The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, a German silent horror film released in 1920, is considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema. Though it tells the story of an insane hypnotist who uses a somnambulist to commit murders, it was credited with having a premonition of the rise of the Nazi regime. This acclaimed film has been adapted to a play by director Deepan Sivaraman. Titled The Cabinet of Dr Caligari itself, the play has already been presented at around 40 stages, both in domestic and international circuits, including four festivals. The play features actor-producer Prakash Bare in the lead role of Dr Caligari, along with Purav Goswami, who is also in charge of dramaturgy. It features theatre artistes from both Delhi and Bengaluru. Incidentally, Deepan has already created ripples in the Indian theatre space with his play Khasakinte Ithihasam.
The well travelled Dr Caligari has been staged at the prestigious Wuzhen Festival in China and at Bharath Rang Mahotsav, META and ITFOK.
The play proceeds through the experiences of a young man, Francis, who describes the horrifying episodes in his life. Prakash explains, “Dr Caligari turns up at the annual fair in Francis’ hometown with an unusual exhibit — a coffin that contains a somnambulist, Cesare, who is sleeping inside the coffin. Dr Caligari uses the sleepwalking Cesare to carry out a series of heinous acts.” Francis’ best friend Alan is murdered and his fiancé disappears under mysterious circumstances. The play focuses on the helplessness and fear instilled in common people by those in power.
Elaborating on the relevance of the play in the current socio-political scenario, Prakash explains, “Though the play is set in the crime thriller mode, there is an analysis of how fascism works.” He mentions an example, too. “The play was a huge success in China. The best part was, people asked us how we could understand their socio-political system so well. So, cutting across countries — be it China, India or any other democratic country in the world – it carries relevance for democracy is threatened! Entities or individuals control mankind to unleash hatred.” Prakash cites the example of the followers of superstars, politicians or religious figures. They do not know whether they are right or wrong, but blindly follow their icon. “Our play is very much relevant today. However, it is not sloganeering or propagandist, but will surely make you think,” he promises.
The play does not rely on dialogues alone, but presents a whole new format of scenography. It has won an award for the best stage design. It follows a non-linear format juxtaposed with dialogues, music, videos, set design and light design to enhance the interactive experience for the audience. Prakash, who has been active in plays right from his college days, admits to loving the medium. “What was challenging about playing Caligari was that he is a very cruel person trying to control someone, which is the complete opposite of what I am in real life!”
The play will be staged at the Maharaja’s College Centenary Auditorium from February 8 to 10. The proceeds from the ticket sale will be deposited in the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund as well as the Rotary’s Cancer Care project. Contact Madan Babu (9744012399) or Pranav (9249885555) for entry passes....