12th April is celebrated as the National Street Theatre day on the birthday of Safdar Hashmi, a celebrated communist playwright and director, gunned down while performing a play.

Born on 12th April 1954, Safdar Hashmi grew to become one of the leading idols for socially conscious artists, communists, and all those who struggle against the reaches of Authoritarianism. His life serves as a inspiration for what it means to stand up and fight for your rights. Safdar Hashmi graduated from St. Stephen’s with a degree in English, and then completed his M.A in English from Delhi University. A member of SFI (Students Federation of India) and IPTA ( Indian People’s Theatre Association), within which he founded his own group Jan Natya Manch (JANAM). Janam’s journey started with machine, a play about capitalism and the eventual victory of the worker. Safdar Hashmi revolutionized street theatre into a form of protest, a form of dissent, into a form of hope, inspiration, and power. It was during a performance Of Halla Bol on 1st January 1989 in Ghaziabad, that Safdar Hashmi was brutally attacked by political goons and died the next day. His memory however lives on, like a burning flame, igniting those of us who stand up against the authoritarian, fascist regime. He remains a source of inspiration and power to this day, in the face of the BJP-RSS and their sinister concoction of CAA-NRC-NPR.

Safdar Hashmi's Funeral, Image Credits: MOMA Website
Safdar Hashmi’s Funeral, Image Credits: MOMA Website

Safdar Hashmi is not far from the minds of the revolutionary youth today, as many still draw inspiration from him on how they shape their life and activism. Adrija Bhadra, a first year student of Kirori Mal College says, “I’ve been involved with Jan Natya Manch and Dastak as part of their music teams, and both of those collectives are heavily devoted to the work and ideology of Safdar Hashmi. The way he lived steered me towards the mindset that art without a purpose is useless. His life and work showed me that music and theatre cant be elitist. It has to be made for the people and it has to be political in nature.” Faizan Salik, a second year student in Jamia Millia Islamia, when asked about what he learnt from Safdar Hashmi says “I learnt how theatre can induce so much social change, Safdar’s dedication to Street Theatre in fighting against the social problems has inspired many like me and has definitely our perception in making or watching theatre.”

Mohd  Ghufran, who passed out from Jamia in 2013, and one of the founders of the Awaaz Theatre Society reminisces fondly about how he  was introduced to Safdar Hashmi “I was introduced to Safdar Hashmi very late unfortunately. There was one event in 2013 organised by my team and there comes one volunteer who was helping us with the venue. He gave us two options, Habib Tanveer open air theatre and Safdar Hashmi amphitheater. This is how I got to know about Safdar Hashmi who I later started reading about him. A proud moment I remember is I was able walk on the same stage where Habib Tanveer did and I was able to perform on the stage that is dedicated to Safdar Hashmi. Later, I  wrote few street plays and we used to them in saket, community center and different places in Delhi.

Sudhanva Deshpande, the author of Halla Bol, a book on the life and times of Safdar Hashmi, a member of JANAM, and a renowned actor says “Safdar Hashmi was 34 years when he was killed in 1989, and now its already 32 years since his death. But in a way you could say that he is more alive today than ever before, in the sense that before the lockdown, you could see his poetry being represented in the library at Shaheen Bagh, you could see his face and his name being represented in so many student protests across the country on several campuses. When the JNU campus was attacked by Right Wing goons, Aishe Ghosh held up a copy of Halla Bol, which is a book on Safdar Hashmi and so on. I think its really important for young people to draw inspiration from this incredible artist, this political artist who dedicated his life to his art, entirely to the cause of the working people.”

Featured Image Credits: Telegraph India 

Prabhanu Kumar Das

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Love for humanity, Love for art, Love for language, Love for the sake of Love. This World Theatre Day, presenting before you a tale of ‘living letters’ which encapsulate love in most variegated forms. 

Why ‘Tumhari Amrita’? 

