Playwrights back with Rage

The Rage trio -- Shernaz Patel, Rahul da Cunha and Rajit Kapur -- that in 2002 created the successful Writers Bloc to discover and train new playwrights, is back with its third edition and 12 brand new plays

From the displacement of tribals due to industrialisation, to the effect of civil unrest on Kashmiri children and the effects of re-development on a tiny colony in Bandra, the third edition of the Writer's Bloc festival will showcase 12 new plays in three languages by new writers.

The cast of Pereira's Bakery at 76 Chapel Road, a play written by Ayeesha
Menon and directed by Zafar Karachiwala

These writers went through a year-long training programme with the Royal Court Theatre, London. We bring you a glimpse of all the plays that you can catch in the first week of the month-long festival starting tomorrow, while focusing on Pereira's Bakery at 76 Chapel Road, our pick of the week.

Pereira's Bakery at 76 Chapel Road
"This place is not just an address to us. It is all that we have... All that we are." Vincent Pereira, his daughter and their motley collection of neighbours are people you and I have met at some point in the old streets of the sprawling metropolis we call Mumbai. They are one among the oldest inhabitants of the city, the ones who stay in old, charming villages within Mumbai.

"The story is of the fight that an old Christian family living in an old little house on Chapel Road, Bandra, puts up against builders who want to demolish their house to make way for Asia's biggest shopping mall. The story is symbolic of what is happening in the city. The 'development' that is happening is undemocratic, where builders are bullying people," explains producer Devika Sahani.

As the pressure from the shrewd and merciless builders rise, minds start to change and trust broken. "But the heart of the story is the spirit of Bandra that we've all known," says Sahani. The play has been written by Ayeesha Menon, who currently lives in London and has written several acclaimed dramas for BBC Radio 4, including The Cairo Trilogy starring Omar Sharif that won the Bronze at the Sony Radio Academy awards, UK, and adaptations of My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk and Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup.

Ayeesha also wrote The White Elephant, an original feature film that premiered at the International Film Festival in Goa in 2009 and has since then travelled to film festivals in London, New York, Australia and China.

"Ayeesha Menon has done a fantastic job with the play. It's a subject close to her, one she is attached to and one she understands well, because she has lived amongst these people when she lived in the city," Sahani says.

The play also marks the directorial debut of Zafar Karachiwala who has been a theatre actor for about two decades and has given memorable performances in plays like Romeo & Juliet, Going Solo, Hamlet, Acts Of Faith, The Man of La Mancha, Sammy -- The Journey of the Mahatma, Chaos Theory and Class of '84.

Director: Zafar Karachiwala
At: 7 and 9.30 pm, January 11, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu; and 7 pm, January 29, NCPA Experimental Theatre, Nariman Point

Akash Mohimen, the playwright of the children's play The Mighty Mirembayanna and The Prisoners of Peace, takes on the topic of industrialisation in his latest Hindi play, Mahua. It revolves around the tribal village of Bihabund which is being displaced by mining and industrialisation.

Sadiya Siddiqui, Mona Ambegaonkar and Dhanendra Kawade in Mahua.
Pics courtesy Mark Bennington

Mohimen's hero is Birsa, who in his struggle to save his land, ends up bringing two neighbouring villages to the brink of a major conflict. He now has to face a rather unique punishment. His only support is an ailing grandmother, a new bride, and a glass of Mahua.
Director: Rajit Kapur
At: 7 and 9.30 pm, January 9, Prithvi Theatre; and 7 pm, January 25, NCPA Experimental Theatre

Satellite city
Satellite City is Marathi writer, director and actor, Irawati Karnik's first English play. This Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar 2008 winner has touched upon the daily struggle that people face in their lives. They have the urge to create and the need to survive. And then there is television. Satellite City talks about a motley bunch of characters, struggling to make their lives meaningful.
Director: Nayantara Kotian
At: 7 and 9.30 pm, January 10, Prithvi Theatre; and 7 pm, January 26, NCPA Experimental Theatre

Sagar Deshmukh's writings reflect contemporary sensibilities and are characterised by simple language and straightforward plots. In this Marathi play, he gives us a peek into an average middle class family that depends entirely on the patriarch of the household for their daily needs. Shillak (meaning savings or something that is left behind) brings out the deep-seated distortions in this picture, a consequence of today's times of retrenchments and lay-offs.
Director: Pradeep Vaiddya
At: 7 and 9.30 pm, January 13, Prithvi Theatre

The Djinns of eidgah
Bengaluru-based Abhishek Majumdar's The Djinns of Eidgah is the story of Ashrafi and Bilal, two children stranded in the tragic impasse of Kashmir. It has duality at its core -- seen and unseen, the spoken and unspoken, reality and fantasy, beauty and brutality. After his award-winning plays, Harlesden High Street and An Arrangement of Shoes, playwright and theatre director Majumdar writes a story that stresses on the insanity of conflict and the toll it takes on both perpetrators and victims.

Ali Fazal and Rajit Kapur in The Djinns Of Eidgah

Ashrafi has lost her father to the conflict and is being treated by a psychiatrist Dr Baig, who has lost a son to the violence in the valley. There are two soldiers S1 and S2, who symbolise the dehumanisation of violence, and finally the djinns, Hafiz-Rafiz, who whisk Ashrafi into a world of make-believe where her father is still alive.
Director: Richard Twyman
At: 7 and 9.30 pm, January 12, Prithvi Theatre; and 7 pm, January 22, NCPA TATA Theatre

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