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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Sanhita’s 3-day festival of theatre: Good plays, poor audiences

Sanhita’s 3-day festival of theatre: Good plays, poor audiences

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, film and theatre personality, and his wife Rasika Agashe, together with like-minded veterans, have often lamented the dearth of new original work in Hindi, which beginning to appear like a lost art. This concern led to the setting up of the Sanhita Manch festival. This week, the second edition of the festival is being held at the P.L. Deshpande auditorium, located within the Ravindra Natya Mandir complex, Prabhadevi, Mumbai. Today is the last day. Interactions and stagings last from 2 p.m. to about 9 p.m.

Scheduled for the last day, 17th of August, is the following agenda:

Atul Tiwari

In conversation with Atul Tiwari - 2 p.m.

Lecture with Murli Ranganathan - 3:30 p.m.

Salim Arif

Discussion sessions with Makrand Deshpande, Amitoj Nagpal and Salim Arif - 4:30 p.m.

Drama "Nirala" - 7:30 p.m.

Writer - Ashwani Kumar Tiwari

Director - Rajinder Singh

A Dastak, Amritsar Presentation 

Cast: Bikramjit Sharma, Rajinder Kumar, Gurpinder Singh and others

Synopsis: ‘Nirala’ is inspired from the life of an extraordinary poet Surya Kant Tripathi ‘Nirala’. You will observe that his life and his writings are extraordinary, like his pen-name ‘Nirala’. A fountainhead of Hindi poetry, Nirala never got his due during his lifetime.

Short-listed from a selection of more than a hundred entries, the festival showcases three new plays by emerging writers. “People are responding to social issues, but they are also presenting rational and balanced world-views,” says Agashe, of the general tenor of the scripts submitted this year.

Rasika Agashe

Agashe is struck by the emerging contemporary idiom exhibited by some of the works. Her new play, Harus Marus, written by Mukesh Nema, takes on ages-old feudal conflicts through the intriguing prism of actors performing as rodents. “I found the manner of presentation to be very novel and it was challenging to execute,” she explains. Harus Marus was staged on the 15th of August, India’s Independence

Pashmina, by Mrinal Mathur, staged on the second day, evokes the reality of the Kashmiri political situation through an intimate if sardonic lens cast at Punjabi tourists looking to buy pashmeena shawl on a budget, while another couple is there to buy a shawl to honour the memory of their son, who was killed in Kashmir, while on his way to the airport, to return home after military duty.

This play enlightens us about the circumstances of Kashmir. Amar and Vibha Saxena, a couple getting closing to their retirement, visit Kashmir to spend their holidays. In Kashmir, the Delhi couple meet Ravinder and Sweety Dhillon at the shop. The Dhillon couple gets their Pashmeena but, will Amar and Vibha be able to find out a Pashmeena which can fill their hearts fitting in their minuscule budget? At this point, the play reveals their circumstances, the circumstances which are very similar to that of the seller of Pashmeena....the darkness of a life without a child, either of a martyr who wanted to bring a shawl for his mother, or of the dead workman who stitched it. And we realise that circumstances does not belong to a place or locality, circumstances are related to a person.

I managed to catch the play. It was touching and timely. The director used the partition trolleys, cloth and stools as the only props, besides three hospital partition-like trolleys on wheels. Perhaps these three were symbolic of the tripartite conflict in Kashmir, with India and Pakistan on opposite sides and the local people caught in the middle. It began at crawling pace, but once the narrative set in, it caught on. At times, Joy Maisnam (cast as Amar), the actor from the North-East, seem to forget his lines and mispronounce certain words. In spite of that, it was commendable that he managed to convince.


Others in the cast were Barnali Medhi as Vibha, Amar’s wife, ShivPrasad Gond played Ravinder Dhillon (suitably over the top), Sweety Dhillon was plated by Jaspreet Kaur (excellent casting), Dr. Kaul was Sonu Pilaniya (good cameo), Mohan Joshi acted as the shopkeeper Dar (a little tentative, but overall fine), Riya was okay as his daughter.

The group, Treasure Art Association, which operates in Delhi and Imphal, also performs in the Manipuri language. Pashmeena was directed by competently by Sajida. Let’s see what Nirala has in store for us today. I hope a larger audience turns up, to encourage the cause and the team.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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