A few months ago when theatre director Manish Gandhi was in Chandigarh visiting his parents, he was appalled to know that a 13 year-old girl, whom he knew, had committed suicide. Intrigued by the incident, he decided to helm a play that would portray how teenagers are disturbed by several issues but never get an opportunity to discuss them due to society’s prejudices.
Titled Limbo, it is set in the early ’90s in a fictitious hostel in Delhi. The story follows five youngsters who must negotiate a hostile universe in order to discover their true selves. They clash with their teachers and guardians, wrestle with ideas and prejudices, while dealing with their own burgeoning sexuality and angst. In the end, some lose out, while others beat the odds.
Gandhi decided to collaborate with his friends for the play and started off by asking them to narrate stories from their own lives. Soon he decided to rope in writer and theatre critic Vikram Phukan to pen the story. Gandhi says, “The title of the play is derived from an Xbox game that I would play. It’s a dark game where a boy is searching for the soul of his dead sister. Also in today’s world, you never know when a kid turns into an adult. For me, that period can be best described as limbo.”
In order to help the audiences delve into the minds of the characters, he decided to incorporate movement training and collaborate with Bangalore based dance company Nritarutya. The young director explains, “I wanted a dance that was not only free flowing but also helped the viewers understand the character’s angst. Nritarutya attempts to define a new vocabulary of dance by looking at ancient forms like Chau and Kalaripayattu.”
Since it was difficult to commute between Bangalore and Mumbai in the midst of rehearsals, Gandhi collaborated with a local dancer to supervise. The actors trained extensively in Chau and Kalaripayattu and would rehearse movement training, a recording of which was sent to Vishwakiran Nambi, the youthwing director from Nritarutya. He would then get his troupe to perform those movements that needed to be perfected by Gandhi’s cast and send the recording back.
Apart from being an innovative play in terms of the story and movement training, Limbo is also a product of crowd funding. Gandhi explains, “After a month of looking for sponsorships, we decided to opt for crowd funding and got in touch with Wishberry, an online crowd-funding platform. People have contributed from Paris, Hungary and the US for our play. Fifty per cent of our money has come from foreign funding.”
Gandhi is happy with the way his play has shaped up and admits that it has also helped him understand himself better. “After all, isn’t personal discovery the main objective of theatre,” he asks.
On: December 27, 9 pm
At: Prithvi Theatre, Juhu