Known as the city of Nizams, of food and culture, and of hospitality, Hyderabad is now ready to take on a new avatar. Starting 24 November, 2023, Manam Theatre Festival will kick off its first-ever edition to offer a theatre extravaganza to the city.
Scheduled to run till 17 December, the festival includes 18 theatre performances and other ‘fringe” activities like talks, demos and workshops.
The theatre/performing arts line-up looks promising, with names as varied as Sofiyum, the Lepcha folk fusion music band based in Sikkim, in collaboration with the Mumbai-based Dur Se Brothers, to the Puducherry-based Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts & Research, and the UK-based playwright Henry Naylor who performs his much-awarded Afghanistan is not Funny.
The local flavours
Providing the much-needed impetus to the festival with a local Hyderabadi connect are performances by Jay Jha’s Kissago, Vinay Varma’s Sutradhar (with his much-loved Biryani aur Haleem in Dakhni dialect) and Surabhi Santosh’s Curtain Call Theatre.
Theatre arts students of the University of Hyderabad will be staging a production called Rest of the Story. The play pays homage to Badal Sircar’s enduring dedication to social issues and ground-breaking theatrical experimentation.
“The idea of hosting a distinct theatre festival, which was both diverse and inclusive, came to us around mid-2022. Since I have been curating plays as an independent theatre person, for almost a decade, getting through to theatre troupes with the help of the theatre fraternity made the curation doable. Our festival tagline is celebrating performance, culture and community,“ says Harika Vedula. She is also the founder of We_Us Collective, the socio-cultural arm of the Almond House Foundation.
The foundation, initiated by the Almond House owners, aims to amplify social and cultural voices through the initiatives of the foundation.
Puppetry plays its part
Puppetry theatre as a performing art remains uncommon. A unique part of the festival is the two Katkatha productions, About Ram (a Balinese interpretation of the Ramayana) and The Nights, (four narratives, including three stories from the Arabian Nights).
Elaborating on the concept, noted young playwright and founder of the Tadpole Repertory Neel Chaudhury, who is performing in collaboration with KatKatha says, “The productions will be using both live action and puppetry, of which the latter is using both shadow and Bunraku (traditional Japanese puppetry) techniques. The puppeteers are going to be visible on stage too, and there is the use of animation, digitally projected dance and masks, besides puppets.”
He adds, “It will be exciting to perform before new audiences in Hyderabad, after Pune, Mumbai and Bengaluru.”
A distinct offering will be the collaborative effort of Sofiyum, the Sikkim-based Lepcha fusion music band with Dur Se Brothers. The duo will present the Far Post, with Lepcha music holding centre stage as the backdrop of the performance by Dur Se founder Yuki Ilias. The play delves into magic realism, mask dance movements and puppetry.
Says musician Mickma Tshering Lepcha, “We will be singing in Lepcha dialect but there will be English translations displayed on stage. Not only is this production unique at Manam, but for Sofiyum it will be our first performance in Hyderabad and I am certainly looking forward to it. May theatre and music bring down more barriers between people in the world.”
For the young and budding talent
Local theatre artists Jha are upbeat about the opportunity to catch up on plays which they have somehow missed out on. For instance, Dur Se Brothers’ much-acclaimed Elephant in the Room.
Jha will be presenting Shakkar ke Paanch Daane written by playwright-actor Manav Kaul, a monologue by the protagonist Rajkumar recounting his existential dilemmas.
“Manam Theatre Festival is providing a platform to upcoming young theatre talent. It is not just pandering to big-ticket productions. It is certainly giving a voice to theatre groups which are otherwise not so visible. This is a welcome move,” adds Jha.
Hyderabadis will be well-advised not to miss the rare viewing of globally acclaimed UK-based Henry Naylor’s Afghanistan is not Funny. The play is the outcome of Naylor’s research in the Afghan war zone with his photographer friend Sam Maynard post 9/11. With the return of the Taliban, the playwright raises a few pertinent questions.
Besides the comparatively new Rangbhoomi Spaces in Gachibowli, the venues are the little-explored NIFT auditorium in High-Tech city as well as that of the MCR-HRD campus in Jubilee Hills, and in a new District 150, which is a corporate space in Knowledge City.
Book your favourite shows on weekends of your choice on www.bookmyshow.com, sit back and enjoy some wonderful theatre this season!