Manoj Shah of Ideas Unlimited has carved a unique niche for himself on the contemporary Gujarati stage. His style has been considered innovative and his subjects purport to bring on a cultural renaissance in a Gujarati Theatre that has become synonymous with banal comedies. His upcoming three day festival at Prithvi Theatre from June 25th to June 27th 2010 will feature six of his company's productions along with platform performances.
Manoj, congratulations for organizing a festival of some of your landmark productions. Almost all of these plays have been, and are being performed in and out of India. What more are you seeking through this event?
Yes, these plays have been performed in an out of Indi but there is still potential in them to be played before older as well as newer audiences. The plays are a reflection of my work in the theatre since the last eleven years. During this period I have done a number of events like poetry, story readings and performances of shorter plays too. The idea is to create Rasikjanas (people who take pleasure in art). There is an audience out there unaware that theatre like this is possible. There is a flow of energy and people are willing to break stereotypes.
Sure, good scripts have repeat value. But do you think that people would come to see the same script, the same production for the second or the third time?
There are audience members who have come more than two or three times for many of these productions. There is a gentleman who has seen all the shows of MAREEZ in Mumbai.
This reminds me of someone whom I met in 1979-80. He had seen all shows of the play VADILONA VANKE of the Bhangwadi Theatre, and that too from the same row, same seat. He had even preserved the counterfoil of all the tickets. There are platform performances too that are part of your festival. You are geared for a lot of action in these three days.
I can't be more happy. I get to perform my best plays at a fantastic venue. There are 110 creative people gathered to celebrate this festival and we expect to entertain 1200 people during these six shows.
A long list of creative talent has contributed to your productions. Some of your productions like MAREEZ, MASTER PHOOLMANI and JAL JAL MARE PATANG have backdrops by famous Indian artists like Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, Bhupen Khakkar and Atul Dodhiya.
The backdrops of my plays are as much important to me as my actors, my music, and my script, and all these three internationally acclaimed Gujarati painters were just as sensitive for their work to be a part of my plays. The same goes for Kaumudhi Munshi, Purshottam Upadhyay, Aashit Desai, Uday Mazumdar, Suresh Joshi, Parthiv Gohil and Karsan Saghathia who have sung for my play JAL JAL MARE PATANG.
My personal favourite is MASTER PHOOLMANI. MAREEZ drags towards the end while AMARFAL is vertically divided into two parts- one myth and the other as a literary creation of the King Bhartuhari. The costumes for both these plays were disappointing too.
Well...that is a subjective opinion.
But you would not say that about my observations for MASTER PHOOLMANI! It is to your credit though that you have attempted to practice a distinct type of theatre. But I was also deeply affected by your blatant projection of Narendra Modi and his idea of Gujarat rather than Gandhi’s Gujarat when you had shows of HELLO GUJARATI in the USA.
I believe in impromptu. I explore and experiment all the time to look for a new avatar. So all the time I am learning. I have yet to settle down on a fixed ideology. I live theatre and if I compromise, I cannot go on. I have presented Jayshankar Sundari in MASTER PHOOLMANI, Mahatma Gandhi's Spiritual Guru Shrimad Rajchandra in APURVA AVSAR, Kalikal Sarvagna Hemchandracharya in SIDHHA HEM, Narshi Mehta, Meera, Akho, Premanand, Krishna, Sudama, Dayaram, Dalpataram, Narmad, Meghani, Sardar Patel and moving to our times- Ambani and Modi . Gujarat belongs to all of them.
*Jyoti Vyas is a senior theatre person and an alumnus of the National School of Drama (NSD) having studied under the pioneer theatre director, Ebrahim Alkazi. She has worked extensively in television and her theatre writing has appeared in various publications such as The Asian Age and the Prithvi Theatre Newsletter (PT Notes).