Play in times of censorship
By Anushree Madhavan | Express News Service | Published: 14th February 2018 11:06 PM |
CHENNAI: It took three years for Mumbai-based theatre director and choreographer Sujay Saple to come up with an idea for his next play, Agent Provocateur, a political dance-theatre piece that will be staged this Friday. “There were many topics I wanted to deal with, but I was struggling to give shape to it for a long time. But one day it struck me that I need to do something on the divided times that we are living in today,” he says.
It’s also a response to the polarised environment and extreme tendencies caused because of right wing politics. “For an artist, what does it mean to live and create work in a time like this? And we have been asking ourselves — is it even possible to not respond to the political environment around us. This is the result of all the conversations that we keep having in our circles,” he explains. “It might sound silly, but I had a vision of a saffron spine, and that kind of reflects what’s happening in our country. I knew that I had to get on stage.”
The story is told through people who try to fit in to the society. So how did he come up with the screenplay? “At my company, Shapeshift, we do devised works. We don’t start with a script but with an idea or a theme and then build the rest from there. It is a collective effort. So, the script comes in the end,” he shares.
Sujay’s passion is choreography and that’s one of the reasons why his productions often have both dance and theatrics. Agent Provocateur also has live music. “When I thought of the performance, I knew I wanted to have live musicians this time. I wanted to work with a drummer because the sonic element in drums is unsettling. I have worked with Harsh Karangale, whose project Bitmap works with noise and I really liked that kind of anarchy,” he says.
The performers Surbhi Dhyani and Arpit Singh are both dancers and actors. The play doesn’t follow any one particular style of dance. “Roughly you can say that it’s contemporary. It’s our own kind of movements. The play begins with the dancers in their studio. They’re trying to bring their form and language, but they can’t avoid how the body has been indoctrinated,” he adds.
Sujay worked with two dramturges, Vikram Phukan and Rachel D’Souza, who gave him useful pointers for scenes. The only challenge he faced while coming up with the play was to do justice to his idea. “It is an in-your-face political piece; and we were anxious that we had bitten more than what we could chew. But what kept me going was even if it’s a failure, we need to address this or else we will just be cowering like many others,” he says.
Sujay believes that there are only a handful of people in India who are doing valuable work. “But it doesn’t mean their work is serious and abstract. People’s choices are changing and they also want to go beyond comedies and dramas. As a director, if you know your audience’s demands, then you will have an impact on them and vice versa.”
Agent Provocateur will be staged at Koothu-P-Pattarai on Feb 16 at 7.30 pm. Tickets are priced at Rs. 200 and will be available at the venue. For details call: 48607655