In times, when Bertolt Brecht and Jean Paul Sartre; Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett become so relevant in a geopolitical and existential crisis, where and entire human populace is at halt, what makes an epistolary play about two ‘simple’ lovers so special? The answer might not be substantiated by the mere witnessing of this modern play, that initially even made its makers skeptical about its reception and future but would actually require a study in entirety surpassing the actual stage. 

When acclaimed Indian Playwright and director Feroz Abbas Khan got hold of American writer A. R. Gurney’s Pulitzer Nominated Love Letters, he thought of developing something akin and approached veteran screenwriter Javed Siddiqui, who re-narrativised the play in an Indian context and etched the greatest Indian Play of modern times. 

Two people reading out letters on a stage amidst an audience that has never seen something like this before seemed very experimental and interesting, especially when the only two actors comprised of legends like Shabana Azmi and Farooq Sheikh. 

Love for Language

Perhaps, Love has no language and can never be explained through words and utterances but if there is any known colloquial diction that can provide this emotion a script, it lies in this expression by Khushwant Singh, “Agar Aap Urdu Seekhna Chahte hai toh Ishq Kar Lijiye, aur agar Ishq karna chahte hai toh Urdu Seekh Lijiye.”

When Khan modelled the Indianised version of the Love Letters he believed Urdu to be the only medium that could ‘move the audience emotionally’ and ‘paint word pictures’, the language was popular both among the theater practitioners and viewers equally, he fused Urdu with a touch of Hindustani and hence the ‘jazbaats‘ were draped in these ‘khutoots‘. Moments of silence sometimes speak more and give us the language of love. 

Love for Humanity

Amrita Nigam and Zulfikar Haider are attached with nothing but the string of love which has shreds of passion, understanding and respect; despite belonging to different religions and culture, the shared emotion transcends a timeline of thirty five years from a period before independence and then attaining it with partition following till emergency. 

The play has not only been humanitarian in act but also in approach with more than thirty percent of the entire screening done for charity, the play has traveled the entire globe and has raised money for victims of Earthquakes in Lathur and Pakistan, the Kashmiri Pandits and a special drive at the United Nations. 

Love for Art

The play was an experiment in Indian theatre and has brought the stalwarts Khan, Siddiqui, Azmi and Sheikh together to create the longest running modern play in Indian History, the journey that began in 1992 lasted upto Shaikh’s death in 2013. Over the years, the play has brought immense honor to the art and to the country, with acclaim and emotional offerings the makers received and is still registered on the memories of the audience. 

Love for the sake of Love

In today’s world, envy and jealousy has rigged the human system, the low means and harsh actions are resultant of the lost love and compassion that can only be filled back by something like ‘Tumhari Amrita’, Zulfi and America’s love for each other was propotianate to their respective emotions that resonated in their actions while arguing and getting back. 

It cannot be mere coincidence that this epic tale of love had it’s final screening at the Taj Nature Walk, against the backdrop of Taj Mahal. The fortunate will always remember the departed Farooq Shaikh and living legends – Shabana Azmi, Javed Sahab and Feroz Abbas Khan. 

Image Credits: The Caravan Magazine

Faizan Salik

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On World Theatre Day, we must apprise ourselves of the enthralling, incomparable beauty of traditional Indian theatre forms and acknowledge the need to resurrect them into mainstream culture. 

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” – Oscar Wilde

Theatre is a branch of performing arts that comprises of acting out stories. It stimulates creativity and is one of the most popular modes of entertainment and jubilation. But theatre is much more than this; it is a platform for expression of different nuances of our everyday life through the subtle fusion of drama and/or music and dance. 

