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Mahindra theatre fest returns to Delhi with four plays

The Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards or META is back in a physical format this year after two years
Last Updated : 06 July 2022, 02:20 IST
Last Updated : 06 July 2022, 02:20 IST

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Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards or META, one of the most prestigious theatre showcases in the country, returns to its physical format after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus.

Though truncated, the 17th META festival will be held at New Delhi's Kamani auditorium from July 7–10, featuring four plays, all of which had won awards at the 2020 META. The festival went online in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 emergency.

Though there are only four plays on offer, META 2022 is going to be a delight for New Delhi's theatre goers. The other annual theatre festival the capital hosts in January-February—the National School of Drama's Bharat Rang Mahotsav—missed its date with the city in 2021 and this year.

"META 2022 is not the full-fledged META," said Jay Shah, vice president and head cultural outreach, Mahindra & Mahindra, to DH. "It is only a presentation of four theatre productions that have already won awards at META 2020. The full-fledged META is a process that takes an entire year, from a call for entries, selection of 10 plays, presentation of the plays in front of a jury in Delhi, and, finally, the awards ceremony. This also requires the theatre production to have performed during the calendar year. None of this was possible due to the pandemic."

Each of the four participating plays for META 2022 will be staged at the Kamani Auditorium at 7 pm daily— Hindi-English play For The Record on July 7, Malayalam entry Bhaskara Pattelarum Thommiyude Jeevithavum on July 8, Assamese play The Old Man on July 9 and the Bengali production Ghoom Nei on July 10.

The excitement among the participating theatre artistes and directors is palpable.

"Performing live is like breathing pure oxygen on stage; performing live gives us life. It is a great feeling to come back again," said Sahidul Haque, the director of The Old Man.

Suveeran, the veteran director of the Malayalam play, adds, "Post the pandemic, a lot has changed for the artistes, but the medium of drama is only possible in live performances. META has helped us mark drama as one of India's most important art forms."

The pandemic has marked a paradigm change in the world of theatre. The most important has been the impact of the OTT platform that came to occupy the prime position in the lives of house-bound humans during the lockdown, a reality which is now here to stay.

"Theatre is not just content to be consumed, but rather an experience which can only happen on a live-action stage. Though it would be very early to analyse [the impact of OTT on theatre], the existence of the Indian theatre industry will depend upon the audience," said Shah.

"The biggest challenge for theatre is the lack of platforms and appropriate opportunities. META is among just a handful of platforms where artistes can showcase their talent."

Out of over 400 plays that apply for selection each year for META, only 10 are nominated to be staged over a week in Delhi for awards given out in categories covering the entire spectrum of theatre — from playwriting, set, costume and light design to direction and performance.

(The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist, editor and arts consultant. She blogs at www.archanakhareghose.com)

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Published 05 July 2022, 17:28 IST

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