Monday, 24 January 2011

Hyderabad theatre gets global focus

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad theatre is now under global focus. Backed by a hoary history of staging many of  the country's best theatrical plays, theatre in Hyderabad has finally attracted  international attention with world class theatre directors expressing interest in "theatre exchange" with this city of nobles.
Hyderabad has always been famous for its theatrical plays - satirical, serious,  mythology, fantasy, musicals, puppetry, mime, monologues, and those with a strong social  message. If its comedy never failed to tickle the funny bone, its social satirical left a  lasting impression on the minds of the audience. The famous Adrak ke panje by Bobban  Khan, which went on to create a world record, successfully spread the message of family 
planning through humour. The Surabhi group made a mark of its own on the mythological and social theatre.
Doyen of the Hyderabadi Urdu/Hindustani theatre Qadir Ali Baig gave a new direction to  the Hindustani/Urdu stage. Though the Hyderabadi Hindi and Telugu theatre continued to  play a dominant role, the Hindustani theatre fell on bad days. It is now back with a bang  after its revival five years ago by Mohammad Ali Baig, who founded the Qadir Ali Baig  Theatre Foundation. And now comes the much needed global recognition.
From free entry passes to tickets priced as high as Rs 5000, Hyderabad theatre has come a  long way. That the city's new generation of theatre lovers have welcomed the change can  be gauged from the fact that whenever a play is staged, long queues are witnessed outside  the venue. No wonder then, many international theatre directors want collaboration with  the city theatre.
Says Mohammad Ali Baig, "we have now got international collaborations with leading  European theatre heavyweights for different genre of theatre development in Hyderabad".  The international collaboration spreads across a variety of genre, from mime and puppet  theatre to circus theatre with UK’s world-famous Footsbarn Theatre, France’s Puppet  Theatre de Guignol. European stalwarts Ariane Mnouchkine, Peter Brook and Phillipe  Genty’s theatre companies in Paris will hold a series of workshops and exchange 
programmes for Hyderabad.
British director Paddy Hayter of the world-famous circus theatre company Footsbarn  Theatre and his American-actress wife, Frederica Hayter, will tour the city to conduct  exclusive workshops on techniques of circus and mime movements.
“Having brought in the vibrancy, now is the time to take city’s theatre to the next  level”, adds Mohammad Ali Baig.
Tracing the history of theatre, Prof Mohan Maharishi, former chairman and director of  National School of Drama, points out post-independence, our country produced stalwarts in  Indian theatre like Prithviraj Kapoor in Mumbai in the 1950s, E Alkazi in Delhi in the  1960s, Badal Sircar in Kolkatta and Qadir Ali Baig in Hyderabad in 1970s. "These towering  stalwarts were crowd-pullers. They introduced modern Indian and Western playwrights in  their adaptation for Indian audiences and carried the mantle of serious theatre on their 
shoulders in their respective regions”.
Telugu, Hindustani, Hindi and English theatres co-exist in the most friendliest of terms  in Hyderabad. Telugu theatre had the Surabhi group and Bhoomika performing to both rural and urban audiences. Late AR Krishna presented Telugu theatre in the modern format to the Hyderabadi audience. Late Prof Isaac Sequeria contributed his bit with English theatre group Dramatic Circle. The Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation has been staging Hindustani and English plays with talent from Mumbai and other areas.
On the forefront of Hindi and English theatre are Sutradhar, Rangadhara, Dramatic Circle  of Hyderabad, Nishumbita, Udaan, Avartan, and Sifar. These groups have groomed the local  Hyderabadi talent for their plays and have successfully brought the Hyderabadi theatre  within the reach of the common man.
Commenting on the ever increasing craze among Hyderabadis for the theatre, Mumbai English  stage's senior actor Sharon Prabhakar says, "people shelling out Rs 5000 to see serious  theatre was a dream”. Nods theatre veteran Alyque Padamasee,  "of late, it is a privilege  performing in Hyderabad. A thousand plus audience to watch a non-bedroom-comedy is amazing”.
Hyderabad had in recent times witnessed the acclaimed performance of senior actors  including Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher, Mohan Agashe and Rohini Hattangady.
The Hyderabad theatre has also exploited the city's historical places to take people to  the bygone era of the city's rulers. A unique genre of ‘Heritage Theatre’ has now taken  birth in the city. The 250-year old Taramati Baradari came alive with the staging of the spectacle "Taramati - The Legend of an Artist". It was a journey to the regime of the Hyderabadi kings as the play presented atop the monument live horses, camels, siddi 
drummers and chorus dancers.

Hyderabad theatre nurtures local talent
Hyderabad theatre is unique in the sense that it nurtures the local talent along side with the established national and international actors. Theatre groups in the city have been promoting local artistes, right from identifying the local talent to imparting them with the best of training, and finally providing them the platform to exhibit the artiste in them.
City theatre groups like Sutradhar, Rangadhara, Dramatic Circles of Hyderabad, Nishumbita, Udaan, Avartan, Sifar, Surabhi and Bhoomika have been concentrating mainly on the local talent. The Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation, on the other hand, has been bringing in national actors including Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher and Shabana Azmi for its plays.
"We are a pure Hyderabadi theatre group in the sense that our group is Hyderabadi and our actors are Hyderabadi. All our talent is locally sourced and we fine tune them. Hyderabadi theatre has been vibrant all through its history, attracting the attention of theatre lovers far and wide," observes Vinay Varma, director of Sutradhar.
Scores of quality actors have been trained by city theatre groups and some of them are big names in the fields of acting, dubbing, production and direction, even for films and television.
"For us acting is not only a means to manifest one’s latent talent, but is also a tool in recreating one’s personality and to make good human beings out of individuals. All of us owe something to society. Our firm conviction is that one can become a better actor if he/she becomes a good human being," adds Vinay Varma elaborating how the Hyderabadi theatre has a human element in it.

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