A festival that will stage 40 micro-dramas of 10 minutes each is sure to be a treat for those who find it hard to sit through longer performances
The hassles of the judicial system, helplessness of a mentally disturbed woman in her 40s, trauma of the Bangladeshi liberation war of 1971, meeting of Karna and Kunthi during the Kurukshetra war – the plots range across genres, periods and languages, sans restrictions.
In fact, any good theme is acceptable, but there’s a rider: The duration of the drama cannot be more than 10 minutes. Bringing together a sundry collection of such plays, the third edition of the Thespis National Micro Drama Festival, which is the first such festival in India, is all set to entertain the audience in the Capital. The day-long programme will see 40 short plays being performed in a single day.
Organised by Delhi-based Vriksh the Theatre, the first edition of this festival had 25 short plays. This time the number has increased drastically. This progressive increase across the editions is a clear indication of the popularity and interest in this new short form of drama.
The popularity perhaps, caught up due to the very reason the festival was conceptualised – shortage of funds. Ajith Maniyan of Vriksh recalls the days they would struggle to raise funds for the atypical 60-70 minutes theatre.
On one such fund-raising spree, a fellow filmmaker friend suggested a small tamasha instead of a long running play. “That tamasha is now a national theatre festival,” says Maniyan with a laugh.
The idea of the festival is to set an example to all theatre enthusiasts, reminding them that lack of funds should not a be a setback. “If one has a story and wants to bring it to the people, then micro drama is the best way,” he adds.
This brings us to the most pertinent question – Isn’t 10 minutes too short a time? Maniyan, quite promptly, answers, “In this fast paced world, people have a very short attention span. They get bored within five minutes. If a story can be told in 10 minutes, then I don’t see a problem.”
This curiosity brought in quite a crowd to the first edition of the festival, which has now come a long way. Chamaeleonidae, the inaugural play by Vriksh ran for just 36 seconds and received appreciation. “With this, the audience got introduced to a new format of theatre. We have received over 70 scripts this year, as against the 33 scripts that we received for the first edition. The content and the quality of productions too, have improved,” he says.
This form of theatre has also found resonance with directors of otherwise conventional theatre, who are condensing their own long plays to just 10 minutes. The new concept has also seen enthusiasm among youngsters, with around a dozen scripts coming in from several universities across the country. Entries from a few of them — namely Maharaja Agrasen College, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College and Shree Guru Gobind Singh Tercentenary University — have been selected for the festival.
However, do not imagine that the brief duration means easy, light-hearted stories. The plots of the stories range from satirical comedies to raising questions on social injustice.
For instance, Zillat, the Hindi and Urdu play stages a shattered home of dreams. The drama portrays the questions raised by Nirbhaya’s father, who has shuttled between courts to seek justice for his daughter. “Where is justice served? Or more like, where can one “buy” justice? How brutal and serious should the assault seem, in order to be served justice? How many more protests and marches down the street to seek this very justice? Or is it all a gimmick?” are a few of the questions raised through this drama.
Featuring a monolouge, the Hindi drama Pleading Mercy, depicts the helplessness of a woman in her 40s, who became mentally disturbed when her 19-year-old daughter was brutally raped by a group of boys in their neighbourhood.
In more relatable plots, another English drama, A Fistful of Rupees, follows the life of a young boy, Rahul who lands in Mumbai with dreams of working in the film industry but is soon left disillusioned.
Putting together a gourmet of dance, music and drama, Hukum Malik, stages a story of a man who is having a hard time conforming to the routines of having a magical genie at his bequest, but only inside the confines of the four walls of a room. Finding himself stuck, he decides to invite passers-by for a conversation in his room. What happens when one enters the closed walls, how does the Genie react. All of this will be revealed in the micro drama.
If you still have a doubt about how theatres can be staged in just 10 minutes, Maniyan has one thing to say – “You have to come and watch it yourself.”
And if you think theatres are not your thing because they bore you, you can perhaps give micro drama a try. After all, you can surely spare 10 minutes.
The festival is scheduled to be held on April 21 at Kamani Auditorium.