There is something so reassuring to know that the Ranga Shankara Festival starts tomorrow. In these times of grave uncertainty, especially for the theatre community, the festival feels like a beacon of hope. Perhaps because the festival has been alive since 2004. A tradition that has never been broken. And will not this year either. They could have stayed quiet and let the year slide by. But they have taken on the challenge and that in itself is a huge triumph.
Besides I find great comfort in constancy…especially in a year that has been anything but. And October 27th, Ranga Shankara’s birthday, coincides with mine, which makes tomorrow even more special.
The enigmatic and inspirational Arundhati Nag, managing trustee and artistic advisor of the nonprofit Sanket Trust, which runs Ranga Shankara says “We’re calling this year’s Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival a hybrid, born out of extraordinary circumstances but equally extraordinary solidarity. We’ve worked hard to ensure that the festival replicates the resilience of the human spirit and will be a celebration in every sense”. And I’m sure she will. She built this space with such grace and determination. And for anyone who has ever dreamed of building a theatre space in India (like me) you cannot help but look up to her with awe and admiration.
I was there before the theatre was ready and then again for the first festival in 2004 and over the years, Ranga Shankara has become like a second home in Bangalore. That’s because Aru and Gaya and Suri and all those who have made Ranga Shankara what it is today always make you feel welcome and, more importantly, special.
So let’s have a look at what’s in store. Six incredible young theatre makers have been awarded the Shankar Nag award since 2014. And it is their talent that will be celebrated this year. Their shows include:
Abhishek Majumdar directs his play Salt – A family of three women, a mother and two daughters tell each other stories and fake the food on their plate, in order to walk the hard line between hunger and dignity.
The piece is being performed fascinatingly in Hindi, Gujarati, Kannada and Swedish.
Mohit Takalkar directs THE COLOUR OF LOSS – From Booker Prize-winner and literary phenomenon Han Kang, a lyrical and disquieting exploration of personal grief, written through the prism of the colour white. While on a writer’s residency, a nameless narrator wanders the twin white worlds of the blank page and snowy Warsaw.
Anurupa Roy directs TEELAPUR KA RAKSHASA – A paper puppetry piece for anyone above six years of age. Teelapur is a town on a hill. A perfectly ordinary town ruled over by an extremely popular King. A town which people leave in droves in fear of a monster that terrifies it. A town at war, where people are banned from reading books of their choice.
Q directs LUNCH GIRLS – Four friends are trying to meet for lunch. This shouldn’t be too difficult. But ‘life’ has an uncanny knack of getting in the way. Come eavesdrop on the video calls between Jaya, Bina, Deepa, and Veera, as they try to arrange the simplest of meetings.
Toral Shah leads a discussion on PRODUCING IN THE NEW CENTURY – Four producers from India and overseas, who have been working in the theatre for the last two decades share their journeys as they talk about their philosophies, their milestones, and their challenges.
Sankar Venkateswaran directs CRIMINAL TRIBES ACT – Starting with the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, a legislation brought during the British rule, the piece cuts deeply into the issues inherent in theatre and language, while critically looking at the positions we take in society.
There is a walk through the nooks and crannies of the theatre (and let me assure you there are many!) led by the master himself, S. Surendranath (ex-Artistic Director of the theatre and a trustee of Sanket Trust); daily screenings of films made by artists as a response to and during the lockdown. And, most importantly, a special festival menu at the café. (If you happen to be there please have a sabudana wada for me.)
It doesn’t end here. There are also webcasts, installations, podcasts and interactive events at the venue.
I envy everyone in Bangalore right now. But luckily for all of us anywhere in the world we can celebrate with Arundhati and the Ranga Shankara gang from wherever we are.
Happy Birthday! Have a wonderful week and a great year!