The fourth edition of the NCPA Centrestage Festival has something in store for everyone

Four years ago, the National Centre of Performing Arts (NCPA) decided to give theatre aficionados much reason to rejoice when it launched its first-ever, multi-lingual festival of premiering plays named Centrestage. The event not only gave a platform to groups to showcase new works but also helped people to see productions in myriad languages. Over the course of time, pieces, which were solely written and performed for Centrestage, have been staged at national and international festivals and also bagged awards. Continuing the tradition, this year too, the fourth edition of the festival, which starts on November 29 and concludes on December 8, has on offer 15 mint new plays in English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati coupled with workshops. Theatre lovers will get to watch diverse productions including a street play, a stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s critically acclaimed film, Rope, an abridged version of the Bard’s works with the shortest-ever performance of Hamlet clocking in at 43 seconds and Rabindranath Tagore’s relationship with Victoria Ocampo, an Argentinian writer. 

SUNDAY MiD DAY previews the six most interesting plays that one shouldn’t miss:

Ali J
English play
November 29, 7 pm

Chennai-based group Evam’s Ali J, a play that premiered at the Edinburgh Festival earlier this year, tells the story of controversial political Muhammad Ali Jinnah through Azim Ali J, a Muslim in contemporary India. Director and actor Karthik Kumar, who plays the protagonist, says, “We have heard about the perspective of various Indian freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. But we have never heard the perspective of Jinnah. He was a non-religious man who demanded a separate country but then was forgotten by that very country as he wanted its people to have a secular identity. It is not a historical piece but a political thriller. The story is a quest for identity and love. Jinnah’s story is told through Ali’s life. Like Jinnah, even he is a Muslim who is made to feel like an outsider in today’s India. When we staged it at Edinburgh we had to neutralise the content. But with the play premiering at NCPA Centrestage, I’m glad that I could incorporate references to the partition, Karachi and Godhra riots.”

English and Hindi play
November 30, 5 pm

Khidki tells the story of two girls who have grown up with each other and have had a fascination for everyday objects like windows. But when both of them end up admiring the same object, the complication in their relationship comes to the fore. Director Sananda Mukhopadhyay says, “I got the story idea as I’m fascinated by windows. They form the architectural backbone of Mumbai and give us a glimpse into other people’s lives. Khidki is an experimental piece as it follows a non-linear structure and uses objects as characters. During rehearsals, I would give certain objects and exercises to actors Shweta Tripathi and Dipna Dariyanani. They would work with them and based on my discussions with them, I would ask writer Siddharth Kumar to develop the scene. After Centrestage, we plan to stage the play at alternate venues.”

Status Quo
English play
December 1, 5 pm

Written and directed by Zubin Driver, Status Quo takes a tongue-in-cheek look at a couple’s life in today’s social media-driven world. While the duo cannot relate to each other in the offline world, in the online world, they become quite compatible. But each is oblivious of the other’s true identity. Driver says, “I had a lot of fun writing as well as directing it. Heeba Shah and Asif Basra play the couple. It’s a sarcastic look at how people behave online in order to impress others. Love, betrayal and multiple relationships, both real and imagined, are given a vicarious new dimension.”

Prakaran Pahile
Marathi play
December 2, 7 pm 

Presented by Pune-based group Awishkar productions, Prakaran Pahile tells the tale of a 55-year-old woman, Jeeja, who ends up in a conversation with her lover’s son after the former’s demise. Director-wrier Sushama Deshpande, who is also essaying the role of Jeeja, says, “I used to write a column in a Marathi daily about children and their issues today. I would always think what went through their minds when they saw one of their parents having an extra-marital affair. They feel sorry for their father or mother who has to bear the brunt and hate the other man or woman. This thought prompted me to write the script. Prakaran Pahile is a series of dialogues between Jeeja and Ravi, her lover’s son who haven’t
met before.”

Gujarati play
December 7, 5 pm
Blackout revolves around a couple — Siddharth and Maitri — who are going through a rough patch in their marriage. While Siddharth is on a sabbatical, Maitri has had a miscarriage and has resumed work. Both of them suffer in silence. Soon, they get a notice from their building authorities, that every evening there will be an electricity cut in the area for two hours. Now they are compelled to talk to each other as they don’t have gadgets such as TV or computer to seek escapism. What follows is a series of conversations wherein the two share their darkest secrets with each other. Writer Sneha Desai, who also plays the role of Maitri, says, “I got the idea from a short story that I read a few years ago. Modern-day relationships are bearing the brunt of high-pressure jobs and lack of communication and commitment between spouses. The challenge was to present the characters in such a way that the audience can identify with them.”  

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