Though music may have been an essential component of theatre, it has never been the pivot of a play. However, Shubha Mudgal and her husband, Aneesh Pradhan’s ‘Stories in a Song’ sings a different tune. Debuting in the city, the two part play is a loosely knit montage of twelve different episodes that have been delicately strung together. Each episode recites a significant tale of either the history behind a particular genre or its journey so far.
“The idea was conceived during Baajaa Gaajaa, a music festival, that we had organised a year ago. The play is a composition of anecdotes and nuggets from the past about music and the course it has taken. The stories are so vivid and engaging that the only obvious thing to do with them was to dramatise them and turn them into a theatrical piece,” says Mudgal. While explaining the nuances of the relationship that theatre and music share Pradhan says, “For long now music has been a part of Indian theatre. It works beautifully to enhance the play, however, that is not true in the case of ‘Stories in a Song’. Here music takes the centre stage.” At the same time, Pradhan also says that the play is not really a musical, it is instead it’s story, narrated and acted. Impressed by the actors ability to perform, he also comments that music and acting are two very different fields of expertise, and, to combine the two requires a great deal of talent. “The play is testament to their passion and dedication. They have beautifully constructed a comprehensive tapestry of music with narrative, acting and singing skills. It is quite magical,” he adds.Originally a seven episode play, the trio, Mudgal, Pradhan and director, Sunil Shanbag have added five more musical pieces and have increased the count to 12 now. For instance, one of the episodes traces the journey of a song born of a composer and then transformed into something else by another artist, the story of the remixes. Hindustani Airs, Kajri Akhadas, Chandni Begum, Mahatma Gandhi and the Tawaif Sabha and Chandni Begum are some of the original episodes that have been fine tuned for the Bangalore audience. “The big city audience is very diverse. It would be incorrect to generalise them,” expresses Mudgal. Like any other Shanbag production, the sets and the costumes for ‘Stories in a Song’ have also been kept plain and simple. “I am someone who strongly believes in the minimalistic style. I am not a fan of fancy and elaborate sets or decor. I prefer to lay emphasise on the strong and bold performances,” says the director. Speaking of the cast he also mentions that the team is a young bunch of people who are great at what they do. Namit Das, an MTV VJ is also part of the cast. “Shubha and Aneesh have done a brilliant job in demystifying traditional music. Each piece has two or three musical bits coupled with anecdotes at the end of each episode. It has been an experience working with them,” he opines. Meanwhile, Shanbag is busy rehearsing for another play, a Gujrati adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘All’s well that ends well’ for the Globe theatre festival scheduled to take place in London.
Stories in a Song is being staged till March 11 at Ranga Shankara.