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Watch a play on your smartphone

Revisit classic and contemporary plays on your smartphone in this new digital theatre initiative

  If you missed catching theatre classics like Dr Vijaya Mehta’s Hamida Bai Ki Kothi or long to watch an encore of Usha Ganguli’s first play, Rudali, this will come as great news. Starting early 2016, you will be able to watch iconic plays from the comfort of your couch, thanks to Zee Theatre. Through this idea, the company aims to buy the rights of around 100 plays that will be re-staged and produced on their digital portal.

Ira Dubey and Padmavathi Rao in Mahesh Dattani’s 30 Days In September
Ira Dubey and Padmavathi Rao in Mahesh Dattani’s 30 Days In September

“Indian theatre has been the most enduring form of entertainment for 2,000 years. It is also the only form of storytelling that can be experienced live as well as on television, cinema screens and online. Lack of adequate infrastructure is one of the main reasons why live theatre ends up having a limited audience,” says Shailja Kejriwal of Zee Entertainment Enterprise Limited (ZEEL).

Usha Ganguli in Rudali
Usha Ganguli in Rudali

The venture is in collaboration with eminent directors like Dr Vijaya Mehta, Usha Ganguli, Vijay Kenkre, Ranjit Kapoor, Atul Kumar, Mahesh Dattani, Ganesh Yadav and Chandrakant Kulkarni,” .

What’s in store?
Currently, work is in progress to produce the first batch of 13 plays that include musicals, satire and a contemporary Internet-based romance. “We began with Hindi plays but will venture into other languages. We are also getting super-hits from Marathi, Bangla and Gujarati to be remade in Hindi for Hindi-speaking audiences. By early 2016, we aim to be ready with nearly 30 new productions and plan to produce about 100 plays in the next three years,” shares Kejriwal. Stalwarts like Ila Arun, Homi Wadia and Feroz Abbas Khan have helped the team curate the catalogue. These plays will also be screened in cinema halls, schools and colleges.

Stage to screen
Purists might scoff at the idea of digital productions, considering a theatre performance is all about connecting with live audiences. Theatre personality Mahesh Dattani, who directed 30 Days In September for the digital format, believes, “The play loses a vital component when it is not performed live. Nothing can replace the experience of sharing time and space with the performer.

But the essence of all drama is to present the human condition in changing times and circumstances, and so, it does lend itself to adaptation.” Dattani reminds us that one cannot forget the ability of the digital camera to go deep: “What theatre does psychologically, the camera can do graphically. We need to see whether we can create a new vocabulary that can exploit the strengths of both mediums.”

To ensure the plays retain their essence, a theatre director and filming director work in tandem for each production.

Together, they will create a form that can be filmed as well as made suitable for live entertainment. So, the experience will be that of watching ‘Stage On Screen’.

Theatre director-actor Usha Ganguli’s first play Rudali has been reproduced into teleplay by director Suman Mukhopadhyay. “The camera angles, scripting, editing, music and presentation are important factors to consider when it comes to transforming plays into digital formats. You should also be aware of the kind of sets, properties, lighting arrangements, colours and costumes that work for screen. I was happy after I saw Rudali’s DVD since the essence has been retained, despite these changes,” she shares.

Catalogue glimpse
>> Atul Kumar: Piya Behrupiya
>> Vijay Kenkre: Double Game
>> Vijaya Mehta: Hamidabai Ki Kothi
>> Jaywant Dalvi: Sandhya Chhaya
>> Rajan Tamhane: Savita Damodar Paranjape
>> Ranjit Kapoor: Janpath Kiss, Wrong Turn

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