A jam-packed play

Updated: Jul 17, 2019, 20:21 IST | Dalreen Ramos |

An upcoming drama combines storytelling with sand art through a story of college friends stuck in traffic

A still from JAM
A still from JAM

There is perhaps some satisfaction to be drawn from punning on things you detest. Being stuck in a jam might very well be one of those things and so, you can rightly say that you're traff*cked. And a play this weekend shows the audience a different angle — one where instead of characters mulling over being stuck in such a commotion, it dives into how it can lead to a deeper contemplation.

JAM is written by noted playwright Annie Zaidi. Directed by Shivani Tanksale, it premiered at the Prithvi Theatre Festival last year. It tells the story of two college friends — Bina and Surekha — who meet after a long time and are stuck in a terrible traffic jam. During this, they revisit their time in college and talk about their current live and then suddenly, Surekha scratches a bigger car. "On a basic level, it's about living a life of commute. It explores the themes of friendship and city life, which we all can relate to irrespective of which city we're living in," Tanksale, who will also be acting in the play along with Ishita Sharma and Ajitesh Gupta, says.

Shivani Tanksale and Michaela Talwar
Shivani Tanksale and Michaela Talwar

The skit was originally written as a radio play by Zaidi, and adapted for stage by Tanksale. "It requi­red understanding what parts were suited for radio, and which were better suited for visual. But Annie wrote it so well that there were hardly any changes," the director shares. While the other two characters play the role of the friends, Gupta is an RJ who sits in the backseat and is characterised according to the audience's perspective.

A unique aspect to the production is the use of sand art — a technique where animation is created using sand. So, not only do you see actors stuck in a car, you'll also see animation being projected on the windshield. "It took me about two months to create the animation. Here, 24 drawings amount to one second of animation, so for this play there are thousands totalling 15 to 20 minutes," says Debjani Mukherjee, who has been working with the art form for the past eight years, adding that the animations have been pre-recorded.

Debjani Mukherjee is a sand animation artist
Debjani Mukherjee is a sand animation artist

The use of these projections is not solely restricted to the flashbacks the characters are having; it shows up unexpectedly. "I initially feared that the multimedia would feel too gimmicky. But we did a lot of test shows with friends and family who responded saying that the animation wasn't jarring in any way," Tanksale shares. Another challenge, for Michaela Talwar, the producer of JAM, was the pacing. She says, "The timings needed work with the sand art. The play has a lot of subliminal messages so we had to decide if certain scenes and conversations would emerge suddenly or fade out gradually." As for the underlying message of the production, Talwar sums it up as not trying to run away from the past. "We can't let go of the past; it will always keep haunting us."

On: July 21, 8 pm (Si Bambai); July 27, 7.30 pm (Harkat Studios); July 28, 5 pm and 7 pm (The Cuckoo Club)
At: Si Bambai, Mumbai Samachar Marg, Fort; Harkat Studios, Versova, Andheri West; The Cuckoo Club, St Andrews Road, Bandra West.
Log on to: bookmyshow.com (Si Bambai); insider.in (Harkat and The Cuckoo Club)
Cost: Rs 350; Rs 300, Rs 349

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