मैं आगाज़ के बाकी बच्चो के साथ जून के महीने में DPS, श्रीनगर में एक Theatre Workshop co-facilitate करने गया था | मैंने वहा पर बहुत सारी बातें सीखी पर सबसे अच्छे से सिखा और समझा के लोगो की सोच उनकी शक्ति होती है मैंने यह भी जाना के मै अपनी आज़ादी को अच्छे तरह से इस्तेमाल नहीं करता हूँ | अपने उम्र के और छोटे बच्चो के साथ काम करके और Facilitation करके मैंने यह नया सिखा की हर तरह की सोच को साथ लेकर चलना आसान नहीं होता है | पाँच-छ दिन साथ में Theatre करने के बाद वहाँ के बच्चों ने मुझे कुछ ख़ास बातें बताई जो मेरे दिल को छू गयी |
हम जून महीने के अंत में कोलकाता में हमारे नाटक ‘रावण आया’ के shows करने गए थे | मेरा role वानरों के तीसरे leader का था | कोलकाता में हमने चार shows किये थे | मुझे बहुत अच्छा लगा, उसका एक reason है | मेरी acting काफी improve हुई उधर, नवीन sir ने काफी मदद करी | मैं अपनी acting के बारे में छोटी छोटी बातों का ध्यान रखने लग गयी थी | ऐसा पहली बार हुआ के बार ईद हम सब ने घर से बाहर मनाई | वैसे तो हम सब आगाज़ के दोस्त ज्यादातर साथ में ही ईद मनाते थे निजामुद्दीन में पर कोलकाता में भी अच्छी बीती, बिलकुल अलग experience था |
‘रावण आया’ अब हमारे group का हिस्सा है और किसी भी चीज़ की जितनी भी बार करते है हर बार नयी-नयी चीज़ें सामने आती है और हमने उसके चलते improvement आता है | मुझे life में हमेशा theatre करना है और ‘रावण आया’ अब उसका part hai तो वो भी आगे करते रहना चाहती हूँ |
Think Arts and Jhalaphala reached out to us in the month of May to take Raavan Aaya to Kolkata. Raavan Aaya was the opening proscenium play at Jhalaphala’s annual theatre festival for young audiences, Ikir Mikir, supported by Think Arts. We also performed at Mahadevi Birla World Academy and New Town School to middle and high school going audiences. The fourth show was at Swabhav, for a group of theatre practitioners from various grassroot level theatre groups from West Bengal, Delhi/NCR and Jaipur.
We were in two minds when the invitation came in, as we already had plans of traveling to Srinagar during Ramzaan, and knew that we would be pushing the families of the actors by asking them to let their children travel during Eid. We are still a bit taken aback by how little the families resisted to this idea. Two days after the Ballabgarh lynching, we unfortunately had to wish each other Eid Mubarak in hushed tones as we made our way to the City of Joy. Most of the festive day was spent looking ruefully at the glitter and festive glow through our windows as we passed many a small village and town in Bihar and West Bengal.
16 of the cast members, and Anirban, Sanyukta and Naveen (from Third Space Collective) split into two groups at the nostalgia inducing Howrah railway Station, to find our way to homes generously opened up for us by relatives in Jadavpur and Salt Lake City. With 24 hours of travel for the third time in a span of three weeks, the evening had to be spent celebrating Eid, in all sorts of gorgeous finery we assembled at Azad Hind in Ballygunge to fill ourselves up with Biryani, and fill ourselves up we did. Calling it an early night, content with laughter, friendships and amazing food, we prepared for the marathon performances beginning the next day.
We had realized that traveling and coordinating between the two houses that were hosting us was going to be a challenge, what with all the props and costumes we were constantly lugging around. An adventure began on the 27th of June with the show in Gyan manch and the preparations that preceded. The setting up included Neel, the director of Raavan Aaya, on a video call, to check out the light design. Hail modern technology! After the big evening with many familiar faces in the audience (included Neel’s father!), we feasted on famed Kolkata egg rolls. The two shows the next morning were scheduled at schools at opposite ends of the city, and we made it through the humid day, full of anticipation and activity, inspired by the insightful questions and comments that came our way from the students.
