Sunil Shanbag incorporates art, activism while detailing Indian poetry

Jul 10, 2018, 16:32 IST | Dalreen Ramos

Trying to write without observation, is a dead end and Sunil Shanbag's contemporary performance piece, Blank Page, aims to take the act of creativity a step further

Sunil Shanbag incorporates art, activism while detailing Indian poetry
A scene from Blank Page a spoken word performance woven with music and theatre

What do birdwatchers and poets share in common? That's a strange question, perhaps. But in 1965, Nissim Ezekiel wrote otherwise. "To force the pace and never to be still Is not the way of those who study birds..."

"Observation," theatre director Sunil Shanbag is quick to answer the question. It is 2018, and the co-founder of Tamaasha still draws from Ezekiel's allegory. In Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher, Ezekiel explores how elusive words can be. Trying to write without observation, is a dead end and Shanbag's contemporary performance piece, Blank Page, aims to take the act of creativity a step further.

Sapan Saran
Sapan Saran

"A lot of people feel that poetry is not very accessible. Our goal is to change that," Shanbag says. The piece was first performed in 2015 and has since travelled across the country. Owing to its name, it has very little and everything to do with emptiness or an absence. It gives form to the work of contemporary Indian poets through theatre, music and movement — uncovering four main themes — conflicted relationships, women in poetry, the art of writing poetry and the act of writing itself (where birdwatching is a highly desirable skill).

A scene from Blank Page — a spoken word performance woven with music and theatre
A scene from Blank Page — a spoken word performance woven with music and theatre

With eight artistes from all three fields, the ensemble will attempt to interpret the works of Arundhati Subramanium, Adil Jussawala, Taslima Nasrin and Nissim Ezekiel, among others, in an hour-long set. The piece is composed by musician Rohit Das and choreographed by independent movement practitioner, Maithily Bhupatkar.

Sapan Saran, poet and founding member of Tamaasha, will also be performing an original piece at the event. "We go whenever there is a calling. It takes close to the nothing for us to go out there and perform," Saran says. The relevance of the spoken word comes through in the context of social understanding and ideological observations. For Saran, the piece, with its concentration on four important themes, is more nuanced. "It is simply the choices we make as poets. You have to decide if you want to let your work be just another poem," she explains.

Sunil Shanbag
Sunil Shanbag

With the booming spoken-word circuit in the city, what sets Blank Page apart is its non-instructional standpoint, maintains Shanbag. "Poetry shouldn't be anything but inspirational. Sometimes we go through life without an active realisation of what is happening. It is only when we see people performing that we either relate to it or make sense of things," he adds.

On: July 15, 7 pm
At: Studio Tamaasha, Aram Nagar II, Andheri West.
Log on to: bookmyshow.com
Cost Rs 300

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