17 April 2016

Tryst with Prithvi

A documentary portraying the city differently, two people coming close, sharing a relationship in filming a city among its myriad cultures, extravaganzas and untold stories! A documentary within a play format, after being inspired from a movie "Paris, I love you!" and that's how it started, the journey "With Love Calcutta" with its numerous connections, links and subplots later! While not more than 2 weeks to go for the upcoming cultural exchange in the city, we had an exciting time in a conversation with Team M.A.D over their magnum opus! Their play is a cocktail of various emotions, stories set against a certain backdrop, yet with its numerous juxtapositions of various theatrical genres even to the extent of Anjan Dutt's directions; just like our city of joy, something which cannot be branded to a specific genre!

Aritra Sengupta

Soumya Mukherji

"I used to mimic an announcement in my bathroom, WELCOME TO PRITHVI THEATRE, M.A.D is going to present to you the next  play"  - Soumya Mukherji.

 It was a dream they had carried in their hearts ever since they came into the circuit. And in an atmosphere of ample jocundity, this young lot let us into some of their most cherished accomplishments! "It's like you became a tour-guide to a city we've never been before and yet we feel the romantic nostalgic tinge for the place after your show" was the remark from one of the audience members! Coming from known people, the remarks mean a lot too, but somehow a stranger commenting that will always matter more for an actor! Even with its moments in Bengali, the audience could connect to the emotions of the performance, and that's where it lasted!

Sharmishtha Pandey

"Prithvi does not have a language" - Sharmishtha Pandey.

When they heard that their play had made it to the Prithvi Hall of Fame for a year, their joy knew no bounds. The play had three stages of development, one before the Thespo, the second after their failure to make it through, and the last after had they finally managed to hit the jackpot! I might be perplexing you now, but trust me the fun comes later, a gripping and an exciting narration! Prithvi had a lot of impact in the polishing of this play, its a fantastic auditorium, with ample scope for the actors to play with their roles, very good audio systems, and a thrust stage which brings you closer to the audience in its very literal meaning! You can hear your spectators breathing and what's more engorging is the fact that you could actually feel the silence, a stunning mesmerising silence which will only leave an actor the enthusiasm to better himself, a luxury which some of them consider to be their most memorable moment at that performance !

But again, the benefits come at a price, owing to the nearness to its audience, you have to make sure that every part of your act is well detailed, from the button of your shirt to the artwork on your set design nothing can be ignored, as you simply cannot fake anything at that point! This notice for detailing at Prithvi helped them enormously, it was kind of a transcendence for them as a theatre group, from amateur productions to becoming a brand face for the developing and mature youth theatrical scene in town! Back at Prithvi they were not just representing their own group, but Kolkata as a whole, and plays from Kolkata barely make it through that stage, and its God's honest truth! On being questioned about how they emboldened themselves at that point, we found out a very happy and unprecedented act in the thespian circuit as of yet! The Theatre community in Kolkata, namely 4th Bell Theatres, Hypokrites, they had all joined together in promoting these young group of 20s and 21s to that position!

Soumendra Bhattacharya

"Everyone was happy for us, they were proud of the city's achievements, and almost everyone joined in unanimously in spreading the word!" - Soumendra Bhattacharya.

With their event just lurking around the corner, something again unprecedented in the city in recent years, they were asked about the future prospects of these projects in the forthcoming years! Bringing in many such groups and connecting them to our city's new developing offbeat audience in the future was one of their answers! The audience was asked to have a blast at the cultural exchange, have the time of their lives with the two plays sharing the same stage who had once been at loggerheads with each other! ( OOPS I spilled the spoiler)

The crew with Abhishek Saha (in blue)

Abhishek Saha was a scout of the Thespo committee at the Admit One, a prestigious theatre fest in Bangalore, and while competing for the festival, M.A.D's talent didn't go unnoticed on this person! It was him who had urged the crew to screen their play for the Thespo and his role was very instrumental in their journey to Prithvi! And so began the journey to "Thespo" back in 2012, with "A good play", when they got selected in the Thespo Fringe! Thespo Fringe offers a chance to those plays which stand out among the rest 200 competitors applying for a chance at the "Thespo", yet fail to make it through the top 5! Back in 2013, without a public show anywhere in Kolkata, they took a shot with "With Love..." at the Thespo screening! The judging panel back in Thespo, had an array of suggestions which would help them improvise their play in further years to come. The auditions went quite well, the days that followed were stressful for these young lot to say the least! The day they got the call was another heart-breaking affair altogether, their play had almost made it (Notice :- The committee mentioned that frequently) and unfortunately after a long debate within the panel, they had decided to land with another another play, THE E.Q (Amygo productions, 28th April, 6:30pm, University Institute hall).

Team M.A.D at the interactive session with ExPRESS MAGAZINE

 Time never stops, and the despondency slowly fades out, so did it this time! The team moved ahead with their work, worked on "With Love Calcutta" for a few more months and finally staged it in February at Kolkata! The show was great, and just as soon as they thought about meandering into other stories, BAM, came the call! The same Mr.Saha, the same old Mumbai calling, and that glorious dream, Thespo at Prithvi! Their first show was a scratchy affair, the play which was supposed to last for a couple of hours, got stretched for another fourty five minutes! A gloomy atmosphere creeped into the backstage, and finally after the last scene, while waiting for the audience to just shower a clap or two and leave the auditorium, they were awestruck to have been greeted by a heartwarming voluptuous round of applause accompanied by a standing ovation, by an audience which is used to the best of the plays staged in the country! 

Back in their first time (as the audience) at Prithvi, they had only one dream, even in a sloshy state of affairs at the Marine drive or at countless hours of cravings, their hope for that transition from in front of that stage to the stage itself was ample! When they first stepped into that hall, not as an audience, but as a performer, and breathed in the aura, that every young thespian wishes for, it was an inexplicable feeling of felicity! Two shows, two standing ovations, one of their best times, and a lifetime of memorable achievements to cherish later brought in a much needed boost paving the way to what they are today! They have a long way to go, getting satisfied at your own work always hinders creativity, and M.A.D does not belong to that lot! Much more awaits, many more accomplishments, and many more dreams to conquer. And while the city gets ready in its celebrations for the National Theatre Exchange that is going to hit the city on the 27th and the 28th of this month, the troupe is enthusiastically making their preparations for the play which associates nostalgia not just for this particular lot, but also for the enthusiasts in this city! Because we are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and the strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known!

Sharmishtha Pandey with Ayan Bhattacharya

Coverage by :- Anubhav Chakraborty, Shreya Basak and Swagato Basak.

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