Since ancient times, our Indian culture has given huge impetus to the performing arts. From performing in the courts of kings to an auditorium stage, Indian theatre has grown a lot and the diversity of its forms is mesmerizing. Natyashastra, written by Bharata Muni around 500 BCE is the earliest contribution to Indian theatre that vividly describes the theory behind a theatrical performance and depicts the mind of a performer. Indian theatre is usually categorized into three specific periods – Classical, Cultural and Modern; each period bringing in different areas of interests and traditions. The classical theatre was marked by composition and performance in the language of Gods – Sanskrit and had playwrights like Kalidasa (also known as Indian Shakespeare), Sudraka, Bhasa and Bhavabhuti influenced by epics and mythologies. Cultural period saw the rise of folk theatre in vernacular languages with themes like romance, heroism etc. Beginning in the late eighteenth century during the time of British consolidation in India, realism and nationalism pervaded modern theatre and had legends like Rabindranath Tagore, Kalyanam Raghuramariah, Dinabandhu Mitra etc. composing revolutionary works. Such was the acclaim and influence of Indian theatre that the British Government was forced to impose the Dramatic Performances Act in 1876 to prevent the use of theatre as a tool of protest. 

Traditional Indian theatre is so rich in diversity and vigour that almost every state in India and further different ethnic groups have myriad forms of traditional theatre. But in all these forms the element of ‘simplicity’ is innate that leads to the development of an immediate, realistic and rhythmic relationship with the spectators. Regional peculiarities create a connection that is unhindered by social and economic divisions. One of the most magnificent facet of traditional Indian theatre is the beauteous use of dance and music. For instance, Tamasha a traditional folk theatre form of Maharashtra comprises of classical music, footwork at lightning-speed, and vivid gestures while in Bhand Jashn a traditional Kashmiri theatre form, the art of making the entry by dancing has been perfected as the way each character walks and enters the platform identifies him. Indian theatre has not remained untouched by urbanization and other changes and tried to improvise the aspects in innovative styles. Nautanki is usually associated with Uttar Pradesh. The stories revolve around mythological and folk tales and contemporary heroes. There was a time when only men acted in Nautanki but nowadays, women have also started taking part in the performances.  Swang from Haryana, Rasleela from Uttar Pradesh, Bhavai from Gujarat, Maach from Madhya Pradesh are just some other theatre forms in the grand myriad of Indian theatre culture. Koodiyattam or Kutiyattam, is a traditional performing art form from Kerala. It has been recognised by UNESCO as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ as it is one of the oldest theatre forms, based on Sanskrit theatre traditions. 

Cinema and television have certainly emerged as the greatest adversaries of theatre and a falling appreciation of these art forms is witnessed. Their reach and knowledge has become limited and is popular only in the circles of theatre admirers. Theatre is such an art form that not only expresses meaning through narration but also brings people together. It leads to development of skills like listening, imagination and empathy. Moreover, its contribution to the economy and growth of neglected areas cannot be missed. The government as well as the citizens, especially the students can play a huge role in this endeavor of remembering our customs. 

Thus, in order to strengthen our roots and concretise the cohesiveness of our culture, recognition and popularization of traditional Indian theatre is very essential, otherwise we would lose these precious jewels of our sublime Indian culture to westernisation forever.

Feature Image Credits: indiaheritagedesk.com

Ipshika Ghosh

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Read how a politically stimulated University
of Delhi (DU) student became the icon
of cultural resistance in India.

