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Theatre Olympics arrives in Mumbai

Friday, April 06, 2018

The eighth edition of the theatrical extravaganza concludes in Mumbai this week

In one of the biggest theatre extravaganzas to be seen in recent times, over 25,000 artistes from 30 countries are participating in the Theatre Olympics being held in India for the first time. The eighth edition of the Olympics was inaugurated on February 17 at the Red Fort by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, and the event concludes in our own city, Mumbai, on April 8.

Waman Kendre, director of the National School of Drama, refers to the event as the “biggest celebration of theatre” and says it serves as a platform to showcase India’s traditional theatre forms. From Swang to Rasleela, Nautanki, Bhand Pather and Jatra among others, under the ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’ theme—India will use the opportunity to showcase its own talent, assimilating divergent theatre forms.

Kendre adds: “The Olympic’s theme of ‘Flag of Friendship’ will serve to create a dialogue between Indian and global artistes. With this international event, we wish to express our theatre practices, its variations, philosophies and the sheer strength of our texts, narratives and ways of presentation in front of a global audience. In return, we extend our arms to welcome the practices, ideologies and philosophies of visiting performers.”

The 51-day theatre extravaganza will see 450 shows including 65 shows by international artistes, 600 ambient performances and 250 youth forum shows. There are 65 foreign shows being held in 17 cities across the country. Other programmes include the ‘Living Legends’ series, and ‘Master Classes’ besides two international and six national seminars.

Indian theatre personalities who are participating include Shabana Azmi, Paresh Rawal, Manoj Joshi, Seema Biswas, Ratan Thiyam, Alyque Padamsee, M K Raina, Bansi Kaul and Usha Ganguly.

The festival plays host to international theatre artistes such as Theodoros Terzopoulos (chairman, International Committee of Theatre Olympics), Liu Libin (China), Sahika Tekand (Turkey), Jan Fabre (Belgium), and Pippo Delbono (Italy).

The Theatre Olympics, being held in India for the first time, has been organised by National School of Drama, under the aegis of Ministry of Culture. The Theatre Olympics was established in 1993 in Delphi, Greece, as the first international theatre festival. With the tagline ‘Crossing Millennia’, this is an initiative to connect the cultural past with the present and future, bringing the richness and diversity of theatre heritage to the experiments and research of contemporary theatre.

The first country to host the Theatre Olympics was Greece in 1995. Japan hosted the second edition in Shizuoka in 1999, followed by Russia in 2001. In 2006 the Olympics were held in Istanbul, Turkey and four years later, in 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. China hosted them in Beijing in 2014 and in 2016 the 7th Theatre Olympics were held in Wroclaw, Poland. India is all set to join this illustrious list as it plays host to the 8th edition of this global event.

Some plays at the Theatre Olympics

Here are some glimpses of what was on show at the Theatre Olympics


Code Mantra is an unusual story of a court-martial case of a young army officer, Second-in-Command Ashwin Rathod. A Commando of the Rajputana Rifles, Rohit Rathod, complains to the Army authorities about the extremely challenging commando training programme, and admits  that he is unable to cope with it. He is seeking an immediate transfer, for which he is willing to divulge details about a highly classified case of firing across the L.O.C. Unfortunately, this letter is reported to his seniors. The same night Rohit Rathod is murdered in his barracks and his immediate superior 2.I.C. Ashwin is charged with his murder. What makes the case intriguing is that Ashwin happens to be late Rohit’s elder brother. Military law expert Shagun Oza and her husband follows the delicate leads of this murder case and end up convicting the most unusual of suspects.

Code Mantra is directed by Rajesh Joshi, a well-known Director of Gujarati and Marathi stage, and a writer of TV serials. He has directed around 18 full-length plays in Gujarati and one in Marathi. He has written around 30 TV serials and one Hindi film, Krishna Cottage. Recently he directed the play Yugpurush, produced by Shrimad Rajchandra Mission, Dharampur, in Gujarat, Marathi, Hindi, English, Kannada, Tamil, and Bengali with eight different sets of teams, and completed more than 800 shows all over the nation and outside the country.

“My aim was to give a visual delight to the audience and at the same time stay true to the script, not deviating much from it and bringing out the story,” he says, “The biggest challenge was telling a story on such a large scale and keeping the authenticity alive. We got cadets on board to stage the army scenes and even the actors underwent training to understand the nuances of a military lifestyle.”

Playwright Sneha Desai

Director Rajesh Joshi

Group Amardip, Mumbai

Language Gujarati

SHRI 420

Shri 420 is an Indian adaption of Moliere’s masterful 17th century French Comedy Tartuffe. It was adapted in to Hindi by Atul Tiwari and performed for Australian audiences in 2017. The plot revolves around a wealthy expat Indian, Om Prakash Bhatti who is a devout follower of a Charlatan Swami Tarkeshwarnath Anandpujanandji. It is a hilarious play that explores how, in seeking a shortcut to spirituality, people fall prey to phony ’420’ Babas and face its consequences.

