The curtain rises

Nov 01, 2018, 07:39 IST | Snigdha Hasan

As the mecca for theatre in Mumbai turns 40, artistes and Prithvi regulars share what they are looking forward to at the annual festival that brings to the audience a revived classic, fringe theatre and new venue partnerships

The curtain rises
A scene from The Truth

In a city where space is at a premium, only few look at a piece of land as a possible sanctuary for the arts. Forty years after Shashi Kapoor ploughed money into a plot in Juhu to keep his father's legacy and love for the performing arts alive, the aptly named Prithvi Theatre has thrived, even as the world around it continues to be cast in the glass-and-steel mould of skyscrapers.

A witness to its evolution is the annual Prithvi Festival, which has been a platform for new plays, fringe theatre and talks on stagecraft. This year, the celebrations that mark the venue's 40th anniversary are special. They begin with a bang on November 3, the 112th birth anniversary of Prithviraj Kapoor, with the revival of his play, Deewar. From conversations with veteran and contemporary thespians including Mohan Agashe and Kalki Koechlin, to the finale, where Argentine composers will be in sync with the Symphony Orchestra of India, there is much to look forward to.
Here's our must-watch list, hand-picked by theatre artistes and Prithvi regulars:

From: November 4 to 12
At: Prithvi Theatre and Prithvi House, Juhu; Royal Opera House, Girgaum; G5A, Mahalaxmi.
Log on to: bookmyshow.com
Call: 26149546

From the house of Motley

After the critically acclaimed production, The Father, which had month-long runs in venues across the city, another Florian Zeller play that will premiere at the festival is The Truth. Directed by Ratna Pathak Shah, with Naseeruddin Shah, Meher Mistry and Shruti Vyas in the lead, the play portrays complex modern-day relationships that appear to be on shaky ground and yet, manage to find their feet. The Truth, like The Father, has been translated from French by Christopher Hampton.

With a formidable team, the play is on the list of most theatre lovers we spoke to — Patel is planning to catch the premiere, while actor and literature student Vara Raturi will be watching a show too.

Shernaz Patel, Theatre director and actor

Shernaz Patel

"All the plays seem quite different from each other, which is what you want from a festival. There is enough for not just a 'Prithvi goer' but a general theatre goer, too"

Sukant Goel, Theatre artiste

Sukant Goel

"It's an overwhelming feeling when you think of the number of artistes who have embraced its stage in these years, and that a privately run institution has managed to thrive in the city and maintain its reputation for decades."

Vara Raturi, Actor and student

Vara Raturi

"I watched a Motley production at Prithvi on my first day in Mumbai last year and instantly fell in love with the place. Creativity is in the air, the people are talented and the shows are amazing to watch on its arena-style stage."

Multicultural drama

A-scene-from-Arabian-Night
A scene from Arabian Night

A performance that theatre artiste Sukant Goel recommends is the dramatised reading, Arabian Night, directed by Sapan Saran. "It's a brilliant script and with Sapan's direction, it takes an interesting form," he says about the play where individuals from the East and West cross paths. He also plans to watch Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, which is also on Raturi's list. "There's something about the theatre of the Absurd that stirs something in me, right from the moment I read Waiting for Godot and Camus's essays. The inclination makes me excited for Rhinoceros, which is written by the great absurdist writer Ionesco, and is being directed by Gagan Dev Riar," she says.

Tales from the pavement

Rupali Rahul, Piyush Chitransh and Tarun Shukla in a scene from the Footpath
Rupali Rahul, Piyush Chitransh and Tarun Shukla in a scene from the Footpath

The festival's line-up of experimental plays, apart from Deewar, is what Goel is looking forward to watching. "I will be catching a show of Divya Jagdale's Footpath. I have watched The Way I See It and Toxic, which she has directed or acted in. And I enjoy Divya's madness," he says. Footpath is a conversation between an elderly man who loses his job as a watchman in a housing society, a young auto driver, and a young prostitute. With their own takes on life, the conversation that takes place on a footpath spans history, politics and morality, as day gives way to night.

Back to the beginning

A scene from Deewar
A scene from Deewar 

A play that theatre actor and director Shernaz Patel has marked her calendar for is Deewar. Revived after more than 70 years, the new version of the play written by Prithviraj Kapoor has been directed by Sunil Shanbag and includes Sudhir Pande, Trishla Patel, Kalyanee Mulay, Raghav Dutt and Abhinav Grover in the cast. "What's special is that Deewar, the opening play of the festival, will be staged at the Royal Opera House where it premiered in 1945. So, it's a reminder of where it all began and gives you an idea of the history of Prithvi Theatre," she says. Patel is also looking forward to watching the fringe theatre productions.

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