As soon as you exit the Mandi House
metro station, one of the roads you might
come across is the Safdar Hashmi Marg,
which houses the famous Shri Ram Centre
for Performing Arts. Mandi House, home
to the prestigious National School of
Drama and other prominent cultural hubs,
acknowledged the fiercely rebellious artist
by naming a road after him, posthumously.
Safdar Hashmi is an indispensable figure
when it comes to cultural resistance
through art, specifically theatre art.
He pursued English Literature from St.
Stephen’s College and then got a Master’s
degree in English from DU. During his
post-graduation, he got associated with
Indian People’s Theatre Association
(IPTA), the cultural unit of Students’
Federation of India (SFI).
Hashmi soon left the body and founded Jan
Natya Manch, commonly abbreviated as
JANAM, as IPTA’s offshoot in 1973. When
Indira Gandhi was alleged to have rigged
the elections against Raj Narain, Safdar
produced a street play named Kursi, Kursi,
Kursi based on the questionable incidents
that took place during the 1967 elections.
The play made JANAM and Safdar Hashmi
immensely famous across the country.
In 1976, impacted by the exploitation
of labourers’ and workers’ conditions in
factories, Safdar Hashmi, along with five
other artists, directed a 13-minute-long
play titled Machine, depicting a situation
where factory workers were beaten up
by the security guards when they asked
for fairer working conditions. This play
instilled the conscience of people and
made them question the vicious cycle
of capitalism. It became so popular
that it was recorded and later remade
in several languages.
After Machine became a cult hit, there
was no looking back for Safdar Hashmi
and JANAM. JANAM got actively involved
with the issue of workers’ rights and,
within six hours of fare hikes by Delhi
Transport Corporation (DTC) buses, the
group directed and performed a nukkad
natak (street play) on the same. This was
followed by plays on various themes like
the distress of small peasants, religious
fascism, unemployment, inflation,
violence against women, etc. In the
short life of 34 years that he lived,
Safdar Hashmi gave 4000 performances
of 24 street plays.
It was a doomsday for the cultural
resistance movement when, on a chilly
winter morning, Safdar Hashmi was
attacked while performing a play in a
neighbourhood of Ghaziabad. Hashmi,
along with his fellow artists, was
performing a play for the candidate of
Communist Party of India (Marxist),
Ramachand Jha, when the Congress’
candidate, Mukesh Sharma, came and
asked him to evacuate the area to let his
rally pass. When Hashmi asked him to wait
until the play ended or to take a detour,
Mukesh and his goons got infuriated and
created a ruckus, vandalising and beating
the audience as well as the performers.
One labourer, Ram Bahadur, was killed,
and Hashmi, while trying to save his mates
and fellow artists, got hit by an iron rod.
He was fatally injured and got admitted
to a hospital but could not be saved. He
passed away the following day.
At the time of his death, he had earned the
stature of a hero amongst the proletariat
(workers, laborers and deprived citizens)
and artists. A huge crowd gathered to
witness his last rites. Incidentally, it was the
largest mobilisation after Independence
where people joined with a prior notice.
Today, Safdar Hashmi is a cult figure seen
as the symbol of Indian cultural resistance.
His life and legacy have continuously lived
beyond his own years, through art and
cinema. For instance, in 2008 Rajkumar
Santoshi directed Halla Bol starring Ajay
Devgn as an ode to Hashmi, who died
while performing a play titled Halla Bol!
In times of political unrest and democratic
upheaval, it is important for us, as
students in the hotspot of youth and
national politics to look back at those who
persistently utilised art to stand up for their
principles, voicing the need for justice and
revolutionary change.

Feature Image Credits: Telegraph India

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The theatre collective that started 76 years ago has left an indispensable mark on Indian theatre art and Bollywood.

“If you are doing something on IPTA, there’s a chance you will get lost? Because which chapter do you pick up?” said Jagan Shah, a writer and a theatre director who has been putting together Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA)  story from its inception till date. For starters, Indian People’s Theatre Association or IPTA is a theatre collective which brings together theatre artists from across India to illustrate political and social issues through dramas, street plays, and theatres. It closely adheres to the ideology of Communist  Party of India and seeks to inform and educate people about a plethora of issues concerning the common man by means of art.

IPTA’s history can be traced back to 1943 when two major historical incidents were gaining momentum. The struggle for India’s independence had reached its peak and World War II had galloped the world in a deadly conflict. The Bengal famine of 1943 along with Nazi force’s intrusion over Soviet Russia evoked intellectuals in India to initiate an organization which could inform the masses about these problems. Artists too felt the need to contribute in India’s freedom struggle through their art and thus the group was born at a conference in Mumbai in 1943. Subsequently, a lot of committees of IPTA were created all across India.