The play is directed by Saba Zaidi and Atul Tiwari. Saba Zaidi is a graduate of AMU, Aligarh; NSD, Delhi, and UTS, Sydney. She began her career as a TV drama director and producer at Doordarshan. Having established her career in TV, she moved on to be a designer, director and actor in film and theatre in India and Australia. She has won a national award for costume design in Trikaal and Doordarshan Award for her play Wapsi and Zewar ka Dibba. Presently she is founding Artistic Director of Adakar.

Atul Tiwari is a graduate from NSD, Delhi, He has directed plays for professional repertories, theatre companies, and drama schools in India and abroad. Apart from the production of classical and modern Indian plays, Atul has a repertoire of over 30 productions in different languages consisting of famous Western playwrights. He has written screenplays and dialogues for feature films and has also acted in film like Three Idiots, PK and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Atul is an executive member of Sangeet Natak Academy and has recently been awarded Yash Bharati Samman by U.P. Government.

The directors say: “Be it Bhas, Kalidas, or Shakespeare, the great classics of literature remain alive since the explore social dynamics that remain relevant throughout the ages, and across culture boundaries. These stories engage with audiences because they are meaningful and touch a chord with the universal human experiences. This phenomenon can be seen in Moliere’s oeuvre, notably his masterpieces Tartuffe.

The hallmark of Moliere’s works is his examination of serious social subjects through a comedic, playful lens. The spirit of Moliere is thus transposed in the Indian adaptation, Shri 420.

Moliere, a French playwright and actor, is considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature and theatre. He brought elements of Commedia dell’arte to refine French comedy and amongst his best-known works are The Misanthrope, The School for Wives, Tartuffe, The Miser, The Imaginary Invalid and The Bourgeois Gentleman.

The group Adakar was formed in 2014. It is committed to bring Australian sub-communities together through theatre and cultural exchanges. It staged Kanjoos (Moliere’s The Miser) as part of the Parramasala festival in 2014, and Wedding Album and Shri 420, at NIDA’s Parade Theatres.

Playwright Moliere

Directors Saba Zaidi Abdi and Atul Tiwari

Group Adakar Theatre and Cultural Group, Australia

Language Hindustani

Theatre Olympics began on March 24 and ends on April 8, 2018. Catch the last of the shows in Mumbai at the Ravindra Natya Mandir and Nehru Centre



Sonata recounts a Sunday evening in the lives of three women—a banker, a professor and a journalist, who are college friends, now in their middle age, and all single by choice. The play explores their status in a metropolitan society. It articulates their relationships, ideals, aims, psychology and sexuality. In an apartment's peaceful environment, the play sometimes exploded into silences full of betrayal and unshed tears. Finally, it transcends to the most important factor—the love and bonding that the three share despite all their differences.

Actor, director, trainer and guide, Sohag Sen has been associated with the theatre and the allied media for the last forty years. In 1978 she started her own group, Ensemble, and became the second woman director in Bengali theatre history. Head of the department of the direction course in KFTI, she is also a visiting faculty at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, and the Rabindra Bharti University. She conducts acting workshops with the world renowned directors; has been the Casting Director for Mira Nair's The Namesake; and has trained presenters for media. She is the recipient of several awards and felicitations including the Paschim Banga Natya Akademi Award for technical excellence and the Lebedov Award.

According to the director, “Sonata is one of Mahesh Elkunchwar's best plays and, like most of them, centres around the human factor. Human relationships and their complexities have always been the ruling theme of his plays, whatever the content or background, and this is something that I have always been attracted to and returned to, repeatedly. Sonata is about one long night in the life of three friends. They are single, middle-aged, urban and financially secure. How they connect, disconnect and reconnect makes up the evening, with the individuality, aspiration and sexuality of each, being under scrutiny. Eventlessness is the most appealing part of the play, as is the great text which challenges the skills of the actors to keep it afloat.”

The playwright, Mahesh Elkunchwar, born in 1939,  is the author of 15 full-length and one-act plays. Among these Raktapushpa, Party, Pratibimb, Atmakatha and Wada Chirebandi are the established classics of the contemporary Indian stage. Among his many national honours are the Homi Bhabha Fellowship, Sangeet Natak Akademi annual award for the best playwright, Maharashtra Foundation Award (1997), Sahitya Akademi Award (2002), and Saraswati Samman (2003).

Playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar

Director Sohag Sen

Group Ensemble, Kolkata

Language Bengali

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