Social conscience will take to the stage

Head to the Nehru Centre to attend InterArt, a festival dedicated to astrophysicist Vikram Sarabhai. This year’s edition will feature three productions that focus on long distance relationships and displacement

In 1974, a few years after the demise of Vikram Sarabhai (the father of India’s space programme), his danseuse daughter Mallika Sarabhai started a festival in Ahmedabad to celebrate his commitment to the performing arts. Her father had been instrumental in the founding of Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Ahmedabad.

Mallika Sarabhai

Initially, the festival presented major artistes from Ahmedabad. But over the years, it developed into a festival of collaboration and international work, featuring Indian artistes and international dance groups. In 2005, the festival changed its name to InterArt, to reflect inter-disciplines and international collaborations. The festival moved out of Ahmedabad four years ago, and now, Sarabhai wants to take the festival to six or eight cities every year.

InterArt goes beyond performances and tries to talk about issues related to development, with a special focus on people affected by large-scale uprooting from their traditional homes, says Sarabhai. She adds, “We worked closely with Special Investment Region (SIR) oustees and Special Economic Zone (SEZ) oustees in Gujarat. Nearly 35,000 people, who lived across the river from us, on the other bank of the Sabarmati, were forced to live next to a sewage dump 40 km away. The lacked basic facilities, means of transport and livelihood. It got us thinking on the issue of raising awareness about their plight.”

While the festival started with a focus on mass displacement, it also looks into issues such as the displacement of the self. “We lead such pressurised and pointless lives, determined by what advertisers tell us happiness is. Modern employment seeking also leads to displacement from loved ones. All of them have their consequences, though none as brutal as the displaced communities,” she explains.

From: April 16 to 18
At: Nehru Centre Auditorium, Worli. 
Call: 24964676

Watch out for...

The Dammed
Based on the plight of displaced people, The Dammed is presented in episodes, each with its story addressing aspects of the displacement experience. During the research, Naomi Deira, artistic director, The Dammed, came across film footage of the Ghogal Village protests, against the construction of the Onkareshwar Dam in Madhya Pradesh. “I realised the power of the images and incorporated it into the production. After talking with Yadavan Chandran (filmmaker), we recreated the scene, having all the cast members sit in water for hours,” she elaborates. In each city where The Dammed performs, Deira and the cast engage with the local community of displaced people.

Directed by Yadavan Chandran and Mallika Sarabhai, this production looks at internal displacement. Based on a story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, it has been adapted into a performance by Gowri Ramnarayan. “Most of us define ourselves through the perception of family, friends and brand managers. How many of us take the time to look into ourselves to find out who we are? This insecurity leads us to blame everything on others and demonise people and communities,” states Chandran. The greatest challenge, admits Chandran, was to create a theatrical form which reflected Marquez’s magical realism but also made for riveting theatre.

This is a multi-media performance integrates Indian Classical and Contemporary dance, theatre, storytelling, text and video and explores the nature of long distance relationships. Conceptualised and directed by Revanta Sarabhai (Mallika Sarabhai’s son), the project deals with rootlessness when people are divided by time and circumstance from their loved ones. He explains, “The performance deals with how we can find togetherness while living apart, and on the move. It was sparked by a degree of frustration from trying to make a relationship work for over 2.5 years, across six cities and different time zones.”

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