Grips Festival Pune October 2011
The city of Pune hosted a spectacular Grips Festival from October 6 to October 9, 2011 to mark the Indian silver jubillee of the innovative German theatre form pioneered by Volker Ludwig. Co-hosted by Max Mueller Bhavan, Maharashtra Cultural Centre and Orchid School Pune, the event was made special, thanks to the dignified presence of Ludwig and the inimitable zeal and zest of actor-psychatrist Dr. Mohan Agashe, the harbinger of Grips in India. Sudhir Raikar reports...
The festivities began with performances of critically acclaimed Marathi plays in the Grips mould - 'Chhan Chhote, Vayeet Mothe,' 'Pan Amhala Khelaychay', 'Project Aditi' and the English play 'Telly Billy'. On the concluding day, a symposium sought to explore the challenges before theatre for youth and children especially in raising audience awareness and measuring impact through follow-up mechanisms.
While the plays were a sheer delight beyond the slightest doubt, the symposium proved to be a dull, if not a disappointing exercise. For the open-ended cause it upheld, the supposedly interactive session was needlessly bound by self-imposed regulation. The moderation seemed to overlook the fact that suggestions and possibilites need not necessarily stem from a pre-defined set of individuals with the “right’’ credentials - it may as well come from just about anyone - whether a carefree school child, an anxious parent, a collegian with a devil-may-care atttitude or even a disillusioned journalist with equal concern for the well being of theatre. And talking of technological enchorachments, it’s important to go beyond the cliches that limit our understanding of the issue. Much more than chats, sms, emails and surfs, technology is potent with such stories of pathos and intrigue that are ideal for theeatrical expression and closely linked with the chaos and perplexment that grips the youth of today. When the discussion is of an exploratory nature, how could one not invite public opinion in any form, especially when there was much repetition of thought and expression by the designated speakers.
Photo Credit: Sakaal Times
Symposium in Action
Of the speakers on the dais, the most succint obesrvation came from theatre critic Raju Raman who stressed on the need to unlock the child in each one of us rather than slot target audience into age groups. He also pointed out the mockery of the undeniable fact that those very people who complain of the growing encroachment of techonology - cellphones fever in particular - are often its worst victims. A well known name in the theatre, TV, film and advertsing circuit Shrirang Godbole aptly called for evolving the theatre form in line with the changing trends influenced by the entertaiment alternatives at the disposal of the current generation. One of the earliest Grips activists under the tutelage of Dr. Agashe, he was one of the very few speakers who were precise and pithy in the same breath. Renowned theatre practitioner Prasad Vanarase religiously cited oft-repeated internet humour to elaborate the Gen next’s fast-n-furious approach to life but ended his address on a very pertinent note
“I wonder how technology will impact entertainment and education in the coming years but I am in no hurry to find the answers“
Nothing could be more heartening for the theatre movement than this inquisition laced with pure wonderment. Among the speakers seated among the audience, noted playwright Satish Alekar rightly asked for raising the bar for professionalim in theatre, an overlooked pre-requisite that applies as much to offbeat theatre as it does to mainstream commerical theatre. But it was Dr. Mandar Paranjpe who won hearts and attention with his striking wit and wisdom rooted in simple analogies and practice-driven theories. Drawing inspiration from the childlike enthusiasm of legendary singer Kishore Kumar and theatrical charisma of social activist Anna Hazare, he wholeheartedly seconded Raju Raman‘s thoughts and more important, voluntereed to help out with any of Grips‘ initiatives to reach beyond. He sure brought in contagious purpose into the auditorium with his earnest appeal.
Volker Ludwig moved the audinece with his humble words that summed up the Grips voyage over the years and applauded the efforts in India, thanks to Dr. Agashe‘s tireless effort in seeding and nourishing the movement in India and Asia- whether through motivating activists, staging plays, conducting workshops or providing sensitive patronage. In what can be termed as the second innings of Grips in India, he and his core team now seek the support of practitioners like Dr. Paranjpe across spheres - whether students, parents, teachers, practitioners or sponsors. Wishing the Grips movement every success and enviable heights.
Telly Billy - A play for children 6 years and up
Directed by: Jens Neumann
Set Design: Uwe Nebe
Costumes: Anne Herzau
Players: Thomas Ahrens and Claudia Balko
Live Percussion und Vibraphone: Martin Fonfara
This is a moving and inspiring story of Billy, a lovable brat fed on a genrous diet of Television. One fine day, his mom decides enough is enough and has his TV taken away. Unable to come to terms with the suddden catastrophe, Billy tries every trick under the sun to get his prized possesion back. But all efforts go invain and worse land him in more trouble till his mom, ailing great granny and the friendly neighbourhood spring into curative action and rescue Billy from the boxed demon that controlled his life all this while. The play stands out for the superlative performances, minimalistic sets and inventive background score. The actors principally playing Billy and his mom depict diverse conflcits one after another seamlessly stepping into various characters - all easily identifiable situations resulting from the gory television abuse that continues to affect homes worldwide.
Before you realise, Billy’s mom becomes his ageing great granny and then in a jiffy turns into his next-door school mate Sabina - all with the simple zipping and unzipping of the jerkin over her dress. Little Billy on the other hand becomes Sabina’s father in a matter of minutes with as much effortless ease. While playing kids on stage, they raise the bar for theatre for children in letting all know what’s the difference between child-like and childish.