Sunday, September 16, 2007

Padatik One Act Play Competition

Earlier, this competition was known as "BCL" to one and all, because it was held by the British Council. However, 3 years ago, BCL stopped organising this competition, and it was greatly missed as an annual school event.
Last year, Padatik took over the reins of this competition with support from BCl, and Patton became the main sponsor. The nomenclature was changed to "Patton One Act Play Competition presented by Padatik", but students still liked to refer to it as BCL.
In the inaugural year of the competition, I was part of the organising team. Tathagata Chowdhury, or TC as he's popularly called, was the Jt. Convenor of the competition and since he's the man behind the theatre group I'm part of - Theatrecian, I was also included in the set-up of the competition.
I had already decided that this being my last year, I would participate from LMB as it would be my last chance to do so. When the letter came in, Ma'am Datta insisted we send in the script I had written for Macaulay in the Inter-House Dramatics, as the theme was "Is My Life, My Life Only?"
I started work on the play rather early, starting off with a workshop and audition I held. I was not going to act in the play, as during the time of the workshops held as part of the festival I would be going on 2 consecutive school trips. Saurav Mehta, the recipient of the Best Actor award in Inter-House, took over my role; Arnab Manna reprised his role in the play while Jamshed Madan, Akshay Doshi, Eric Madan and Prateek Nair took over the roles portrayed by Varun Kishore, Anant Agarwal, Trideep Roy and Aditya Saigal in Inter-House. I was once again the director of the play, while Varun Kishore was to be the lights technician.
We were quite positive about our chances, and our workshops greatly built up our expectations from the competition. At this stage, we asked the school for help with the production aspects of the play as there was quite a lot that we were bringing in to the play, both at the suggestion of our trainers as well as on our own initiative. The school agreed to support us, and we were hopeful that our work would pay off at the end of it.
Jamshed's father, Mr. Cyrus Madan and Varun's father, Mr. Navin Kishore, both renowned in their aspects of theatre, came for our technical rehearsal, and they were very appreciative and helpful. Their suggestions boosted our morale, and we were looking forward to our performance on the 14th.
Many of our boys had turned up at Gyan Manch that day, and so did our very own Principal with his family. Our performance slot was last up on the 14th, and we were excited, to say the least. The judges were Mr. Rohit Pombra and Mrs. Zarine Choudhary, eminent theatre personalities. We sat through the other schools, nervously anticipating our time.
The curtains opened on our play, and it seemed to be progressing well. The light design by Varun was excellent, and the dancers and actors were doing a great job of it. To my eyes, sitting in the technical area, it couldn't have been better. Almost everyone I spoke to that day, and the next for that matter, spoke highly of our production...keeping in mind that this was a school play. I was prepared for any eventuality, but I felt that we did a good job of it.
Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared me for what happened on the 15th. Here, I must speak of my play, and why I couldn't believe what happened later that day. I am a great lover of the Beckett play "Waiting for Godot", and have been greatly inspired by that play in my writing. In this particular play, "It's Perfectly Understandable", I took two characters from "Waiting for Godot" - Pozzo and Lucky - and put them in a different situation. Although I retained some vestiges of the original characters, which is why I didn't name them Pravin and Lalit or something of the like, my characters were vastly different from the ones Beckett wrote about. For example, in Beckett's play, Pozzo is as dependant on Lucky as Lucky is on Pozzo; and Lucky, for all the subjugation he's made to suffer, is still very much a normal human being. I made these characters more extreme, in order to bring about the social element which was the point of conflict.
Now to elaborate what happened on the 15th. Before the prize distribution, Mrs. Chaudhary was asked to give her comments on the plays put up by the schools. She gave her comments and criticisms on each school. Now, when it came to LMB - she didn't say anything about the acting, the stagecraft or design. All she said was that the play depended heavily on Beckett, and also commented that even the characters were named Pozzo and Lucky. As you can imagine, we were crestfallen, and all the hope and work we had put into the play seemed to have been in vain. For me personally, I tried to put on an impassive face, but it was difficult concealing the disappointment. One of the trainers tried her best to reassure me, but for me it wasn't the loss that mattered, it was that someone had indirectly accused me of plagiarising. I was disheartened...strange, considering that just before the ceremony, I had been greatly encouraged after speaking to Mr. Sumit Roy of Red Curtain.
We did get the Best Technical Production award, but awards don't really matter. It's the recognition of what you have done that matters. For me, perhaps the two judges didn't feel my play was praiseworthy enough, but nearly everyone I spoke to felt differently about the play. I did get criticism, but that was simply the things I needed to learn about theatre, not of mistakes in its handling. I hope that one day, I'll be able to look back at this time and say to myself that I wasn't mistaken in believing in this play. For now, I have to write something else...something to make up for the disappointment I had with this one.


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