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October 31, 2017

A Night To Remember: When 10 Directors Put Up 10 Plays Within 36 Hours

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

36 Ghante – the one-night theatrical event in Mumbai – celebrated Rage’s 25 years as a host of talents took centre stage one inspired evening

It was a night theatre lovers will remember for a long time to come. A celebration of a landmark for a theatre production house – the evening raised a toast to Rage’s completion of a successful 25 years in drama.

So, to a packed house at Tata Theatre, Rage, in association with NCPA, presented 10 ‘playlets’ – each of 10 minutes’ duration – on Friday. This was the second time that Rage’s founding trio of Rajit Kapur, Rahul daCunha and Shernaz Patel attempted this feat – it was no wonder then that they, with the theatre community and its aficionados, were excited about the endeavour.

What made all this so special? It was primarily, the mind-boggling logistics of the event – where each play could be likened to a blind date – a theatrical gamble of sorts.

And this is how it went. Ten playwrights were called on Wednesday evening (two days before the actual performances) by Rage – five creative minds would write in Hindi and five in English. They were given a theme – Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan, for which they had to deliver a ten-minute script by next evening. They could pen it in any genre – the only condition stipulated by Rage was that the play had to have two male and two female protagonists.

On Thursday at 6 pm, ten directors blindly chose one script each – the scripts had been put in envelopes with no names or identification. Simultaneously, the names of 40 actors – 20 male and 20 female had been put on chits and the directors also chose their cast blindly, almost like a lottery. Once the casting was done, the actors were sent their scripts.

Rehearsals started early on D-day, at 8 am.  It was a one-night-only event – naturally, for no encores could be written into this format. After all, everything was done literally, well almost, on the spur of the moment. It called for intense effort, dedication and practice, and, of course, a commitment to theatre, for all the talents came on board gratis for the same. And this was because the monies raised from the evening were used to honour those who have given their lives to theatre, and a few who are taking the baton ahead. (See below for the list of people honoured.)

The ten plays (See below for the line-up and the talents behind each) touched upon different aspects of Mumbai. They were on point as far as the city went – tapping into its essential, often existential nature, the calamities it has witnessed – floods, bridge collapses, terrorism and more – and last but not the least, the spirit of Mumbai. If I were asked to pick a favourite, I would find it difficult to choose, although I must say that Sonali Kulkarni’s rendition of a flower lady under Dadar bridge was extremely poignant, referring as it did to the recent tragedy at Elphinstone station’s foot-over-bridge.

A day after the exhilarating – and I am sure exhausting – event, I spoke to Rahul daCunha about the entire exercise. The talented writer, ad man and theatre personality said, “It was completely Shernaz’s idea. It was based on a foreign concept, which we adapted to suit us – but in the big picture, we wanted a grand way to celebrate our 25th year. And we did this by bringing together the finest actors, playwrights and directors under one roof. We also wanted to give back to people who have contributed to our success and to theatre in general.”

Admitting that it was a gamble that stretched the bounds of creativity, daCunha opined, “It was also a challenge to the best in the business to come up with good scripts under pressure, directors to add their vision and the best actors to deliver – and boy, they did!”

In the interval, he jokingly asked if members of the audience had gone out to get refunds on their tickets. It was unthinkable, for the audience had not moved from their seats – except to grab a bite. In fact, as he later said, “Everyone – the performers, and creators and audiences – was totally blown! I think we may do this once a year for sure, though it takes a lot of work to get everyone together.”

The audience was loath to let them go without repeated curtain calls and are now waiting for an encore. Hopefully, next year.

The Line-Up

  • The Crooked Couple by Adhir Bhat. Director: Quasar Thakore Padamsee. Cast: Karla Singh, Kunaal Roy Kapoor, Aseem Hattangady, Prerna Chawla
  • Aao Chalein by Raghav Dutt. Director: Shubhrajyoti Barat. Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Ayesha Raza, Amruta Subhash, Ajitesh Gupta
  • Samuel by Abhishek Majumdar. Director: Faezeh Jalali. Cast: Sohrab Ardeshir, Trishla Patel, Neil Bhoopalam, Abir Abrar
  • Bombaychya Raja by Ramu Ramanathan. Director: Sheena Khalid. Cast: Divya Jagdale, Ashwin Mushran, Shikha Talsania, Karan Pandit
  • Mumbai Meri Jaan Legi Kya? by Nipun Dharmadhikari. Director: Danish Husain Cast: Sumeet Vyas, Mansi Multani, Sahil Vaid, Aahana Kumra
  • Cheap And Besht by Rajat Kapoor. Director: Nadir Khan Cast: Anahita Uberoi, Zafar Karachiwala, Meher Mistry, Amol Parashar
  • Under The Dadar Bridge by Ashok Mishra. Director: Mohit Takalkar. Cast: Sonali Kulkarni, Sarang Sathye, Lovleen Mishra, Gagan Dev Riar
  • Charity Begins At Home by Siddharth Kumar. Director: Atul Kumar. Cast: Ranvir Shorey, Suchitra Pillai, Shishir Sharma, Malaika Chaudhury
  • Zarr by Hussain Dalal. Director: KK Raina. Cast: Ila Arun, Sadiya Siddiqui, Chaitanya Sharma, Prince Kanwal
  • Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan by Saurabh Shukla. Director: Sunil Shanbag. Cast: Raajeshwari Sachdev, Puja Sarup, Anand Tiwari, Priyanshu Painyuli

List of Honorees

  • Neeta Daru: Licensing + Ticketing + Censorship
  • Tarkeshwar Tiwari: Security at Prithvi Theatre
  • Madhukar Khodke: Lighting Technician at NCPA
  • Nandkumar Wadke: Make-Up
  • Manssaram Nirmal: Ironing Man
  • Manhar Gadhia: Media
  • Joy Shows Footwear: Co-sponsor Support
  • Shaili Sathyu (Gillo Repertory): Children’s Theatre
  • Thespo (QTP Productions): Thespo and The Youth Theatre Movement
  • Jehan Manekshaw (Drama School): Training the Future Through The Drama School

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