The power of words

Theatre festival
Last Updated 22 February 2016, 18:38 IST

With every script he directs, he creates a healthy dialogue with the audience and uses the stage and theatre to bridge the gaps in communication. Director Ashish Sen is not someone who shies away from a powerful script and this time is no different, what with his latest production for the Deccan Herald Theatre Festival, ‘9 Jakhoo Hill’.

Written by Gurcharan Das, the play is set in the 1960s and talks of how change is the only constant. Relevant even today, it is an interesting play that looks at two families post the partition of India.

“In many ways, it is a play of our time. It is not just a play about the past; it talks of changing values. So although set in 1962, which in some ways was a watershed for many reasons, the kind of values we faced then are striking in the current context,” explains Ashish.

In fact, it sharpens the relevance as it speaks of conflict — internal and external ones; from the point of view of an insider and an outsider. It handles social realism aptly and creates a sense of the transformative society. “In many ways, changing and changed values come to the forefront and are examined on a social, political and personal level. The play is a metaphor for war. It’s not just a physical war that it talks of, but also in terms of dos and don’ts.” Contemporary issues are looked at through the lens of conflict and transition, which is the essence of the play.

A regular at the Festival, Ashish’s play is much awaited by enthusiastic audiences. Talking more about the narrative and the formation of the play, he says, “On one hand, the narrative is about the changing notions of an old family who were once refugees in post-Partition India, in Shimla. But the trajectory also brings in the lives of another family, who are also refugees and went to Bombay instead. And taking centre stage is the house, ‘9 Jakhoo Hill’, where the conflict plays out.”

Ashish has kept the essence of the powerful psycho-drama and says that the lines speak for themselves. “It plays with the memory angle, which sharpens in the current context.”
The play will mark a first for Ashish — this is the first time he’s working with his son, Mikhail Sen, on a production. Talking about the experience, he says, “We learnt a lot from each other.” And on how the other cast members came in to the picture, he adds, “We had a range of interactions and one-on-one text readings with the actors. We had many texts in mind and these readings acted as a filtering process and who suited the roles.”

Known for his works in the comedy genre, he wanted to try something new this time. But he mentions that there was no ‘black and white’ region for selecting the script. “I had read ‘9 Jakhoo Hill’ many years back but when I revisited it this time, some images leapt out of 1962 and struck me with contemporary implications.”

‘9 Jakhoo Hill’ will be performed at Ranga Shankara on March 4, Jagriti Theatre on March 5 and 6, and Chowdiah Memorial Hall on March 12, at 7.30 pm.
For tickets, visit or the Deccan Herald office, MG Road.

(Published 22 February 2016, 16:17 IST)

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