A still from British performer, Henry Naylor's docu play called Afghanistan is not funny. (Image: DC)
Hyderabad: The ciet is all set to witness a month-long celebration of the Performing Arts with the finest troupes from Hyderabad, India & Beyond, across multiple venues titled ‘Manam Theatre Festival’. Deccan Chronicle caught up with Harika Vedula, Founder, The We _ Us Collective, curator and organiser of the Manam Theatre Festival for an exclusive interaction.
Why a Theatre Festival?
We have a very active and robust theatre community in the city. There is a lot of work going on everywhere. But I think one needs more reasons to bring people together and to celebrate the performing arts and the community behind it. So...why Manam Theatre Festival? Why not? And why not many more, where we bring in a time bound sort of celebration of the people in the performing art scene.
Will the event be limited to plays or extend beyond other art forms as well?
We have to understand that this is the first edition. And the curation happened with an intention to include as diverse talent or plays as we can get. But, no, I would not think so. Even within a play, it's not limited to just a performance of words. There's music, there's puppetry, there's dance, there's mask, there's so many more art forms within plays as well. So this edition, the first one, we wanted to bring in that diversity, and we will definitely be delving into the other art forms, which is music and dance and I feel at some point, they all are connected more than different. So separate and together, we intend to bring everything as we go forward.
Month-long festival is a lot of work. How are you managing it?
We have our team, we slowly built a very relevant, informed team together in the capacity of people who have been around in the performing art environment, who are multi-talented, who have worked as producers, designers, directors. So it's more of us coming together, as well as a team, who could probably divide our tasks and be able to come back together and do this in a more constructive way.
How's the response been from theatre lovers in the city?
I think it's wonderful. Especially because in a city like Hyderabad, I don't think we have heard of a month-long festival ever, which just gives more reason to celebrate and more opportunities to do that. So apart from the actual plays or performances (18 shows in total), we have what we call these fringe events, where apart from just watching a play, what we sort of encourage and want to do is to have a platform where there's a possibility for more intimate conversation and exchange of information. So, we have little workshops, meet and greets, storytelling sessions, tech design workshops. So, I think the intention is to bring more than just a performance which in itself has again a multitude of variations.
You think the theatre scene here is yet to take off?
I feel like everything comes in ebbs and flows, much like any other field. So, there was probably a high time and then there was a bit of a low in between. But it hasn't stopped the community in doing what they continue to do. That's why Manam Theatre Festival is going to as many venues as possible and trying to showcase different sorts of work in the city.
So, who are the kinds of people you are collaborating with?
We have Katkatha from Delhi, who is one of the leading puppetry troops in India, in theatre. We have Adi Shakti from Pondicherry, who have been around for about 45 years. They have their own school of acting where they call it the source of performance energy. And then we have British performer, Henry Naylor who's coming in and doing a docu play. It's called Afghanistan is not funny. And we have Durse Brothers from Bombay, who are collaborating with Sofiyum— a Lepcha folk fusion band from Sikkim. And so, they're coming together and doing performances and from Hyderabad, we have Sutradhar, we have the University of Hyderabad, we have KissaGo, with beautiful solo performances, and we have a Telugu play by Surabhi Santosh called Petromax Panchayati. So we're trying to include diversity in language, in form, in style, and definitely source. So we're trying to bring them from different corners of the country, including our own home, troops that have been around for over a decade, and also some very new ones.
A still from Elephant in the Room
How relevant is theatre in the age of OTTs?
In theatre, it's always a live performance—that will never die because it's unique in its own form. Like, if I were to compare a film to whether it's OTT or theatre screen, that's a different story. But theatre will always be theatre, which means you go, sit and watch a live performance. So I feel like it'll always be relevant. It has been, it's been there for centuries. And it will continue to go and as you can see, theatre in its own form is so evolving, you can perform in alternate spaces now, there are no rules set in stone anymore, about what you call theatre. So I feel like these are two very separate consumption areas.
You have been an actor yourself. What are the challenges of a theatre artist?
There are many, I'm sure, but there is clearly a joy in doing it is why people continue to do it. I would think, opportunity, if it's a production because it's live and it depends on the size of production, etc. That could be one challenge, trying to take it from city to city or, town to town, or venue to venue, even—that could be a challenge. But beyond that I only see the joy in people rehearsing which is why they do it.