Category Archives: Drama

Don’t give up, say filmmakers from Singapore and Mumbai through their short films on depression and suicide prevention

Sex tape film
Sushant Singh Rajput

Sushant Singh Rajput

The recent spate of suicides in the wake of the pandemic-related lockdowns, especially in the film and entertainment industry highlighted by the alleged suicide of well-known Indian film actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, has stirred many filmmakers.

“The reason I wrote this script is that, before Sushant Singh’s death, there were two other actors who had committed suicide,” says Shipra Arora, writer and producer of the short

BTS still from Sex Tapefilm, Sex Tape. “Sadly, we are in a time where people are feeling alone, out of job, unable to take care of themselves. After Sushant’s death, I couldn’t wait and I knew I had to make something on this subject. The idea was that even if one person gets inspired by this film, I will consider we achieved something. That we were able to help someone.”

Together with her brother, Shivankar Arora, the film’s director, this short was  filmed in 11 hours!
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Shivankar Arora, the film’s director

“As far as challenges are a concern, due to the lockdown, we couldn’t have a team of people working with us,” says Shipra. “The film was shot in 11 hours with only 4 people on the floor (which was the house of the actress). So, from sound recording to spot boy, The job was done by this small team of 3 people.”

“This lockdown kept us thinking how can we utilise the time creatively and what can be done remotely,” says Gibu George, the director of MND. “The idea of MND was ignited during a phone conversation and we four (actors in the film) liked the concept of making a short film remotely with the concept of four childhood friends trying to connect back during this lockdown to cherish their memories and then unveils the most painful memory of their life.”

After releasing MND on YouTube, Gibu and friends decided to launch the prequel too.

Still from the film, MND“The idea of preqel was always there in the first as the storyline had the scope of making a prequel, we just wanted to make it into 2 shorts due to the length of the film and also want to give a different treatment from part 1,” says Gibu. “I was very clear on the characteristics of Aditya Das and his mental problems. He was basically introvert, weird, kind of psychic and depressed because of obvious reasons. His friends was the lifeline during his younger days but he was late to reach out his friends when he lost control over his life. The second part(Prequel) evolved based on this thought.”

Talking about his motivation behind making this film, Gibu said: “Being a socially active person I myself had to go though a lot difficulties during this lockdown. I was not able to copup the sudden changes in day to day life of being locked inside feeling, battling the stress of working from home without understanding the timelimits, etc which has an impact on my mental well-being , makes me realize the importance of staying connected to your loved ones, spending time with your family or the kind of mental imbalance could affect your well-being and how do you try to overcome such situations. The film was so timely and relevent when the Sushant Singh incident came as a shock to the whole industry, but it was purely conindence as the scripting and shoot was completed by end of May. It was indeed painful to know SSR case while we were in the post production.”

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Gibu George, director of MND

The filmmakers were quite clear about the messaging of the film – “Never miss an opportunity to spend time with your loved ones, you never know there tomorrow may never come” and in the Prequel – Depression is real, but could be hidden behind a smile, Reach out when in need”.

Because of the lockdown regulations and the actors being in different locations, it was not easy to make this film. “The actors, including me are all very close friends and we worked together for few Malayalam theatre plays in Singapore,” says Gibu. “The main challenge we had was during the post-productions, sorting and sending out huge number of rushes, reviewing each and every footages to identify the best one and remotely coordinating with editors on those changes on each drafts were little exhausting but we are glad that we could deliver this completely remotely made 2 films in 2 months of time with a very minimal technical resources and limitations.”

The whole team, it was a satisfying journey. “In fact, a very memorable journey and yeah, these memories will never die!” says Gibu.

CAGED

“Caged was made to bring out awareness about ‘Mental Health’,” says Shalima Motial, who plays the protagonist in this short film.

Cage“Depression is an unspoken, often unfathomable turmoil people experience in their heart & head,” she adds. “It’s a small initiative of Dream Catchers to shed some light on such an important issue which has become a ‘taboo’ to talk about openly. People find it hard to accept that they are going through “Depression”, so asking for help becomes even more difficult.”

Shalima says this short film is her team’s humble initiative to highlight the issue of mental health. The director of the film is her spouse, Himanshu Motial.

The film has the support of Tree of Life as its Mental Health Partner.

While Gibu and team are not full-time filmmakers, Shipra has 15 years of experience in TV and online Industry. After working as a Creative Director for 7 years on Indian TV shows like, ‘Kahin Toh Hoga’, Kasauti Zindagi Ki and many more, she shifted to writing and co-wrote shows like Uttran and Udaan, and then progressed to write Naamkaram, Sanjivani and many more independently.
Her brother Shivankar Arora worked as a cinematographer for 10 years in the TV industry. He also did award-winning films, entitled, “Silent ties” as a cinematographer & “Love Knows No Gender” as a Director.
Wanting to tell the stories that could make a difference, the duo started their own YouTube Channel, ContentkaKeeda. Currently, they both are working together, where Shipra writes and Shivankar  directs. “We fight a lot but it’s all worth it in the end,” says Shipra with a smile.

