Indian Ensemble's new play Afterlife of Birds written and directed by Abhishek Majumdar is here to mark the mainstream theatre debut of actress Revathy
The play started with a completely different idea. When Revathy and Arundhati Nag, who are part of the cast, were in a workshop with Abhishek a year and a half ago, they were looking at stories of contemporary women who were migrating within the country.
The cast of the play rehearses with the director
"Then I went to London and interviewed a woman who was earlier a part of the LTTE and migrated from Sri Lanka to Bombay to London. She was one of those women who had moved by her own choice and not because of family," states Abhishek.
This woman and the Batla house shootout incident in Jamianagar, Delhi in October 2008 inspired the playwright to write the 70-minute play.
"These two stories were strangely connected. Two generations of people were in one way against the law," states Abhishek who has used multimedia in the narrative and engaged the cast in extensive research on the lives of ex LTTE suicide bombs and parents of young boys accused of terrorism in recent times through documentaries and written material.
The play, set on the evening before Republic Day (January 25), weaves four simultaneous narratives together. On that evening, Ajanti (Revathy), Niromi's school friend who joined the LTTE only to leave it, comes to Delhi from London to meet her.
Abhishek always had Revathy in mind for the character of a woman who believes in non-violent revolution. "What's fabulous about directing her is that one never ever feels that one is directing a star.
She's a really solid actress and just glided into the system. She's extremely secure not only as an actor but also as a person," avers Abhishek
As for Revathy, she feels more challenged by theatre than films. "The play is so internal that it's been an interesting and tough journey to try and present the internal arguments that are going on in each of these characters.
It portrays the eternal conflict between the head and the heart and explores who you are, where are you from, your take on boundaries and countries, the politics between countries and how it affects people who are not leaders. It also questions our roots and ideas about the roots. The play will make important social and political statements," she says.
Revathy, whose only exposure to theatre in an auditorium has been through a pantomime in Chennai years ago, says, "In films, you don't do much of research and rehearsal.
This was interesting because there was no play when we began. The play evolved over the last one year with a lot of research."
About sharing the stage with friend and thespian Arundhati Nag, she says, "I'm absolutely nervous about acting with Arundhati as she has been in theatre for 35 years.
She knows the language on stage, which I'm still trying to get a hang of. She helps co- actors in theatre with her experience. I'm lucky to work with her as I have learnt a lot about theatre acting that I would have never learnt in any other play."
Nag plays Niromi, an ex-LTTE suicide bomber who failed at bombing but was convicted and imprisoned in Tihar jail for 17 years. "She's supposed to be freed the next morning as she has received the President's Pardon," reveals Abhishek.
The characters collide in the narrative. "Niromi was caught 17 years ago by Rashid (Sandeep Shikhar), who's part of the Delhi Police band and became a hero overnight. When his son goes missing, he gets humiliated and slapped by a police constable who alleges that his son is a terrorist.
So there's a strange dichotomy. On one hand Niromi is getting released the following day, and on the other, Rashid, who's supposed to march before the President the following day, is suddenly a fallen man because of his son.
"Yet Niromi might not be happy about her impending release. She doesn't know where she will go. The LTTE movement in Sri Lanka has been crushed and she might not want to stay back in India," maintains Abhishek.
The play is part of the Robert Bosch Arts Grant 2011 that's awarded to writers, musicians and dancers in Bangalore. It premieres tomorrow.
Where Ranga Shankara
JP Nagar 2nd Phase
36/2, 8th Cross
ON December 2 to 4, 7 30 pm (also at 3 30 pm on Sunday)
FOR Rs 100