My engagement with Aagaaz By Naveen Sharma

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Aagaaz – a ball of positivity and love, is a beautifully knitted environment by Sanyukta Saha, showering love and positivity to the world of these amazing kids and whosoever comes to this place. My association with Aagaaz wasn’t a planned one. It all started with my six-day journey to Kolkata for Raavan Aaya. I hadn’t seen the play, nor had I met the group earlier. So, directly working on the play and getting the shows done in an unknown city was a humongous responsibility. I was quite worried initially but the nervousness faded away, thanks to the wonderful group. The Kolkata leg went well and gave some great experiences.

After the Kolkata event, I wasn’t sure about my association with the group again. San wasn’t in town and four performances were around the corner. ‘Duniya Sabki’ was a part of the ‘’Not In My Name’ campaign, ‘Raavan Aaya’ had a performance in Gurgaon, and URBAN TURBAN was a part of ‘Jashn-e-Aman’ festival.

‘Duniya Sabki’ performance went well and elicited a  good response. Next, was ” ‘Raavan Aaya’ performance in Gurgaon. Since we had worked earlier on this, I expected the execution to be easier this time and did not anticipate newer challenges like – ‘Recasting’. Some of the actors weren’t available and we had limited time due to exams. We had three days, two hours each day to get things sorted. The show went well with positive feedback and some amazing food to our treat. The next show in line was ‘Urban Turban’. Since it was work in progress, nerves were different. The day was full of surprises. First, the unexpected rain and then the performance space. Nagma, Nagina and Jasmine brilliantly managed the last-minute adjustments and put up a powerful performance. It was simply beautiful to see such efficiency and talent. The conversation after the performance with the viewers added a lot to the play, surely beneficial for the team.

The major difference observed this time was in the way the kids took major responsibility and worked so efficiently. Aagaaz is a constant now and my eternal source of energy. I am sure I will visit Aagaaz more often and will reciprocate the energy that they instilled in me.

Core Group Members Talk…

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SHAHID:

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 |

ZAINAB:
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 |

Raavan Aaya Travels to the City of Joy- By Sanyukta Saha

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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.

A Reflection on Raavan Aaya– our latest production By Ismail Shaikh

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Aagaaz’s most recent production ‘Raavan Aaya’ (directed by Neel Sengupta) has been a great hit with both the cast members and the audiences. The play is based on Sukumar Ray’s ‘Lokkhoner Shaktishel’ and looks at panic in Ram’s court and army just before the much anticipated battle with Raavan.
With Raavan’s inevitable arrival as the background, our version of the play disintegrates to expose the Raavan within. The play explores the idea of the illusion of a villain to create systematic hierarchical divisions in the ranks. It asks a very strong question-Is Raavan the real threat or is it the system of never-ending flattery and attempts to keep on creating chaos in order to maintain the prevalent disorder in the society?
It has been performed at various schools and spaces in Delhi such as Downstairs at S-47, Shiv Nadar SchoolStudio Safdar, Nai Disha Educational & Cultural Society and Mira Model School, Janakpuri and also at the Saharanpur Pustak Mela, over the past few months. One of our cast members- Ismail has written a reflection on his experience of this production:

मुझे रावण आया में act करने से बहुत कुछ महसूस हुआ है| जैसे-  मेरा जो character है वो बहुत डरपोक इन्सान है| रावण का नाम सुनते ही वो बहुत डर सा जाता है| लेकिन भरी दरबार में उसकी इज़्ज़त ना चली जाए तो वो अपने डर को छुपाने की कोशिश करता है|
प्रभु का character अपने सिंहासन को बचाने की हर कोशिश करता है| जैसे रावण से युद्ध लड़ने के लिए वो खुद ना जाकर अपने भाई और वानर सेना को युद्ध पर भेजता है ताकि वह स्वयं सुरक्षित रहे|
वैसे तो प्रभु वानरों को छोटी जात का मानता है लेकिन उनके साथ बुरा व्यहवार ना करके उनके साथ भाईचारा बना कर रखता है ताकि वो वानरों को अपने फ़ायदे के लोए इस्त्माल कर सके रावण के विरुध, या किसी और के लिए| लेकिन प्रभु के मन में वानरों के लिए कोई इज़्ज़त नही है| वो वानरों को छोटी जात का मानता है| अगर प्रभु को किसी वानर की शिकायत मिल गयी तो उस वानर की खैर नही|
जब हमें बताया गया के हम “रावण आया”, play करेंगे और उस play में physical movements बहुत हैं तो play से पहले हमारी physical workshop class लगी, जिसमें Neel Sir और Dhwani Maam ने हमे physical movement workshop करवाया| और हमे workshop के दौरान बहुत कुछ सीखने को मिला जो अब हम play में इस्त्माल करते हैं|
हमारा जो  play है- “रावण आया”,  वो बहुत comedy play है| तो हमें play के  दौरान comedy में कैसे improvement लाए, वो भी सीखने को मिला| Script तो comedy थी ही लेकिन हम अपने body से कैसे comedy करें , हमने वो भी सीखा|
हमने सीखा के हमारे play में जितने भी character हैं उनकी walking style कैसी होनी चाहिए| जैसे जांवंत 50 साल का बूढ़ा इंसान (भालू) है वो कैसे चलेगा और प्रभु कैसे चलेगा आदि| तो मुझे ये भी सीखने को मिला के ‘मैं’ प्रभु हूँ तो मेरे चलने कि style कैसी होनी चाहिए और किसी और character चलने कि style कैसी होनी चाहिए|
इसी तरह हमने बहुत कुछ सीखा है इस play के दौरान|