Despite its unabashed left leaning stance, IPTA had members who were staunch leftists as well as those who had no or naïve  political views. Along with politically charged individuals like Bijon Bhattachary and Mulk Raj Anand, it has prolific Bollywood personalities like Prithviraj Kapoor, Balraj Sahni, and Utpal Dutt as its members too.

One of the most important plays made by IPTA member Bijoy Bhattachary was Nabanna (New Harvest) in Bengali which depicted the plight of the Bengal famine. Another play called Nava Jiboner Gaan by Jyotirindra Moitra and the film Dharti Ke Laal  reciprocated the conscience of people of that time.

IPTA had a firm presence in the University of Delhi during the pre-independence era. Indraprastha College for Women had a dedicated IPTA group that performed anti-government plays. Even when government did not give them space and mikes to perform, they arranged their own materials and venues. When they were not allowed to publicise their plays in newspaper, they would write the name of venue on papers with pen and stick them on walls.

IPTA has substantial influence on the Bollywood movies of 1950s and 1960s as many directors, actors, scriptwriters, lyricists, music directors, and choreographers who came together to make a film were previous members or contributors of IPTA. Among the renounced actors who had alliance with IPTA were A.K Hangal, Balraj Sahni, and Utpal Dutt. Song writers like Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, and Kaifi Azmi along with music directors Hemant Kumar and Salil Chaudhary were associated with the theatre group.


At the time of partition, when the entire country was burning with Hindu Muslim divide, IPTA (along with other cultural organisations like Progressive Writer’s Association) made its best efforts to extinguish the fire from places like Mumbai, where it had substantial presence. Stalwart Prithviraj Kapoor along with young sons Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor sought out on a truck procession to ease out the tension between native Hindus and Muslims of Mumbai.

Post independence, IPTA began to face clamp downs and repression by government. The organisation which once enjoyed the support of nationalist leaders, now started to face their resistance as the onus of power now lied on these nationalist leaders. Gradually members of IPTA started to drift away from the main organisation and led new factions in various parts of the country. Bahurupee, IPTA Mumbai, and the Delhi based theatre company Jana Natya Manch started by Late Safdar Hashmi are successful offshoots of IPTA that still continue to produce political dramas to express dissent through art on contemporary issues. IPTA in its original essence might not exist today but it certainly is kept alive by common thoughts like idea of rebellion and struggle for equality espoused by like minded artists.

Feature Image Credits: IPTA Facebook


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University of Delhi (DU) extended a day’s relaxation in case of any delay incurred while arriving at the venue in time for the extra-curricular activities (ECA) trials for outstation students who have their trials scheduled on 25th and 26th June.

Outstation students witnessed a sigh of relief as University of Delhi (DU) declared relaxation in case of delay incurred while reaching the venue in time for the extra-curricular activities (ECA) trials. A day’s relaxation shall be extended by the varsity to the outstation students.

The ECA trials- a two level process– have commenced today,  kick-starting with Indian Classical Music (Vocal),  Dance, and Debate. The trials will be continuing till 5th  July, the results of which will be announced on 6th July on the official website of the University. This would be followed by the final round of selection, thereby giving the selected students a gateway to Univerity of Delhi.

The spatio-temporal glitches which are evident during the admission season turn out to be the major cause of stress for many outstation applicants. Hence, the flexibility in such a case emerges as a bliss. However, the relaxation is only extended for students having their trial slots on 25th and 26th June 2019.

“The relaxation is a welcoming step, as the schedule put forth by the University of Delhi has undergone frequent changes and delays. These delays and changes have posed as problems, given that the arrangements for transportation are difficult to be settled on a short notice,” says Shreya M., an outstation applicant from Odisha.

As reported by the Asian Age, an official of the University said, “The applicants who are unable to reach on given dates are instructed to reach venue at the earliest date, which is preferably on June 27 and contact the registration desk of the relevant category. The relaxation option is not available for those candidates whose trials are scheduled for any other dates for a category or for those categories for which trials are scheduled for a single day”.

