08 December, 2007

Tales from Sri Lanka

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Sri Lanka? For me it is ‘Sanath Jayasuriya’, ‘The accented Tamil’ and unfortunately the rest of it doesn’t lead up to very good memories. But did any of you think ‘English Theatre’?

This August, we had the Hindu Metroplus theatre festival in Chennai, which saw not just theatre groups from all over India, but 4 International acts too, and a couple of them professional theatre groups. One of them was the Colombo based ‘Stages Theatre group’ (http://stagestheatregroup.wordpress.com/). I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about this one, since I hadn’t heard of them earlier. But being a Sunday and with nothing better to do, I decided to go for it. Surprisingly the hall was half empty and as a consequence, I got a seat upgrade.

The play was called ‘Checkpoint: Three strangely normal plays’. Hardly anything about it was normal though – either in the presentation or in what they had to convey. And the first two plays were real events, btw.

Play 1: ‘The bus ride’ (or something to that effect)
This was a one-man show, literally. One guy doing all roles.
The story starts with a drunk (referred to as ‘x’) on a bus, who keeps talking incessantly. The other passengers are visibly upset by his behavior. The bus happens to break down in the middle of nowhere and its close to 10 in the night. The drunk then offers to buy all the passengers a drink, which they willingly accept. Then when he is asked about the reason for the celebration, he starts his story. In a strife-ridden Sri Lanka, emergency has been declared, and politicians have complete control. X’s son has been missing for days and he then realizes that the local politician has kept him in custody. The politician proposes a deal that he would return the son in exchange for X’s wife. Without money and an option, ‘X’ agrees to the deal, and starts drinking to forget. His drinking becomes a habit and he keeps borrowing money from the politician, and the cycle continues. On this day, ‘X’ decides this would be the last time that he would borrow money and decides to throw it all away due to his guilt. I’m not sure of the exact ending. But it was a heart-wrenching story about life in Sri Lanka during the emergency. And the fact that one man did it all was amazing.

Play 2: 24 Hours
The premise of this play was simple. To track the news coming out from different media sources over a period of 24 hours. The sets and the screenplay (except for the first sequence) were done very imaginatively. No actual dialogues were spoken, the characters wearing masks just moved around according to the sequence, while the news was being read in the background. It was sad to see the state of affairs the country was in. From news about an attempted assassination, to news about the attack on a girls school by govt forces, since they were suspected to be LTTE rebels. The best part was a confrontation between the ethnic rebels and the govt body, where they keep throwing numbers. The play was a visual treat in terms of the screenplay, lighting and the imaginative direction.

Play 3: Forum Theatre
This was perhaps the simplest of plays, in terms of screenplay and sets, but probably the most different. The director tells upfront that the play would take up a situation and then stop at a particular point. And then the audience is asked what they would want to see happen. And so, starts the story of a husband and wife, who have a misunderstanding over an immigrant. The play stops there and the audience is asked on what they would like to see at that point of time. The best suggestions are then enacted impromptu. This is then repeated a couple of times. In fact after one of the breaks they invited a member from the audience to be part of the next scene. An ending wasn’t intended, and the aim was to talk about an important issue in an innovative manner.

All in all it was a very interesting play. And especially after an overdose of Neil Simon from the ‘Evam’ (a popular Chennai based theatre group) stable, this was a refreshing change.

02 December, 2007

Speed Guitar

Is this guy for real?? Can someone really play this fast? I thought I had some skills on the guitar... But this puts me to shame... Look at the part towards the end of this video, where his left hand moves at lightning speed... In fact it was a little too fast to be seen clearly on video... If you liked this search further for Michael Angelo on Youtube... You'll find some more amazing videos...

01 December, 2007

ICL - The beginning.

The Indian Cricket League has finally arrived – at the non-descript town of Panchkula in Chandigarh. After all the hype and media bytes of ‘BCCI vs. Zee Group’, we finally have some actual cricket, if you could call it that. But I guess even Subash Chandra, the head of the Zee group would secretly confess that he's missed a trick or two here. The Zee guys probably thought this would be a good idea and announced the 20-20 competition, with a spate of players signing in from all over the world. All this looked really impressive. The problem however was that most of these guys were either retired or were on the verge of retiring. And then, when the sleeping giant BCCI woke up from its slumber, the ICL started to look like the town circus.

Anyway, yesterday, I watched the first match of this tournament, between ‘Chandigarh Lions’ and ‘Delhi Jets’. I must say, these guys have redefined 20-20. They’ve made what is potentially a very exciting form of cricket, boring again. A team like Australia plays more aggressive cricket in test matches. The tournament started off with a dance performance by Kareena Kapoor. A lot of people, esp politicians would be excited by this. No, not by Kareena’s dance. That’s asking too much of her.

Maybe Mayawati would use this in her election rally, giving a 20 minute speech and then when she’s tired we’d have a few overs bowled. And just as a prelude, the inaugural night of the ICL had its share of politicians pitching in for Subash Chandra. Lalu and Amar Singh were very conspicuous in their presence. Lalu, as always had a lot of gyan to pass on. After all he’s been dealing with Harvard and Stanford grads of late.

A special mention of the commentary, which was very imaginative, literally. Sample this.

First over of the match:

Wd 0 0 0 Wd

Pat Symcox: Oh this is turning out to be such an action-packed over. Everything’s happening. (Yeah, we’re just very simple folks to not comprehend the action involved in a wide delivery, and some defensive strokes).

Pat Symcox (to Dinesh Mongia): Nayan Mongia, please tell us how …

And just when a confounded Dinesh Mongia is about to reply, off goes Pat rattling about something totally irrelevant.

Tony Greig (commenting on a single): Oh, that’s a wonderful shot. Looks like the Lions are back on track (After 7 balls of no runs being scored, maybe Tony’s commentary was more exciting).

Anyway, I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this tournament - at least of what of what I've seen so far. In fact these matches have shown how any good concept can be made boring. Lets hope at least the IPL, with all its stars is worth the money – which is quite a lot in these tournaments, btw.