Youth brigade hots up arts scene

Arts

New Voice Poster for art initiative Magic Wallrush.

For both Rahman, an ex student of St Xavier’s Collegiate School, and Dadawala, an alumnus of La Martiniere for boys, the school leaving experience had to be special. The two 18 year olds put their heads together and decided that they would write a play — which finally morphed into ‘Exit’.

The second chapter of Magic Wallrush exhibition took place in June this year at the Weaver’s Studio, Kolkata. The first chapter happened earlier when a group of school and college students decided to display their artwork on the busy Sudder Street. This time around though, the students decided that they would display their work indoors. “The idea was to do a street exhibition again but we decided to have the exhibition indoors because there were chances of rain,” says Opashona Ghosh, one of the chief organisers of the event.

These are a couple of instances of recent youth initiatives in Kolkata. The dramatics scenario among the young in the theatre-literate city, however, has a long tradition.
Every year, the British Council organises the interschool drama competition which began 27 years ago. “Schools are first selected on the basis of one act original scripts, after which they are given an opportunity to do workshops with theatre professionals based in both India as well as the UK,” says Samarjit Guha, head of programme, British Council, East India.

Famous names like Victor Banerjee, Ramanjit Kaur, Kunal Padhi, Katy Lai Roy, Gautam and Sohini Haldar are instrumental in honing the children’s talents. These workshops cover acting, direction, technicals and costumes because students are expected to do everything by themselves during the actual staging of their plays.

As for Dadawala and his friend, “The idea for ‘Exit’ came about one week before the ISC exam.” Although the duo did not have anything concrete in mind at the time, they knew that they wanted to produce a play that depicted their own lives as closely as possible. From the very outset, it was decided that the play would be about 18 year olds waiting for making the transition from school to college. Both Dadawala and Rahman agreed that instead of making the characters larger than life and highly exaggerated, they wanted to stick to real people.

The process was far from easy. Once the script was sorted, Aditi Roy, a friend, was roped in to handle the design as well as the publicity for the play. “Since we were targeting the youth and we didn’t have humongous funds to start with, we used Facebook as a publicity tool,” says Roy.

Apart from that, the team put up posters in every nook and corner of the city. They also devised a system where guests could call them up and book tickets beforehand. “That really worked in our favour,” recalls Dadawala.

The purpose of the play was not merely to put forward an idea that two school-leaving students had. “Our performance text was the most important thing, but we are aware of the fact that there are many talented youngsters in the city who have no place to showcase their talent,” they say. So they decided that even though the play would not deviate from the script, it would include art, photography and even a video. Theatre stalwart Sumit Roy of ‘Red Curtain’ has hailed Rahman and Dadawala’s endeavour as “the next generation of theatre.”

“The youth theatre scene is definitely looking up. Tin Can, the group where most of the performers are British Council drama products and supported majorly by the Council, has just performed in the National Youth Festival at Edinburgh. Then, there is Theatrician, another talented youth theatre group,” says Guha.

If Theatrician and Tin Can have been around for some time now, youth initiatives like the Magic Wallrush are taking the theatre circuit and indeed, what maybe called the “arts” circuit one step further.

If anything, they can be called the younger brigade of art enthusiasts.

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