The official site of the University of Delhi has also laid emphasis on the fact that the condition is selectively applicable for those who reside outside the National Capital Region (NCR), having their respective trials scheduled on 25th and 26th June.


Feature Image Credits: DUB Archives


Priyanshi Banerjee

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India’s acclaimed writer, director, scholar, and voice of rebellion Girish Karnad passes away at the age of 81.

Girish Karnad (1938-2019) was an actor, film director, multilingual writer, playwright, and Rhodes scholar. He passed away on 10th June at the age of 81, after suffering from degenerative pulmonary disorder for some time. His sad demise has left a void in the abstract world of art and literature. One of the most revered personalities has left behind a long lasting and unfaltering legacy.

Born in Maharashtra and brought up in Karnataka, he began writing plays in Kannada at a time when they were heavily influenced by western literature and marked the coming of modern play writing in Kannada. Yayati (1961) was his first novel based on the predecessors of the Pandavas. Tughlaq (1964) till date remains one of his most acclaimed plays. He debuted as an actor and screenwriter in Kannada movie Sanskara (1970). His directorial debut was the film Vamsha Vriksha (1971) based on a novel, which also won him a National Film Award for Best Direction. He has also showcased immense talent in several Bollywood films, most recently Ek Tha Tiger (2012) and its sequel. Rakshasa Tangadi, a Kannada play on the Battle of Talikota, remains his final work.

Karnad is the recipient of several prestigious awards including Jnanpith Award, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, National Film awards and many more in the South and North Indian Cinema.

His contribution to activism remains invaluable. A champion of free speech, he was a critic of hard-line Hindutva and later the Babri Masjid incident. Further, he was also a proponent of secularism and multiculturalism, women’s rights, and identified as a liberal. He did not confine himself to films and plays, but fearlessly voiced himself for any cause. At an event at Bengaluru – which Karnad attended wearing a nasal tube, due to his deteriorating health – he wore a placard around his neck which said: Me Too Urban Naxal. Karnad commented, “If speaking up means being a Naxal, then I am an urban Naxal.”

In his biography, Aadadata Ayushya, he revealed how his mother intended to terminate her pregnancy when she conceived him. But due to delayed arrival of the doctor, his mother left the clinic. He went on to dedicate this biography to the doctor. Today the world mourns the death of this multitalented individual who could weave stories with colossal depth and meaning.

Kalrav Vashishtha, a first year B.A. (Honours) English student commented, “We had ‘Broken Images’ by Karnad in school, and I loved it. A few years later, I realised we just had a portion of it in our syllabus. It shocked me to the core to read the rest of the play. A masterful manipulator of words, he turns the whole play upside down with such haunting realism. We just lost one of the best writers in the country and the void can never be filled.”

His contributions in over ninety films in both Hindi and Kannada, thirteen directorial works, several plays and translations earned him places in institutes like Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Nehru Centre in London, and Sangeet Natak Akademi, among many others.

The master playwright was cremated in a quiet ceremony. He is survived by his wife, Saraswathy Ganapathy, and two children Radha and Raghu.

Feature Image Credits: Zee News


Shivani Dadhwal

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As Natuve, The Theatre Society of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College comes up with its annual street play fest, Paigaam ’19, the showstopper to the University fest season, our correspondent traces their success journey through the fabled hippodromes of the capital this far.

A typical day at Safdar Hashmi Theater. Delhi’s play going coterie, an endangered species, the entire crowd, standing on their feet, clapping, like a part of them knew that they hadn’t seen anything of this warmth for a time. A mere college theatre society, Natuve’s original production Mx. Mute had just got over.

There are many words which come to mind when one tracks the progress of this theatre society over the last four years. If you happened to take a walk down the left wing of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, any day of the year, the weather bleak or rosy, the sun on your shoulders or shying away from your eyes, you can count on finding the kids from Natuve, drifting in their black kurtas. Right from the soul scorching heat of the Delhi summer to the glorious winters, the society works to bring out the best in themselves, and magically makes their very own amateur effort, with a world of experiments, imperfections, and innocence, rise and shine.