The last morning in the city we packed all our bags and headed to Rash Behari Avenue to meet our friends – Vartika and Ankur at Swabhav. The plan was to spend the morning sharing with each other about our practice, and then explore Gariahat before boarding our train back to Delhi from Sealdah station. As we reached the beautiful, old house that is now Swabhav’s nest for the gorgeous work they do, we decided that we could actually perform Raavan Aaya, for all the participants of the playwriting workshop that was in progress. It was a very different experience performing for an audience comprising of just theatre practitioners. It was also exciting using the house and its elements for the piece.
The performance was much appreciated and led to conversations about the role of theatre in society, for it to change. We shared our perspective of beginning by understanding and developing the self for the its connection with society to become tangible, so that change is tangible. Listening to narratives of theatre groups working with labour movements, and villages, made us reflect on our own practice in the urban landscape of Delhi. Bittersweet conversations led to consuming melt-in-the-mouth rosogollas, a walk in the rain through the streets of Gariahat and a mad sprint to the station.
While it’s lovely having our feet rooted in Delhi for a while as we work on our next production and the many big plans for Aagaaz, the travel bug has definitely bitten us, and we are holding our breaths for the next opportunity that comes by.
What became a gorgeous workshop and performance in Srinagar in the 2nd and 3rd week of June, began with a chance meeting with Sunanda Dhar while Anirban and Sanyukta were traveling through Rajasthan in December 2016. Sunanda and her family have been working tirelessly into creating a space full of music, drama, visual arts, and stories for the DPS Srinagar community. She has been single handedly creating the Special Education Department in the school. A few more meetings in Delhi and we knew we were traveling to the valley for a couple of week with many of the young Aagaaz members for a Duniya Sabki workshop.
When Sanyukta started working with the group it was difficult to get the children to come in for workshops regularly. From there to now traveling together as a group for most of Ramzaan and Eid (for shows in Kolkata) in the month of Ramzaan was a big ask! It was heartwarming to feel the trust we have developed with the families of the core group. There were many tears shed as we embarked on our journey. For the families it was a leap of faith to send their children to Srinagar (at a time when the media is rife with unfavourable news from the valley) for so many days. We were in a train, together, for the first time. It was also the first time ever that Zainab had boarded a train. Made me think about the many things we take for granted in terms of children’s experiences – there have been so many references to train journeys made in the last few years, without having realised that some have never actually experienced one.
After Udhampur what followed of course was new to most of the group. We were traveling through an absolutely unknown terrain to our destination, and I have to day that I am in shock at the negligible number of episodes of altitude sickness (yes, I am using a euphemism here). It is also surprising (yes, after all these years I am still surprised at the magic of drama – each time!) how easily the first day of the workshop created an absolutely equal space between the participants from DPS and the Aagaaz members. The workshop was facilitated in two batches by Sanyukta and Priiya and 6 of the Aagaaz members were co-leading with each group. Nishant and Devika were to observe the workshops, and Anirban spent the first 3 days of the workshop with us to help with sound design.
After traveling for more than 24 hours we reached Srinagar amidst rain and and cold winds on the evening of the 8th. Even as we settled into our dormitories and rooms and sipped on chai, we were informed that the next day (also the first day of our workshop), a bandh had been declared in Kashmir. We were unsure about the number of participants attending, and planned with a lot of space to be spontaneous.
The next morning, as is always, there was much awkwardness in the space before we began the workshop. We had decided to do away with formal introductions and just played. By the time we wrapped up the session and sat down to reflect, we realised that the space had automatically transformed into one of play, genuine curiosity and friendships. The next few days were spent working on voice, body and exploring the theme of Duniya Sabki. Friendships deepened as the participants and facilitators exchanged stories through images of feeling disconnected from the world they live in. We were surprised at how little we expected themes like bullying, falling in love, trouble with parents, feeling unheard, and struggles with academics to feature during the workshops.
On the second last day, we performed 2 shows for students and a show for parents in a span of two and a half hours. From Safdar’s words about the world either belonging to everyone, or not belonging to anyone, we moved into narratives about transgenders, bodies that are differently abled, falling and failing in love, depression and suicide, bullying, nepotism, and the relationship between gender, state and the military. To riveted audiences children from Nizamuddin Basti and DPS Srinagar performed with their energies absolutely in sync to tell stories to change, ACTing to change.
