Bengaluru’s veteran thespian Ratan Thakore Grant started the theatre group MISF!T (My Interest Stays Firmly in Theatre) in 2001. One of the many unique aspects of the group was the originality of their scripts and plays. The team firmly believed that our country’s rich and diverse culture and stories could inspire them to write original plays rather than doing prewritten Western plays.
Over the past 20 years, MISF!T has staged several plays in novel formats. One of the popular ones is Connectologues — a concept designed by Grant along with Venkatesan Vaidhyanathan and Vishal Nayer, two of his oldest students.
After a gap of nine years (also after the passing of Grant, their mentor), MISF!T is now reviving the genre by presenting stories around life and hope.
Featuring over 8 actors and lasting 2 hours, the team will stage Connectologues V3.0 on Saturday, 23 September, 2023, which will see Venkatesan and Vishal share the director’s hat.
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Not a traditional play
Featuring a distinctive style of storytelling, Connectologues is a weave of monologues. While a traditional monologue is usually delivered by a single actor depicting a specific story, Connectologues is a collection of monologues, edited and connected together to form a much larger story.
“This is not a traditional play. One of the questions we keep getting asked is what the story of the play is. Well, this play doesn’t have a story but multiple stories told by multiple actors,” shares Vishal with South First.
Here, the individual monologues sequence each other, breaking in between their specific stories and moving on to the next, while all the actors remain on stage. The sharply edited and non-linear nature of this presentation makes it edgy, thrilling, an emotional roller coaster and a curious and equally entertaining watch for the audience
Vishal adds, “The play is designed in such a way that you don’t lose track of any story. At one moment, you’ll be feeling angry because the character is generating that emotion. Suddenly, you’ll be laughing out loud, and moments later, you’ll wiping off tears as a particular actor takes you on that journey.”
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One theme to bind them all
Think of it as a Sidney Sheldon novel, Venkatesan shares.
“You see multiple events happening across different places, right? This is very much similar. Except here, none of the stories are connected to each other. However, there is an overarching theme. In this version of Connectologues, it’s the ‘influence of women’ in each character’s lives.”
While there are 7 actors who will be telling their stories, the 8th actor is the one who connects all the stories together.
Venkatesan notes, “Her character is designed to be abstract. As the artists perform their stories, she first becomes an observer from outside and slowly becomes part of the story by interacting with the actor.”
Equally challenging and exciting
According to the directors, the process of putting this together is not challenging as much as it’s exciting.
“This is a genre where the rules are designed by us. We have to create rules in such a way that when the audience watches the play, subconsciously the grammar of the genre gets embedded in their minds. By the end of it, everything would make sense for them.”
He adds, “All the stories have been written by the actors who are performing it. We have brought in some elements of humour, drama, thriller, and different emotions so that the audience finds it exciting. As directors, it keeps us on our toes to oversee something like this.”
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A unique approach
In a format where each actor on stage exists in their own individual space, the scenes can’t be blocked in the traditional way.
Vishal tells us, “While one story is set in a college, one is in a call centre and another one is at the beach. So we have an abstract set. We had to create something where everyone belongs and yet they are in their individual spaces. Both factors had to be accounted for. The space distinction has to be clear to the audience. There has been a lot of trial and error done to get this right. We have no reference point.”
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But it’s much more challenging for the actors.
The duo agrees, “It’s a lot like a memory play. Once the actor is on stage, they won’t leave till the play is over. Being there, they have to maintain their emotions. As one story goes to the next and so on, the actors have to time their emotions so that when it’s their turn, they can generate the emotions and not be early or late. Holding one position for a long time is physically, emotionally and mentally draining. It’s a strenuous exercise for the actors to not get carried away by other performances. They have to stay focused and do their part.”
This would be the last show of this season’s Connectologues in Bengaluru.
“This edition is much bigger. We have tried to push boundaries by making Connectologues more grand and relatable. The theme is bigger. We have included stories that are more relevant and fit in the modern context. While we are trying not to be preachy, there will be an element of message in each story.”
Date: 23rd September, 2023
Time: 7.30 pm
Venue: Alliance Francaise Bangalore