Natuve came up with two plays this year. Mx. Mute and Vyavsaaya Me Tarakki Paane Ke Chamatkaari Totke. While the formeer gave a subtle spin to the issue of assimilation of the LGBTQIA+ identity in the society, standing out particularly for the phenomenal work of the chorus to showcase genders, characters and societal reactions, Vyavsaaya, on the other hand was a hilarious musical comedy, keeping the audience at the edge of the seat at all times, not missing to prickle, however, with its sharp, nuanced satire.

The plays had many an innocent flaws. A few hiccups in transition, a tad too overexcited lightwork, a few rookie mistake in the sounds, and a few mis-directed laughs, yes. Nevertheless, what stood out was the hard work of every last person, what won hearts was their sisyphean desire to make their play the best it could be. The constant fire to give as much life to the art as possible. This won them awards, yes, the most in the college circuit this year, but more importantly, they continued the meteoric rise of Natuve. Yes, that’s the word we were looking for. Natuve continues to be a beloved.

Join them at their fest tomorrow. With Natuve, you have my word, the sun would be a bit kinder to you.


Image credits: Nikhil Kumar for DU Beat

Nikhil Kumar
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Three friends, one painting. Where will this go? Adapted from Yasmin Reza’s Art, Shunya presents its annual production with a little twist.

Set in New Delhi with three female protagonists. Art is one of the three annual award winning productions from Shunya, The Ramjas Dramatics Society.
An adaptation of Yasmin Reza’s Art, Shunya’s adaptation changes all the protagonists to females.
In its synopsis, Art explores the question of if a painting can destroy years of friendship.

The play begins with music from old Hindi films playing from a radio. The four characters in the play are seen shuffling across the stage as the lights fade in and fade out. They are seen arranging, and then re-arranging tables and chairs.

The audience then meets their first character Shweta (played by Vaishnavi Rai) who has just bought a new painting, except the painting is a blank canvas.

The second lead, Mitali (played by Ayushi Kumar) now enters and is seen enquiring about the price of the painting and its absurdity. Soon, the audience is introduced to the third lead, Yukti (played by Raniya Zulaikha, also the funniest of all characters)
The play progresses with the three protagonists, the question of the absurd price of the absurd painting and the strain between the three friends still hangs in the air.

The play is minimalistic in nature with few props which are used interchangeably. The play explores female friendships and gives interesting insights of female friendships with examples of jealousy, power dynamics, intimacy issues etc. The visible strain in friendships and bitterness reflects on stage. The play has been directed by Sushant Nagpal. Interestingly, the male gaze seeps into the play in fragments. Women aren’t objectified but the changes in their relationship occur after their romantic involvements with men.
The fourth character (played by Ravi Yadav) who remains unnamed appears in a few scenes, never with the three leads is rather comical. His only job is to arrange and re-arrange the props and occasionally steal some food.

As the play progresses, it brings forth the issue of internalised misogyny which is rooted in internalised shame, patriarchy and sexism.
An overarching theme in the play is the question of perseverance and longevity of friendships in times of conflict.

The play manages to be hilarious, thanks to Zulaikha’s character (Yukti) with her one-liners, the best one being “Go read Chanakyaneeti”. The characters add balance to the play with Mitali’s seriousness and Shweta’s playfulness.

Overall, there is never a dull moment in the play. The characters, stories, props are constantly moving and engaging with the audience.

Image Credits: Shunya: The Dramatics Society of Ramjas College

Jaishree Kumar
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Read on to find out about the gem LSR’s Dramatics Society has created and why it is a play we must all go to see.

