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Bring In The New

Wednesday, November 21, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

The Sultan Padamsee Awards for Playwriting were first instituted in 1966, by Theatre Group, led by Alyque Padamsee, in memory of his brother. After a long hiatus, the awards returned a few years ago, with the hope that it will be a regular event henceforth. It was fitting, in a way, that the winners were announced as a tribute to Alyque Padamsee, whose passing left the theatre and advertising fraternities immeasurably poorer.

The simple and dignified event to host a reading of the four shortlisted plays, was attended by the Padamsee family, and many friends, who came in a few hours after the funeral, in the best ‘The show must go on tradition’ of theatre.

This year, there were about 103 entries from all over the world by Indian writers and also Indian origin writers, which is a heartening sign for theatre, since the constant lament seems to be the dearth of new scripts. Not only should the plays be well written, but must also be easy to stage, keeping all the constraints of budget, space and committed actors in mind.

A line-up of theatre stars read an excerpt from the short-listed plays, and the most popular was undoubtedly Watching You, by London-based Bettina Gracias, read by Sabira Merchant and Kunaal Roy Kapur, about a senior woman in an English village, joined by her son who is startled to find that his mother is not living the sedate life of an elderly widow, but is discovering the joys of dating through the internet.  This play shared the top prize, with Sneh Sapru’s Hello Farmaish in its English version, the Hindi one already staged under the Aadyam initiative, directed by Yuki Ellias. Three of the actors from that production—Puja Sarup, Priyanka Setia and Abhishek Chauhan read from the play about a bunch of rural Haryana women who take over a local radio station and dream of reaching for the stars, inspired by Kalpana Chawla’s space odyssey.

Shiv Tandon’s A Fistful Of Rupees won the second prize, a comic take on the strugglers and dreams of Mumbai showbiz, read with verve by Cyrus Broacha and Kunal Vijaykar. The third prize went to Riti Sachdeva for Parts Of Parts. And Stitches, set during the carnage of the Partition, read by Anahita Uberio, Shruti Vyas, Mandi Padamsee and Yohan Jefferies.

Some of the earlier winners made their way to the stage, hopefully, theatre producers will pick up these plays and audiences will get a chance to see them.

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