From the 16th to the 19th of November 2017, theatre company Wecandoit presents DASTAK Hindi Theatre Festival. In its second year running, DASTAK presents a holistic festival with 10 plays of 10 minutes each, directed by 10 different directors, presented back to back with a 10-minute interval. This year, they’ve added a non-ticketed outdoor piece, which happens before the 10 plays, entitled DASTAK Nukkad. This is presented in a street theatre format, sharing 3 stories from the timeless Panchatantra, incorporating dance, music, drama and mask work.
Aakhir DASTAK Hai Kya?!
Dastak provides a holistic theatre experience presenting comedies, tragedies, simple and intricate plays. Curated to perfection, the audience is taken through a journey of highs and lows, laughs and cries, as each play brings about different emotions and responses. Almost like the movie Inception, you feel like you’re going through a journey within a journey as the plays bring you through their introductions, climax and resolutions, within the larger flow of the 10 plays and their sequence, presenting to us the festival’s introduction with Guru Ka Bhraman, climax with Kamli and Ardh Satya and resolution with Dhundh.
Director ‘Saab’ Tussi Great Ho!
Two plays that stand out for their direction are Kamli and Kerejwa. Kamli, written by Sonalee Hardikar and directed by Yogesh Tadwalkar, takes us through a story of love, war and loss. Bringing tears to the eyes of many audience members, the play had an obvious vision from the very beginning and was delivered with finesse. The staging enhanced by the addition of a simple doorframe center stage, signifying 2 worlds – past and present, the costuming, the brilliant script and its language, and the addition of simple accent-work made this play remarkable. Special appearance by the director in the piece reminds us of how specific he is in his direction as the slight nuance of the Kashmiri accent in addition to his deep voice sends chills down your spine, drawing you further into the story.
Kerejwa, writen by award-winning lyricist and writer Varun Grover and directed by Sharul Channa, is a play relying on physical theatre, symbolism and imagery in text. With the script being a soliloquy, actor Rayana Pandey, brings us through a journey of a little girl’s pursuit for Gulab Jamun and mithai before the world comes to an end. The play requires a surrealistic style of approach in its presentation and that is presented flawlessly by the other 3 actors on stage dressed in black. Using physical theatre and elements of melodrama, these actors use their bodies to guide us through the journey of the little girl’s story. One memorable moment is when the monologue mentions the word ‘marbles’ and 2 of the 3 actors in black fall to the ground and start rolling around, bodies almost ball-like, in no particular order. This image is powerful as it seems to represent the crumbling of humanity and how we move aimlessly (roll) through the cracks of life – a very powerful symbol only possible by specific and thoughtful direction.
And The Award For Best Actor(s) Goes To!
An actor who stands out is Veena Puthran Bangera, who performs not just in Kerejwa but stars in The Pizza Delivery Boy as well. Directed by non-Hindi-speaking Nur Khairiyah, this play is a thriller. The play has an experimental and contemporary presentation of its introduction and climax, enhanced by the right selection of music and lighting. The use of Veena’s natural sensuality intensifies the play in its entirety, as this actor is stunning to watch on stage. The natural contours of her face, mainly her cheekbones and nose, accentuate not just her beauty but her expressions as well. As an audience member, you may find yourself enchanted by her line delivery, as her sharp features on top of immense talent, don’t allow you to take your eyes off of her.
Another actor worth mentioning is Aditya Mazumdar. Any thespian would know that one of the hardest roles to play is a character-actor. A character-actor is an actor whose expertise lies in playing unconventional and quirky roles, rather than playing the lead role. More often than not, character-actors can make or break a show and every play that Aditya was a part of (he played multiple roles) he added charisma to, and definitely carried each role sublimely. His voice work was also evident as he changed his range from high to low for the demands of each role – a skill not many are blessed with. With Aditya on stage, you know you’re in for an entertaining piece of art.
What Could’ve Been Better?
The one thing that invites more non-Hindi-speaking audience is the surtitles, offering an English translation of the text spoken by the actors. However, the surtitles were not always accurately changed in line with what was happening on stage. This confuses certain members of the audience who rely on the surtitles to understand the text.
Verdict In a Nutshell
DASTAK has established itself as a platform for all South Asians in Singapore interested in getting in touch with their dramatic or artistic selves, as well as people of other races interested in venturing into a different realm of theatre. If you haven’t got your tickets, unfortunately you’ll have to wait for DASTAK 2018 as all 6 shows are sold out, and rightfully so! For those who’ve got your tickets and have yet to go, you’re in for a fantastic extravaganza, created and conceptualised by a core team of very accomplished and talented artistes, led by their brilliant Festival Director, Shalaka Ranadive. In other words, this festival is truly LA JAWAAB!
Photo Credit : Rachna Anand