मैं कटकथा में एक workshop के लिए गया था जहाँ पर मैने Bunraku Puppets के बारे में सीखा| इन puppets को चलाने के लिए 3 लोगों की ज़रूरत पड़ती है| मुझे यह भी पता चला के इन को अख़बार से कैसे बनाया जाता है| क्या आपको पता है के एक puppet के लिए 7 अख़बार की ज़रूरत पड़ती है?
इस workshop के दौरान puppeteer के शरीर के बारे में मुझे बहुत कुछ पता चला| उनकी body काफ़ी मज़बूत और strong होती है और उन्हें अपना हर movement, puppet के शरीर से जोड़ना पड़ता है| उनको अपना काम अच्छी तरह से करने के लिए बहुत सारा warm-up और exercise करना होता है|
इस अनुभव से मुझे केवल puppets बनाना ही नहीं, उनके साथ perform करने के बारे में भी जानने को मिला| हमें बताया गया था कि पहले अपनी body को study करना होता है और फिर उस movement को puppet में डालना होता है| हमें अपनी body की strength को भी बनाए रखना होता है ताकि हम बहुत देर तक खड़े रह सकें|
Puppet Theatre workshop में सीखे गए exercises, warm-ups और movements का मैं अपने theatre के काम में उपयोग कर सकता हूँ|
आख़िर में मैं यह कहना चाहता हूँ कि मुझे अनुरूपा के साथ काम करने में बहुत मज़ा आया| उनके बात करने का तरीके, काम समझने का तरीका और स्पष्ट नज़रिया मुझे अच्छा लगा| Ma’am एक ज्ञान का भंडार हैं आर उनसे बहुत सारी नई चीज़ें सीखी जा सकती हैं| मैं उमीद करता हूँ कि मुझे उनके साथ काम करने के और मौके मिलें|
Muzammil, one of the core group members at Aagaaz worked as a production manager on a play called पास्कुअलनामा with Third Space Collective and Instituto Cervantes. He assisted his mentor Dhwani and seems to have learnt a lot out of this experience. We would like to share his reflections with you.
मैने जिस play पर काम किया, वह एक novel पर आधारित था जो एक पसकुअल दुआर्ते नाम के आदमी के बारे में थी | मैं इस play में production manager था और मैं stage setup और props ढूँढने का काम करता था| उसके अतिरिक्त मैं रोज़ rehearsals के लिए जाता था और नाटक ready होने तक टीम का एक हिस्सा था|
इस experience से मैने नए-नए warm-up के तरीके सीखे और बहुत सारी games सीखी| Physical theatre और group work के बारे में काफ़ी कुछ सीखने को मिला|
ध्वनि के साथ काम करना मुझे बहुत अच्छा लगा| उनके काम करने के style के बारे में सीखने को मिला| उनके leadership का तरीका और rehearsals के दौरान serious रहने की आदत, मुझे काफ़ी useful लगी|
ध्वनि के साथ काम करने से मेरे direction पर भी प्रभाव पड़ा| Calmness और coolness के साथ leadership करना, मेरी सबसे बड़ी सीख थी| Play को ready करने से पहले characters को कैसे तैयार करते हैं- उसके बारे में भी जान पाया|
Muzammil is one of the known faces of Aagaaz, primarily because he makes it extremely hard to miss his presence. Outspoken and confident about his tongue in cheek humor, he is quite a charmer. At a very young age, he started participating in workshops that happened in his school, known as the Katra Wala School, which now has been taken over by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation. The volunteer run summer camps at his school, introduced him to the world of theatre. He confesses to have gone to a few of these activities only when he was forced by his friends. Although he was a part of both music and theatre workshops, he lacked interest and commitment. He remembers being thrown out of his first ever play because of his irregularity. He thinks that the reason behind his insincerity was the disinterest he felt towards the process of making a play. Acting based on a pre written script, learning dialogues exactly as they are, felt forced and he preferred a more creative process.