‘Everything in India, including religion, is a story’: Reviving the old tradition of Dastaangoi with Mahmood Farooqui

Mahmood Farooqui in conversation with Gargi Vachaknavi

 Dastangoi is the art of Urdu storytelling that was popular all across India and could regale commoners and elites alike. That was in times of Mughal splendour. The performers were artists and writers rolled into one who left behind over 46,000 pages of published fantasies. The Dastans were the stories told by these storytellers, the gois. Unfortunately this art form completely vanished, leaving behind few memories.

Inspired by the scholarship of one of Urdu’s greatest living writer S. R. Faruqi, Mahmood Farooqui began its revival in 2005 and has since then trained dozens of other storytellers or Dastangos, staged over a thousand shows all around the world and has composed over a dozen modern Dastans for the genre. With all the innovations that he and his team have spearheaded, a virtually new genre of performance and a new kind of writing for the stage has emerged in our times.

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Mahmood Farooqui performing

Farooqui is an award winning writer and performer. He was awarded the Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar by the Sangeet Natak Akademi of the Union Government for his efforts in reviving Dastangoi. His book on the 1857 uprising Besieged: Voices from Delhi, 1857, was awarded the Ram Nath Goenka Award for the best non-fiction book of the year by the Indian Express Group. He has been a visiting fellow at the Universities of Michigan, US and Berkeley, California and was a Rhodes scholar at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. His latest book is A Requiem for Pakistan: The World of Intizar Husain. He has written over 15 modern Dastans for the stage and has trained nearly 50 people besides performing close to 500 shows himself. His wife, film maker Anusha Rizvi, is not only the producer of the Dastangois but also the award winning writer-Director of Peepli Live, a 2010 satirical comedy with the involvement of greats like Aamir Khan and Raghuvir Yadav.

Mahmood Farooqui and his troupe will be performing in Singapore on the 14thof September. In this exclusive, he talks to Gargi Vachaknavi of his work, of how a Dastangoi performance varies from normal theatre and what he is going to perform in Singapore.

 

Gargi: Why did you think of reviving Dastangoi, an art of 13 th century storytelling in Urdu? What is the potential you see that makes you feel it is necessary to contextualise it for the present day?

Farooqui: I was a student of history and had been active in theatre for many years when I came across the great S. R. Faruqi’s study of the world of Dastans. I had been reading Urdu literature all my life but had never really heard of this incredibly enchanting world. When I dug deeper, I was totally bowled over by the genius of the writers and the of the performers. Here was theatre in its purest form, one or two narrators, sitting still and holding an audience captive, just like our ancient rishis (sages) narrated epics and Shastras to rapt listeners. I felt that this was the most essential art form of the Indian subcontinent. From the word go, it was an instant success perhaps because in India everything, including religion is a story.

The innovation I made was to have not one but two narrators and our designer, Anusha Rizvi, kept the basics very simple so we brought it into the ambit of modern theatre by using techniques of lighting, stage decorum and presentation. Read more

The Genius of Munshi Premchand

 

Munshi Premchand(1880-1936), born as Dhanpat Rai Shrivastav, was one of the foremost Hindi writers of the early twentieth century. He has to his credit more than three hundred short stories, fourteen novels, many more essays, letters translations and plays and even a film script.

His short story Shatranj ke Khiladi was made into an award winning film by Satyajit Ray as were a number of his other works by noted directors, like Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

With his reformatory zeal and an ability to create empathetic overtones, Premchand was a prominent writer in Hindi who was appreciated more after his death than before. Writes David Rubin, late translator and scholar, in The World of Premchand (Oxford, 2001): “To Premchand belongs the distinction of creating the genre of the serious short story—and the serious novel as well—in both Hindi and Urdu. Virtually single-handed he lifted fiction in these languages from a quagmire of aimless romantic chronicles to a high level of realistic narrative comparable to European fiction of the time; and in both languages, he has, in addition, remained an unsurpassed master.” Interestingly, Rubin taught for a number of years in Allahabad and Rajasthan Universities in India and is also known to have translated not only Premchand but also another very well-known Hindi poet, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’. Read more

On taboos, touring and cultural representation: Sight/Unseen Asian Drama Conference

(From Arts Equator. Link to the complete article given below)

The Sight/Unseen Asian Drama Conference was a two-day event on 26 – 27 April 2018 at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Tara Arts. Billed as an event to “tackle challenging issues facing playwrights in the UK and in Southeast Asia,” participants came all geared up to discuss issues ranging from minority representation to taboo subjects in the region. The conference was helmed by Cheryl Robson from Aurora Metro Books who, in her opening address, emphasised that the project was a labour of love that took her almost a year to complete. The first-of-its-kind conference also doubled up as a platform for Aurora Metro Books to launch its new collection, British East Asian Plays, which featured works from established playwrights such as Stephen Hoo, Lucy Chai Lai-Tuen, and Daniel York Loh who also served as panellists and participants of the conference.

