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A new look at literature through plays at Mumbai Lit festival

Tata Literature

Mumbai : A line up of eight plays is set to add a theatrical flourish to the Tata Literature Live! Festival, the city’s popular literary festival, which begins here today.

In its sixth edition, the jamboree that is hosting celebrated names such as Nayantara Sahgal, Vikram Seth, Kiran Nagarkar, feminist Germaine Greer among 125 writers is also aiming to offer a new look at literature through theatre from across the world.

“We have a couple of things that are very cool,” says Quasar Padamsee who has curated the eight productions that will be performed across two venues the National Centre of Performing Arts (NCPA) and the Prithvi theatre.

“The plays are all linked in some way to literature, to a book or a genre of fiction,” says Padamsee.

One of the first dramas to be performed is Schlock! a satire written and performed by Hannah Silva, a poet, playwright and performer known for her innovative explorations of form, voice and language in performance.

Schlock!┬áis in response to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” and explores the premiered at the Aldeburgh poetry festival and is performed using British sign language, soundscapes and poetry.

“Comedy of horrors” presents the directorial debut of Vivaan Shah for his father Naseeruddin Shah’s theatre group Motley.

Using elements like vaudeville, puppetry and mime, the drama stitches together three stories from the masters of the horror literary genre Edgar Allen Poe and Ambrose Bierce.

“We tend to take take horror as paranormal or filled with dead ghosts but Vivaan has reimagined this wonderful world of horror without all these elements. He goes back to the 19th century to the masters of horror, Poe and Bierce”, Shah says.

Another play “Blank Page” celebrates contemporary Indian poetry through theatre, music and movement. Poems written in English, Hindi, Marathi, and Kashmiri by contemporary Indian poets are interpreted by a group of performers.

Directed by Sunil Shanbag, it explores themes such as conflicted relationships, political resistance, identity, and the intense act of writing itself.

“ILA” has been inspired by Devdutt Pattnaik’s mythological story in “The Pregnant King”. The play mainly in Hindi and set in the ladies compartment of a Mumbai local train tells the story of a king who is cursed to spend half the month as a man and half as a woman.

In “Sea Sick” Canadian science journalist and author, Alanna Mitchell is set to take the audience through her award winning non-fiction book of the same name about the state of the world’s oceans and how humans are altering its chemistry.

In the solo performance, Mitchell uses science and her own delicate wit to enact her journey to the bottom of the ocean, the demons she discovered there, and her hope for the future.

Part lecture, part performance, the play has been called “life changing”, “rivetting” and even “thrilling”.

“There is a breathtaking piece of work by Astad Deboo,” says Padamsee.

Deboo uses Pung drummers from Manipur and the Manipuri martial art dancers create a work of delicate and lyrical beauty in “The River Runs Deep: Rhythm Divine II” which draws inspiration from the work of Manipuri poet Saratchand Thiyam.

“‘When It Rains’ takes the form of a graphic novel on stage and is performed by the 2b theatre company,” says Padamsee.

The award-winning and internationally acclaimed production from Canada in the form of a live-action existential graphic novel is a dark comic social satire with a visually arresting theatrical illusion.

“Storm Still” blends literature, music and theatre in a reinterpretation of Peter Handke’s famous work, “Immer Noch Sturm,” a play about the Slovenian uprising against Hitler in 1945, where the past and the future collide in the present.

Created and performed by actor, Tanaji Dasgupta, and musician, Varun Kishore, the 70-minute production is presented by the Kolkata unit of the Goethe-Institut.

“Some of the plays are elaborate and technical while others are simple but what is common among them is that they are all connected to literature in one way or the other, either the literary genre or style or maybe adapted from a book,” says Padamsee.

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