Bangalore Mirror, play reviews, and experimental theatre

September 9, 2007

I got a call sometime ago from the Bangalore Mirror , a tabloid which the Times of India launched ( One rupee a paper!) asking me if they could use one of my Metroblogs posts…I said yes and said I would also send them articles which were Bangalore-specific. They seem to have taken the yes for a single post as a blanket permission, and apparently, more of my metblogs posts have been used in the paper…oh well, since it’s on the public domain, I guess it’s OK, but…for a paper to use a not very widely-read blogpost…

Well, anyway, today someone called me and asked me if I could do a review of a play The Flame of the Forest by Gowri Ramnarayanan (the granddaughter of “Kalki” R.Krishnamurthi , who wrote the novel she has adapted ..she writes very well indeed) happened that I had just come back from the play, and seven of us were sitting and discussing it right then.

We all had, the previous day, also seen a play about Iranian women who are living in Germany, which none of us liked very much (as one friend said, what deprivation are they talking about if they are living in Germany??)…and I said I would write that review too. Our discussion formed the basis of one review…but when I reached for the brochure which I normally bring back from every play (providing they give one)…it just wasn’t there! Then I remembered having given it to one of the friends, and I had to call him up at a not-very-earthly hour to get it out and read it; I was hoping that it would give important information like the names of cast members, set designer, and so forth. No such luck! It was the friend who summoned up the SEG (Search Engine Genie) and got me a lot of info.

Writing a review of a play one doesn’t like is much more difficult than of one that’s liked. It’s quite tough to stand back, look objectively at what it is in a play one doesn’t like and articulate it so that it doesn’t seem as if prejudice or preconception are driving one’s words. And with many experimental plays, there is always this element of emperor’s-new-clothism , where people feel they MUST appreciate it as it IS experimental theatre. You see people getting up around you to give a standing ovation, while a big question mark is hovering over your head and YOU feel that the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes, but you don’t quite like to say so and bring down the wrath of your appreciative fellow-watchers. I need to understand the symbolisms or the metaphors or the whatever, and am totally mystified if I can’t. I think I am symbolically challenged.

I have, I am afraid, been seeing too many of these question-mark (the one that manifests itself over my uncomprehending head) plays lately, about eight of them to every good (imo) play…

And another grouse: when Ranga Shankara committed itself to charging only Rs.49 for plays at its inception (it will be putting on its thousandth performance shortly,on Sept 12), the ticket cost going up to Rs.150 and, day before yesterday, Rs.200, is not something I think of with pleasure. I still cannot understand why Kannada plays should still be the same rate and English plays so much more expensive..what is the logic behind it?

Oh well, I am generally with at least one friend, and whether we agree or disagree about the play, the discussion is interesting..much more so, to me, than discussing the neighbours, their jewellery, or their maids…that WAS a value judgement, I am sorry; but yes, I do find that kind of conversation boring after a short while.

I am also hoping that Bangalore Mirror won’t do a Suvarna TV Channel on me…they said they wouldn’t pay for stuff they took from Metroblogs, but will pay for stuff I send them directly…and since they asked for the review…I Am Opeful…I am oping to get, at least, bigger peanuts than the Deccan Herald pays!

My sincere sympathies to everyone who tries to make a living out of freelance journalism….what a tough,rocky, impecunious path they tread.