The Dramatics Society of Lady Shri Ram College has created a marvel in their street play, crushing the myths against people with disabilities, called Today’s Special. It takes you through a roller-coaster with its stellar acting, splendid music and inspiring story. In a few minutes it is able to encapsulate so many aspects of a person with disability’s struggle and how we as individuals have not just refused to acknowledge this, but also worsened it by humoring their hardships.

The play starts with a girl getting ready for a race, only for situations to reveal how she suffers from a problem in her leg, as the audiences’ reaction changes to silence, it clearly shows how in our daily life reactions are not much different. Why should she be seen different? Is a question that arises in our minds and continues when in the next breath the play depicts how in a school, little children draw people with disabilities as monsters, and not heroes.

The connotations attached to the people with disability do not end at ‘different’ but are also ‘villainized’. These negative connotations are not reinforced by strangers but also by their blood. One such scene shows how the sister of a person with disability, embarrassed by her sibling, locks him in a room on her birthday party to not be seen by anyone.

LSR’s play also talks about the provisions for people with disability. They show the seemingly negligible percentage of reservations in jobs, the constant running from one place to another due to the absence of infrastructural facilities and the pressure put by school authorities to put their children in ‘special’ schools. This brings forth the third connotation attached to the people with disability : they are ‘special’ or devyang. The question of whether these people should be put on a pedestal, whether they should be inspirational or godly is purely subjective and debatable.

Keeping in mind even their daily struggles are far greater and incomparable than what abled people must go through, their lives and endurance does become an inspiration for all of us. But for some, the idea of being ‘different’ could arouse feelings of isolation and alienation. Do they want to be seen as different? Do they want for no distinctions to exist? Do they want their struggles to be reflected in its true essence? Subjectivity arises in the spaces between these questions. More than our opinion, what matters is their own and for us to respect those.

Their sublime music also stands out in course of their play. The play takes a dig at the song “Ladki Aankh Maare” for its “Tusshar Kapoor ki awaaz mei..” which instantly puts light on the internalised and covert discrimination we are all guilty of. Whether or not we danced to this song since it came out or liked Tusshar Kapoor’s character in Golmaal, how many of us realised the grave insensitivity both carried? Or how we have laughed at Rani Mukherjee’s dialogue in the film, Black, “mujhe lagta hai baarish hone wali hai..”.

Today’s Special ends on a powerful and beautifully written aspect of sex and dating life of the people with disability. In a heart wrenching scene, it depicts the sexual assault of a girl on a wheelchair by her caretaker and misunderstands this as love. The thoughtless and insensitive comments and questions on the technicalities of sex by abled people to the people with disability is a scene which accurately depicts how sex has been made a taboo. While the last scene shows how a girl with a disability meets someone who brings her out of guilt and embarrassment, the audience is left with several thoughts of self-reflection.

LSR’s play is a movement. Authorities, film makers and we as individuals have failed the people with disability on several levels. Beyond a few tokenistic measures and facilities no tangible step towards their lives have been truly made. Shonali Boses’ “Margarita with a Straw” is one of the few gems which speaks their story and the possibilities of self-discovery, romance and so much more. But even though such films win awards, it fails to win hearts at the Box Office and thus remains few.

At an important time like this, where political parties are demanding votes, we should demand a change. Better facilities and infrastructure for the people with disability at schools, colleges, universities and other buildings, genuine and apt reservations at offices and other places, better laws are some ideas which can become a starting point in this journey.  As a society, we need a change of thinking and mindset. Emotions of shame, guilt or embarrassment should not be attached to the individual or his or her disability or their families. Now as for ourselves, we need to reflect on our actions towards the people with disability.  The ability to overlook the larger picture and simply laugh along comes from a place of privilege. While we have no control over how we are born, what we make of ourselves is what speaks volumes. And therefore, it becomes our prerogative to stand with the people with disability and to bring some sensitivity- that person may not be your sister or brother, mother or father, but is an individual in and of themselves and deserves this respect.


Feature Image Credits: Shivani Dadhwal for DU Beat.

Shivani Dadhwal

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