Theatre, one of the most elaborate art forms, is known for its beauty and grace in the expression of thoughts and emotions. It is – to date – revered as the most puissant form of art that manages to stir up strong, intangible feelings in our mind.
On 18th October 2018, Aaina Dramatics put up its annual event, ‘Spotlight’, comprising of eight short plays. Taking place at the MIT Library Auditorium, all the eight plays were directed by different directors.
The Gift was the heart-wrenching story of Mark— played by Varun — who was struggling to accept the unfortunate fate of his own brother, Thomas. Thomas was declared brain dead after a terrible accident. The directors Ananya and Shashank successfully managed to capture the audience’s attention by taking them on an emotional roller coaster. The story then moved focus to John, a friend of Thomas’s. He was in dire need of a heart transplant, thus looking for a donor. The play arrived at an extremely emotional junction wherein Mark has to choose between helping his friend by concurring to donate his brother’s heart or to hold on to the hope that someday Thomas might come back to life. This fervent act was a first-time experience for both the directors and actors of the play. “It was my first time directing the play, alongside Shashank, my co-director. So yes, it was stressful but a wonderful experience as well. I think the biggest challenge was to balance everything by keeping track of each nook and cranny of the script. My personal experience with the juniors was amazing. They are so talented and had such a beautiful zest to act”, said Ananya, one of the directors of the play.
Saste Jahaz ka Sapna
Apart from being the wittiest play of the night, ‘Saste Jahaz ka Sapna’ managed to tug the right strings of the audience’s hearts. This play was directed by Nikhil Dubey and Astha Garodia. The story revolved around Genda Singh and his small family, comprising of his mother and wife. Genda Singh—very aptly played by Siddhant Pandey— was a common man of big dreams and hopes. It was an adaptation of the well-known playwright KM Mishra’s work by the same name. The daughter’s role in the original play was replaced by the mother-in-law— played by Saakshi Goenka. From chucklesome dialogue exchanges between the three to smooth transitions on stage, this play had the audience hooked from the very beginning till the end. A commendable performance was executed by Ditsa Mukherjee, who played Genda Singh’s wife, with her perfectly timed expressions and dialogues. Ayush Mittal— who played Gyanchand— had the audience bursting into fits of laughter with his acting skills. “It was our first time directing a play, so overall it was a learning experience for the cast as actors and also for us as directors. We had to think about a lot of ideas every day, especially for transitions in the play”, said one of the directors, Nikhil Dubey.
Darj Lamhe: Khudkushi ke
Originally written by Dinkar Bedekar, this play was directed by Shreya Bansal and Rishabh Agarwala with the help of their senior director, Druti Singh. It touched upon the grave issue of mental health and its consequences. “What inspired us to select this play was the fact that issues like depression and suicide need to be highlighted and addressed much more than they already are”, said Shreya Bansal. The story revolved around Mohini— portrayed by Sakshi Garg— who was a theatre actress going through a tough phase in her life mentally. She struggled to deal with depression herself as all her friends turned their back towards her. Mohini then cast in a play by Janak, a director— played by Rishabh Agarwala— who was bothered by Mohini’s constant absence at rehearsals since a week. Mohini cited being out of town as a reason. The truth, on the other hand, was revealed to be quite different later on in the play. The most intense part of the play was when the director’s assistant, Raja— played by Shaunak— and Mohini rehearsed a play wherein they enact the roles of an old man and a troubled married woman respectively. Though it did get quite confusing for the audience as there are many switches between their on-stage real and reel characters, the play managed to successfully build up the intensity they were trying to attain.
This play was originally written by Nick Zagone, with the same name. The DMV was quite a bold play in terms of its dialogues and execution. Beautifully performed by Isha Apte and Chintan Gandhi, this play had the audience’s attention throughout. It explained every relationship in the form of a series of questions – a checklist – using which they get to know each other better. “We just needed to make sure the dynamics were at that fine line between too subtle and vulgar.”, said Isha, when asked about how they managed to pull off such a bold play with just dialogues and very little physical intimacy on stage. Chintan Gandhi, who played the character Ross, was a pleasant actor to watch. With his timely expressions and dialogues, he seemed to pull off a character much older than himself really well. The DMV was definitely a pleasant change from the other plays in terms of story, direction, and execution.
Traveler’s Bag was a finely crafted bag which explored the theme of infidelity and forgiveness. The plot revolved around two characters— Susan and Colleen—amidst the funeral of Susan’s husband. Susan—portrayed by Subuhi Zaidi— was a distraught widow who was mourning the death of her husband. She then met Colleen—played by Spandita Das Sharma—who turned out to be her husband’s former lover. A conversation struck up between the two. Susan soon got to know about her husband’s illegitimate child with Colleen. The undisturbed tete-a-tete between the women forms the rest of the story. The play was beautifully driven by the astounding performances of both Subuhi and Spandita. Subuhi was stunning as Susan, as she carefully uncovered the layers of her complex character in utmost grace. Spandita was magnificent—as she stepped into the shoes of both the actor and the director. “It was a very different experience to direct and to act at the same time. It wouldn’t have been possible without Ayushi, my co-director,” said Spandita.
Exploring the regime of religion and socio-political issues—Khuda Hafiz was a profound analysis of the religion terror in our nation. The storyline revolved around two individuals, Avtaar and Kareem, who tried to find out the religion of the other person. Both the characters were bound by the need to survive, through killing people of other religions. The play wondrously propagated through the conversation between the two, as they hilariously tried to guess each other’s names. Vikram and Soumodeep were exceptional in their roles, as they expertly ran through the entire act. “This play was physically and mentally demanding, as it did revolve around sensitive topics. But the actors and my co-director Spandan worked really hard to make this act a success”, said one of the directors, Kawish Azad. On the whole, the act left a lasting impression on the audience.
CIA Agents was a humorous take on the topics of terrorism and methods undertaken to curb it. The play explained how two CIA agents—Todd and Jack—try to torture the terrorist—Akram— mentally, instead of physically, to make him spit out information. They made the terrorist speak to his family and another terrorist friend of his in order to find their location. Arvind and Mrithunjay were amazing as the agents, while Anish played the terrorist with maximal perfection. Riya and Arambh also played their parts fittingly. On the whole, the play was hilarious and profound in its own way, wonderfully crafted by the directors Shivalika and Tanmay.
Ek Tola Afeem Ka
This was certainly one of the most difficult plays of the night. Set with the backdrop of the seventies and eighties, the play revolved around the lives of Murari Mohan and Vishwamohini, who were disappointed in their lives and the notions of their families. The plot involved the sale of opium, a dangerous drug and how both try to commit suicide using it. As they meet and talk about their issues, they slowly unraveled their miseries and chose the path of life. The play— beautifully directed by Abhinav and Kaustubh—was a journey to the minds of two individuals who were ahead of their time. The actors—Abheek, Arushi, Piyush and Surajit—were delightful. The entire play delved through society’s norms and gave the audience an insight into the minds of such individuals.
The overall event showcased a vast variety of talent through its eight successful plays. The actors graced the front stage while the directors, set designers, and musicians formed the backbone of the entire act. This event showed how important team bonding and hard work is to make a play go on smoothly. The stupendous performances by the first years was the cherry on the cake. To make a play is easy, to make a good play is a war, but to make a great play is a miracle. And certainly, this event by Aaina was a miracle of its own.
-Riya Peter and Alankriti Singh for MTTN