Before the start of the Southeast Asian Plays and Touring panel discussion, participants noticed that something was amiss: there were supposed to be five panellists instead of four. Panel moderator Aubrey Mellor, Senior Fellow at LASALLE College of the Arts (Singapore), quickly addressed the issue: playwright Chhon Sina (Cambodia) was denied a visa from her home country to leave. You could almost see the thought bubbles emerging from everyone’s head.

The remaining panellists included Asa Palomera (Korea/USA), Joned Suryatmoko (Indonesia), Alfian Sa’at (Singapore) and Ann Lee (Malaysia): all leading playwrights in their respective countries and within Southeast Asia. Right from the get-go, Mellor pointed out that it is important to remember that the context of touring is vastly different in Asia than in western countries. It is important for us to remember that culture holds a greater standing in western countries like the United Kingdom as opposed to Asian countries (essentially Southeast Asia), whose main priorities are generally economy-inclined. Apart from Singapore, most Southeast Asian countries are generally struggling with different sets of issues, such as the political instability and corruption in Malaysia, which was later cited by Ann Lee. These factors ultimately lead to cut in funding towards the cultural sector, therefore making touring a non-feasible option for most artistic organisations. Secondly, there has been an issue of generalising Asia and Asian culture around the world. For example, Mellor explained that comparing the culture of Thailand and Japan and putting them under the classification of “Asian culture” is simply out of the question because of their stark differences. It is also important to point out that most western countries are still unable to identify the individual cultures in Southeast Asian countries today. Most of my friends, for instance, are unable to differentiate a Singaporean from a Cambodian, and regard “Asian culture” as ultimately a shared one across all the countries. Lastly, Mellor pointed out that there seems to be a lack of collaboration between Southeast Asian countries, with most of the collaborative efforts taking place between Malaysia and Singapore—mostly due to the geographical proximity and shared history. It is also important to note that Mellor’s preface was necessary since there is a persisting misconception that ‘Asian’ usually just refers to ‘South Asians’.

Read more at the Arts Equator link here

Play Review: Hayavadana

A face/off set in the world of mythology and folklore

By Zafar Anjum

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Conceptualised by: Monisha Charan and Dr Siri Rama
Executive producer & Director: Monisha Charan
Artistic director and choreographer: Dr Siri Rama

 

Girish Karnad’s play Hayavadana is considered one of the landmark works in the annals of Indian theatre. The play brings about the interplay of questions of love, identity and sexuality through a panoply of characters set in a world of mythology and folklore.

Recently, Izaara Productions brought this famous play alive on stage in Singapore under the skilful direction of Monisha Charan.

Hayavadana

The play’s director Monisha Charan (right) with the High Commissioner of India in Singapore, Mr. Jawed Ashraf (Centre) and Mr. Abhay Charan (left).

The play began with a brief narration on the play’s antecedents: one of the influences behind the play was Thomas Mann’s The Transposed Heads, which in turn was borrowed from a Kathasaritasagara story. In keeping with the spirit of the play, Monisha Charan paid a rich tribute to the myths and legends of the Hindu religion.

The plot revolves around two parallel stories, both involving questions of love and identity (the heart and the head). In the main track, a well-built kshatriya, Kapila (Avtar Bhullar), finds that his best friend Devadatta (Justin Lee) has madly fallen in love with Padmini (Dr. Siri Rama). Although Kapila harbours an attraction for Padmini, his love and loyalty stands above all; he arranges the match for Devadatta and Padmini and they get married.

The director has made sure that the two actors present a contrast in their physicality and demeanour: Kapila is a Kshatriya with a muscular and manly appearance; Devadatta is a learned Brahmin and poet with a weak physique. The playwright cleverly poses the question to the audience: what if their physicalities are switched? What if the weak Brahmin poet becomes muscular and the sinewy warrior takes the body of the weak poet? Are they happy in their new avatars? What happens to Padmini’s love in that case?

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Subtly, the play comments on the rigidity of the caste system which imposes a hierarchy on people. Along with the main track, the sub-plot features the Hayavadana (the horse-man), played with gusto by De Zhong Chia, who is unhappy because he feels incomplete with the face of a horse and the body of a man; yet, he is the object of affection of a beautiful lady, played by Renita Kapoor. I wish this track had more layers to it, as we find in the main track.

Read more