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The Veenapani festival returns for a third chapter with a conflux of cultures and provocative arguments

IN A CANDID interview to a daily, Veenapani Chawla once said, “Straightforward interpretations do not interest me. It’s all things hybrid that define the pluralistic society of South Asia. It’s celebratory to not be purists.” Taking that idea forward, her brainchild, Adishakti Theatre has come a long way since its inception in 1981, having become a space for freethinking individuals to explore their artistic inclinations. As the community gears up for the third edition of the Veenapani Festival, their artistic director Vinay Kumar finds himself unable to pick a favourite from the 13 shows lined up over the next four weeks. He says, “Art will pose questions, sometimes without providing answers. But it will provoke you to think. Our shows stick to this train of thought.” In the works for over an year now, this edition marks the first time they have crowdfunded resources, having gathered around `5 lakh through contributions. “We are trying to mould the festival in such a way that we can pick at least two concepts every year and fund and train those productions,” adds Vinay.  Advanced from their usual April slot, the month-long celebration will see stalwarts and amateurs alike bring their art to the famed stage of Adishakti. As the proceedings kickstart today, we bring you three shows that you can’t afford to miss this year.

Music sans borders
Keeping with Adishakti’s love for a story, here are four storytellers who’ve come together to weave tales with their music. The Sage for the Ages, the band comprising of Bangladeshi guitarist Kaartik, drummer Towfiq Arifin Turjo and vocalist Kirtana Krishna, joined hands with bassist Alistair Sarkar Raj in 2015 to form Kaartikz Ensemble, and have been creating ripples in the indie music scene ever since. Telling us what to expect at Adishakti, Kirtana says, “You will find contemporary renditions of traditional Bengali music along with jazz and neo-soul numbers by Kaartik, while my original compositions will be a part of the performance by The Sage for the Ages ,” says Kirtana. Talking about the difference in music across borders, she points out, “Film music hasn’t taken over the entire scene in Bangladesh. Independent music has it’s own place and its respect.” The outfit heads to Bengaluru for more gigs and promises an album soon.

A close shave
When LGBT activist and filmmaker Nishit Saran’s piece, Why My Bedroom Habits Are Your Business (a direct attack on Section 377), appeared in a national daily back in 2000, one of the many influenced was choreographer Mandeep Raikhy. Inspired, he went on to create Queen Size, an intimate piece performed on a charpoy by two men — Lalit Khatana and Parinay Mehra. “As the nature of problems in dealing with this oppressive section changes, the structure and nature of performance has evolved. At every show, I invite specific people just to get a fresh pair of eyes for a different perspective,” says Man-deep, as he explains how this effort has brought him closer to queer movements across the country. The two-and-a-half hour performance, with its bold content and unabashed cast, poses questions about spectatorship, privacy and dissent and promises some provocative watching.

Hitting a high note
“Travel, perform, rinse, repeat,” says singer-actor MD Pallavi, about her schedule in the run up to her show, C Sharp C Blunt. Conceptu-alised in 2013, the play revolves around Shilpa, an interactive app that behaves exactly the way women are supposed to behave in the eyes of men; that is, until its next update is released. “The premise hasn’t changed, but our content is constantly changing. We are trying to make the skit as interactive and funny as possible while exploring technology’s impact on the psyche of the audience,” adds Pallavi. Co-written along with Sophia Stepf from Germany, this humorous performance by Pallavi has been staged over 65 times in several countries.

Entry free. February 3-26.Details: 0413 2622287
—Lavanya Lakshminarayanan

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