When Muzammil was in 5th standard, Sanyukta started coming to his school and informally interacting with the kids. She would make the group sit down and listen to horror stories and Muzammil clearly remembers being scared and fascinated by these stories. As soon as she started playing different theatre games, she had his attention. ‘Basuriwala’ was the first play that the group worked on. It was based on the story The Pied Piper. The first performance of the play was in the school itself and received a good response from parents, teachers and other people from the community. His father, who also has experience in theatre, recognized that he was indeed a good actor. This was a confidence booster for him.
The group’s second production coincided with the group’s registration under the name of Aagaaz Theatre. After years of just doing theatre as an activity, now they were an official theatre troupe and ‘Duniya Sabki’ was their gateway into the world of performance. He feels that this play is the foundation of Aagaaz and he can’t imagine the group without this play. The idea, the concept and the experiences that this play is made of came very naturally from the immediate lives of the people in the group. The play emerged from the members of the group sharing their realities and what they felt about the things happening around them. Owing to his previous experience, he was one of the few older actors, who led and supervised the process of creating and building connections with stories. Also, creating a larger structure for these different episodes to fall into place as one play, gave him a larger perspective on how theatre brings together the lives of people on stage.
The process of building pieces seemed easy up to the point of selecting the stories. But the real work that narration and dramatization entails was the challenge. He recollects thinking a lot about the best ways in which the stories could be brought to life on stage through the body, dialogues and using space. He attributes his creative process to theatre exercises that the group did with different people as workshops throughout the year. In addition to this, he feels the space is constantly booming with what he sees, senses and processes from his surroundings. The body he feels is extremely important since it talks even when the actors are silent. He enjoyed telling a particular story through repeating images using frozen bodies of the actors. The narration continued through refrains in words spoken by these frozen images.
While working on Duniya Sabki he realized that he was under equipped in providing an end to his stories and generally relied on open endings, where the audience is left to seek answers for themselves.
The advanced workshops that preceded Raavan Aaya, worked a lot on body and building character. The group did workshops with Dhwani and Neel, which were intensive and more complex than what they had done before. Muzammil particularly remembers Score, the concluding exercise of Dhwani’s movement workshops, to be the most useful. This exercise requires each individual to connect the separate movements, which he/she might have come up with during the course of the workshop, into a continual flow. This exercise has helped him a lot in joining thoughts and narratives outside the workshop and work better on driving the story towards some kind of closure. The exercise also initiated reactionary movements from other actors which in turn built stories automatically. Sparking reactions, he feels, is what theatre does best and with a little bit of intention on the performers’ part, a play can be used to raise questions.
The idea of performing a script, picked up completely from outside was also new. He claims to never have been comfortable with learning dialogues or sticking to them during performances baut a little had to be changed with Raavan Aaya. He began by making connections between two dialogues, to create a natural flow in his memory, instead of mugging them up. Neel’s character building workshops were also very constructive in this context. The workshops insisted on fleshing out individual characters way before stepping onto the stage. Their physical presence, tonality, moods and ways of emoting dialogues came about through rigorous assessment of everything that might have an effect on their behavior. These workshops let the actor become just a medium for the character in the play to go through the story.
Conversely, when he thinks about the reactions from the audiences when Raavan Aaya was performed in Saharanpur, the identity of the actors was not let go off so easily. He remembers the conversations during rehearsals, which happened within the group, about how people from certain religious and political sets might raise questions about their portrayal of a classical text and what’s being said about it in the play. Even then, the way in which the air around them changed after the actors introduced themselves and where they came from as a part of the curtain call, caused a certain discomfort. He still feels content about the existing plays and performances that throw some light on these perspectives and these questions that exist all around us. The fact that this play is providing space for such conversations to happen in the midst of such stark differences in the thought process of the actors and the audience, is something that inspires him.
For the longest time, we have only had photographs of Aagaaz’s core members on our website without any bios. We didn’t want to write and/or translate text to capture their madness. Text can’t do them justice. For the longest time we have toyed with the idea of creating video-stories for each one of them, and we have finally embarked upon this mammoth project! Each of the members is busy writing scripting their stories of self, choosing locations, and even frames for their video profiles. Some of them have even taken interest in editing their videos. Here’s a video that is near completion. Watch the space as they keep appearing on our website and Facebook Page. We promise you will not be able to not smile!
Here is a glimpse. Meet our first member- Danish.