Chants of Tibet

Sep 09, 2012, 10:58 IST | Ayesha Nair

So Many Socks, Quasar Thakore Padamsee's latest play, touches upon the personal side of the Tibetan freedom struggle

Quasar Thakore Padamsee, known in the theatre circuit simply as Q, has brought to stage what could possibly be a thought-provoking, moving play.

Loosely based on Tibetan activist Tenzin Tsundue’s book Kora (Circumambulate), Q Theatre Productions’ So Many Socks is about three generations of a Tibetan family in search of home and mostly their identity. 

Courtesy/ Ameet Mallapur

For Padamsee, however, it was not theatre at first sight, so to speak. He met Tsundue nearly 15 years ago when the latter did a platform performance at the Prithvi Festival. However, it was only a few years ago when Tsundue published Kora that Padamsee was intrigued. He says, “I browsed through Kora and it was fun because I had known him for so many years and there was a connection. It was also the time when I was mulling over the idea of words not being enough. I found his work was an interesting starting point.”

Those familiar with Padamsee’s work would know that this concept of ‘words not being enough’ is a departure from his usual style of text-centric plays. So Many Socks is a movement-based piece with contemporary dance taking centrestage supported by musician-actor Suhaas Ahuja’s melodies. Padamsee says, “I got lucky to have worked with people from different forms. I am tone deaf and cannot move to save my life. If the cast wants to be entertained they watch me do a warm up! When I work with performers who possess skills different from mine, the rules of how we approach the piece change, how we tell the story also changes. It’s fun and organic but makes me very nervous.”

Written by author and playwright Annie Zaidi, So Many Socks derives its rather quirky name from a children’s fable within the play. Padamsee says, “We are still partial to the name Kora but it’s not fair to use that title. With a devised performance you pick a name at the start of rehearsals and by the fourth week it’s something else.”

So Many Socks’ cast includes Padma Damodaran, Abhishek Saha, Siddhant Karnick and Vinati Makhijany, among others. They are either trained in contemporary dance, bharatnatyam, kathak or capoeira. Damodaran, an actor and bharatnatyam dancer, talks about what struck her most about the Tibetan freedom struggle. She says, “There is a struggle within themselves. Being Buddhist, they are non-violent, so there is no way to take their anger and violence out on others and hence they take it out on themselves. Recently Tibet saw its 51st self-immolation in this year itself.”

Padamsee, however, insists that the play is not political but a personal journey. “It’s about people based in a political scenario. It explores hardships, sense of identity and how you express yourself. It ends on a relatively positive note.”

Who is Tenzin Tsundue?
Tenzin Tsundue is an award-winning writer, poet and Tibetan activist living in exile in India. His parents were road labourers but he educated himself in Chennai and Mumbai and went ahead to write three books and many poems. He became a champion of the freedom movement when in 2002 he climbed the scaffolding of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji’s hotel in Mumbai and unfurled the Tibet flag with a strongly worded banner that read ‘Free Tibet: China, Get Out’. Two years later during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Bangalore, Tsundue climbed a 200-foot tower and hung a Free Tibet banner. Apart from his undying affiliation to the cause, his trademark is a red band tied across his forehead, which, he claims, he will untie only when Tibet is freed.
On: September 9, 5 and 8 pm
At: Prithvi Theatre, Juhu 

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