashmir, she creates Kashmir in her imagination—and visits the Valley with a boy in what is, again, just her fancy. The young woman’s mannerisms betray the mind of someone who is a crazy mostly and normal occasionally. In the process, Kanpur-e-Kashmir weaves the cultural beauty of the country’s border-state often described as a paradise on earth—by its looks, and not life exactly of late. The traditional richness of that region’s literature and music also come to the fore in a very brief time.
Ten minutes, to be precise, because that is the stipulated duration of the drama. As many as 27 such plays from across the country found a grand line-up in the national capital when it hosted a unique event that was into its second edition this year. Thespis National Micro Drama Festival 2018, convened by the cultural organisation called Vriksh, succeeded a second time in giving a kaleidoscopic picture of contemporary Indian theatre in a day-to-dusk event.
Of the 27 plays that vied for honours, Kapur-e-Kashmir (direction: Vijay Kapoor) won the award for the best production, bagging Rs 25,000 and the trophy. The second prize in the category went to Maine Circus Kha Liya (direction: Anurag Thakur) that is basically a journey of the “self” of three prisoners. The play also gifted Abhishek Bajpayee with the award for the best technician.
One of the works that particularly stole the heart of the motley viewers at Kamani auditorium which hosted the February 11 festival was Two Umbrella—One Head in Bangla. Set in a park under a sky that threatened to open up any moment, the four-character play suddenly veers around an unclaimed umbrella that leads to an argument regarding its ownership. That production won the award for the best script (Mohit Chattopadhyay) as well as the special jury award for the best director (Siddhartha Das Gupta).
Ananthu R. Narayanan won the best actor award for his role in Nautanky, that drew a sarcastic sketch of a government’s whimsical changes of policies that would drive the common people mad altogether over the five years. Shivani Verma, who played the girl’s role in Kanpur-e-Kashmir pocketed the best actress award.
T.P. Kunhikannan Cheruvathur won the special jury award for the best actor in the drama Adhreman from northern Kerala. Rupali of Aaj Ji Savitri was the winner of the special jury award for the best actress.
Ajith G. Maniyan of the Vriksh recalls with pride that the second edition of the festival marked a definite improvement in the quality of the plays and the variety of their languages. “We had received 46 scripts, from which the selection was made. Three of them were by directors who had passed from the National School of Drama,” he says. “It’s a matter of pride that 13 of the plays were in Hindi—a language widely intelligible to the people of our country.” While there were also plays in Punjabi, Urdu and Tamil, besides Bangla and Malayalam, a few were multi-lingual.
The jury comprised director Suresh Divakar, street-theatre activist Pralayan and actress-writer Nirupama Verma. The event was inaugurated by theatre scholar-directors Arvind Gaur and Omchery N.N. Pillai.
Pillai, a Delhiite Malayali for whom February 11 was also his 95th birthday, noted that brevity could not limit the depth and breadth of expression and experience. “Arranging a national festival of micro drama is in itself daring because it experiments with the aesthetic expectation of theatre lovers who are used to set habits and practices of theatre productions,” he noted. “Micro drama is a total experiment with the form, content and the presentation of drama. Doing today what is being done yesterday and the day before is repetition which is how traditions emerge. But then traditions also get enriched with newness.”