Beyond the land of Hattamala | 2010
The Play and the Playwright
Badal Sircar is one of India’s major playwrights and a pioneering figure and ideologue in what has now come to be known as the Third Theatre. His “Third Theatre was formed imbibing ideas from the traditional and folk theatre. Sircar gave up the proscenium theatre, and begun acting in natural and created environment spaces alike, in small halls where seating could be arranged and rearranged in different formations to define and redefine the auditorium and the acting area; and in parks and open spaces almost anywhere. His group of dedicated, ideologically committed volunteers experimented with theatre form and idiom, in their passion for reaching out to and going right into the audience. Tonight’s play was first performed on the streets of Calcutta in 1975, when India was in a brief period of emergency rule challenging the democratic tenets of the republic. Two likeable thieves, Kena and Becha, jump into a river to escape being caught. After a routine heist goes awry, they jump into a river to avoid a chasing mob. They wash up on the shores of a land, far far beyond anything they have ever known! The extraordinarily naive residents of this country are nonchalant about personal possessions and this has Kena and Becha rubbing their hands in glee! FINALLY, after years of dedicated thievery without luck, Kena and Becha can get to reap their rewards. Join their journey in this new land!
A note on the music
Sufi and Nirguni music comes from two distinctly different traditions – one residing on the outer verge of Islam and the other of Hinduism. Both traditions emanate with a disdain against the elitist religious doctrine and rituals, have an all encompassing belief in humanity at its core and believe in existence of a universal god within one’s body and soul. Kabir – a village weaver and a poet of extra-ordinary calibre lived in the 14th century. His dohas or couplets are simple in their words but carry deeper messages of self realisation and life as a whole. They rhyme in four line verses and are set in music. Sufi music evolved from Turkey and travelled to India in the 12th century. It is sung usually in fast tempo to arouse haal (trance) mood. Taranas are raag compositions set to different taals (beats) and unfamiliar sounding words such as na ta re tanom yala yali… Taranas are used in Sufi poems of love between the mystic and God. Debates rage over whether tarana words have any meaning or whether they should be considered meaningless syllables. In the play our protagonists have left our world as we know it, to enter a veritable Utopia, wherein a figure like Kabir or a Sufi saint, stands witness to their endeavours to make sense of their new land. And for hamsadhwani – the final song of the play we have used a lovely couplet
etihaade-st miyaan e man o tu
man o tu neist miyaan e man o tu
There’s a union between you and I
(Such that) there’s no “You” and “I” between you and I.
Kena: Bhavnesh Soni
Becha: Rahul Chopra
The Mystic: Rahul Gandhi
Konar/Doctor: Gaurav Bradoo
Chorus: Kaushik Balan, Aamir Kapasi, Abbas Burmawala, Burhan Kapasi, Shreya Gejji
Harmonium & Flute: Andrew Correa
Mridangam: Shanika Gnanakumar
Tabla: Manjit Singh
Guitar: Nikhil Mokkapati
Lead Vocalist: Divya Jammalamadaka
Chorus Direction: Laurel Devenie
Music Director: Andrew Correa
Assistant Director: Shreya Bakhshi
Costume: Rajita Patel and Zetin Moza
Makeup: Monica Mahendru, Sayanti Chatterjee
Print & Publicity Design: Bhavnesh Soni
Media Planning: Zetin Moza, Sudeepta Vyas
Lighting Design & Stage Management: Calvin Hudson
Photography: Michael Field, Bhavnesh Soni
Hall Management: Chiradeep Banerjee, Nilanjan Ghoshal
Treasury: Ujjal Ghosh
Production Management: Zetin Moza
Producer: Gaurav Bradoo
Director: Rahul Gandhi
Margaret Mary Hollins
All image credits to Michael Field
A Review from Stuff.co.nz
Review: Beyond the land of Hattamala
By MICHAEL FIELD
As Auckland’s ethnic diversity goes from romantic ideal to a startling daily fact of life, even the city’s rather staid world of theatre is beginning to feel the impact.
Just below the radar – perhaps because the mainstream media are reluctant to notice – communities across the city are staging theatre that is innovative and different.
Much of it is for their own people, if only because the wider city is largely ignorant of the efforts being made.
The plays are good and the audiences are appreciative but there is a sense of sadness that the wider city has missed the opportunity.
Such is the fate of a bright little play, Beyond the Land of Hattamala, by the Auckland Indian theatre group Prayas.
Now a veteran theatre group with four commercial plays under their belt, Hattamala represented a new direction.
Performed at TAPAC in Western Springs – otherwise known as the Auckland Performing Acts Centre and an awesome, little known facility making a big cultural difference – it was a piece of street theatre drawn indoors.
It told of two village thieves, Kena (Bhavnesh Soni) and Becha (Rahul Chopra), who get chased out of one village and end up in another where money and possessions have little meaning.
The story, heavily political (and economic), was written by influential dramatist and theatre director Badal Sarkar, now 85. He has written around 50 plays, many of them in a pioneering street theatre style. He is also one of India’s most translated playwrights.
Hattamala was a delightfully simple play and the laughter of children in the sold out theatre suggested that the politics did not weigh heavily. It had lightness and freshness about it.
With live and beautiful music, Hattamala offered an unusual depth for that level of theatre. The music was Sufi, an ancient form of Islamic devotional music, its distinctive sounds are now heard across Asia and even make it into Bollywood films.
Prayas have developed themselves into a credible theatre group with a record of solid plays and Hattamala built on that.
But for Auckland to truly regard itself as a multi-cultural city, plays like Hattamala need to be measured not by their ethnic values, but by the commercial values of entertainment and pleasure.
Auckland is someway off scoring that, although Prayas will happily continue to chip away at the curious resistance Aucklanders have to anything a little different.