The MetroPlus Theatre Fest Goes to Bangalore!

30 11 2010

This year, the MetroPlus Theatre Fest travels to Bangalore, staging four plays  from December 2 to 5.

Be prepared to be drawn into a world of nostalgia, satire, friendship, conflict and drama. The Hindu Metroplus Theatre Festival, launched in 2005 in Chennai, is considered one of India’s most well-known festivals. This year the Festival brings four outstanding plays to your city—“Harlesden High Street”, “The President is coming”, “Swami and Friends” and “One on One”—from December 2 to December 5.

The Festival opens with the winner of the 2008 MetroPlus Playwright Award—“Harlesden High Street” (December 2), which will be performed by Indian Ensemble, Bangalore. The play powerfully explores issues of immigration and identity. Written by Abhishek Majumdar and directed by Neel Chaudhuri, incidentally another MetroPlus playwright awardee, “Harlesden High Street” is set on the High Street in Harlesden, inhabited mostly by immigrant communities—Jamaicans, Poles and Pakistanis. The street is notorious for its high crime rate but also has latent within it the aspirations and frustrations of the middle class. The play depicts these various issues through the stories and voices of three Pakistani immigrants—Rehaan, Karim and Ammi—during the course of a day.

Next up is Q Theatre Production’s “The President is coming” (December 3). Written by Anuvab Pal and directed by Kunaal Roy Kapur, “The President is coming” is a mix of political satire and farce that deals with issues relevant to contemporary India. Six achievers under 30 are selected and subjected to a series of tests ranging from trivia to situational acting. They will stop at nothing to outdo each other for the award of shaking hands with the President of the United States of America. “The President is coming” was first staged in 2006 as part of the Writers’ Bloc Festival in Mumbai and has since been adapted into a film besides having many successful runs and re-runs.

The next production that will be presented is “Swami and Friends” (December 4), which is an adaptation of one of R.K. Narayan’s well-known novels of the same name by Manasi Subramaniam. Directed by Aruna Ganesh Ram and staged by the Madras Players, “Swami and Friends” is set against Malgudi, a fictional place, and depicts the escapades of a young boy Swami and his two friends, Rajam and Mani.

The Festival concludes with the staging of “One on One” by the Mumbai-based theatre group Rage Productions. “One on One” is a collection of hilarious and extremely perceptive short plays and has been directed by six of Mumbai’s best-known actors and directors. The play has been well-received for its sharp commentary on the socio-political affairs of the country.

Tickets are priced at Rs. 500, 300 and 200. Season passes are available for Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 900. Student passes are available for Rs. 100 (entry into the auditorium with the ticket is only permitted on producing a valid student photo ID card). Tickets can be purchased online at www.thehindu.com/theatrefest and www.indianstage.in (see links on the sidebar). Tickets are also available at Landmark in Koramangala and Jayanagar, Blossoms (Church Street) and J.P. Nagar and the Hindu office, Infantry Road. All the shows start at 7:30 p.m. at Jnana Jyothi Convention Centre, Central College Campus, Bangalore.

The title sponsor of the Festival is Bose while the associate sponsors are Nippon Paint and Club Mahindra, besides, Lavazaa-Beverage Partner and Evam-Event Manager.

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Blast from the Past: How it all began

22 07 2010

Mukund Padmanabhan, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu — otherwise known as The Man Behind the Fest — talks about how the MetroPlus Theatre Festival came to be six years ago.

Power corrupts and delegated power corrupts absolutely.

No sooner had I asked a young colleague of mine to set up and manage a blog on this year’s MetroPlus Theatre Fest, than she served me with a firm order: write up an informal unbuttoned piece about how it all began — and quickly.

Am not sure how much of a story it makes. But here it is.

The idea of the Fest was spawned over a cup of (possibly tepid) coffee I shared sometime in early 2005 in my office cabin with L.V. Navaneeth, then a General Manager with the advertising and marketing division of The Hindu. In fact, the credit for getting the Fest off the ground must go largely to him. (Navaneeth has since moved to another company.) He had the confidence and support of the management (critical for a project of this nature), was unafraid of taking risks, and had the ability to make quick decisions. I like to think we made a great team, one that understood our roles, mutual strengths and weaknesses.

I am often asked why we did it. Sometimes, the question is asked in certain expectancy of a suitably pious answer about my/our undying and unalloyed commitment to theatre and the arts. It would be easy to strike such a sanctimonious and high-minded posture, but the truth is more complex. Such events as the MetroPlus Theatre Fest coincided with the realisation that our newspaper group must do more to reach out and connect with its readership. That this connection must go beyond eyeball and printed page.

Also, it was Navaneeth’s view that while The Hindu (the mother brand) enjoyed a powerful identity, it was necessary to develop a distinct character and brand value for its supplements. The Fest he said would help to do this for MetroPlus, our city features supplement.

This was a good enough reason for me to get involved. One of the jobs I did (and do) for the newspaper is to loosely oversee and coordinate the various editions of MetroPlus, now published in 13 cities. (Loosely, because of the very size of the operation and because each edition is run by strong-minded independent editors.)

We launched the Fest in 2005 with the help of the theatre group evam, which has been our event managers ever since. Neither Navaneeth or I had any experience of organising an event of this nature. I am not sure how much he was acquainted with theatre then. As for me, if you discount a few dreadful performances in school plays, the association with the form was entirely that as a theatregoer. But a very interested one, at least in some phases of my life.

In the two and a half years I spent as a university student in London, I watched at least 85 plays in the West End, the Fringe and Stratford-upon-Avon – a number I remember because I found as many brochures when I was rummaging through an old trunk many many years later. In Mumbai, I have seen more than one Marathi play I did not fully understand and in Delhi, I used to watch the wonderful duo of Manohar Singh and Surekha Sikri perform in Hindi over and over again.

We were very cautious and tentative when we launched the Fest in 2005, despite assurances from evam to the effect that we should “relax” and that “it will work”.

Has it worked? That is for others to say.

But personally, I can’t help thinking that despite the huge mistakes we made along the way (and yes, there were many!), we must have done something right. Our sponsors keep coming back to us year after year. We have managed to attract a much wider audience to the hall. The Fest has become a preferred place to perform for groups all over the country. And we have – and I say this unabashedly – we have gotten better with every passing year.

The Fest has spawned the MetroPlus Playwright Award. A further synergy has been created by staging award-winning plays at the Fest. We are likely to take this one step further by collaborating on a book on the award-winning plays.

When I shared that cup of coffee with Navaneeth in early 2005, I would never have imagined we would travel so far.

(Note: Blast from the Past is a series we”ll be running on the previous years’ fests and its beginnings in 2005, featuring write-ups, photos, videos and old news stories)