Play - How powerful is this medium in today's age?, an age that is increasingly embodied by impatience and instant gratification. Play as a creative medium, requires an extraordinary amount of patience, commitment and practice. Doesn't this look like a contradiction? Indeed, yes at the outset, but then aren't we all victims of an atmosphere that feeds stereotypes and worships them? If we reach out to cultivate varied interests, we find that there are passionate youth with a creative energy that somehow doesn't catch the limelight devoted to page 3 parties, gloss and fashion! Some food for thought here...
Project S.T.R.I.P - a play written by Bangalore boy Ram Ganesh Kamatham and directed by Quasar Thakore Padamsee - was staged at Rangashankara on the 13th and I was very excited about the concept - Environmental exploitation - from the moment I had the printout of the ticket in my hand. I was lucky to find enthusiastic company in Pratibha and Omkar. The three of us thoroughly liked what we saw even if it sounds a lot cliched.
Caricature and Satire- how skillfully they can be leveraged as a means to emphasize the gravity of environmental issues? The play is an essay in demonstrating it. It is the story of a cash rich greedy corporate fixing its eyes on an island for mining and how it impacts the indigenous tribe living in the island. The number of issues that the play touches upon in a span of nearly two hours is simply astounding!
Are you against Progress? This is the question posed to the activist Aarti (Dilnaz Irani) in the play. In one stroke, it sums up the apathy and indifference inherent in such a simplistic interpretation of an issue that is laced with several nuances and is quite obviously being stripped to a generalization here. We should honestly try to introspect to examine if we have also been victims of such crass ignorance.
Revealing the exact story would be committing an injustice so let me try to stick to the aspects that appealed to me. A conglomeration of issues that has been beautifully woven with apt doses of humor - now this is hard to achieve given the nature of the subject being explored. But this play does that exceedingly well with aplomb.
The mythology, knowledge and customs of tribes, the plain indifference and vulgar greed of corporates, the power of money when used to destroy entire ecosystems, the disastrous consequences of unbridled exploitation unleashed on fragile and delicately balanced ecosystems (landslides), the silent and ignorant majority to whom progress and development hardly have multiple dimensions, the dubious source of fancy cosmetics and eatables - in the midst of all these, violent players with confusing intentions - like pawns in an unpredictable game whose rules are blurred - and activists with genuine interests of the victims on their mind's radar! That is Project S.T.R.I.P for you, a thread linking all of these!
Immense credit is due to Ram for coming up with such a taut script and the cast and director for executing it to perfection! Aarti - the audience relates to the sincerity, helplessness, passion and conviction they see in her. Oh, the power of youth! When every character is an attempt at caricature, the degree becomes important - beyond a certain point, it would appear lacking in earnestness, but here, the line is so deftly managed.
With umpteen number of jokes thrown in interspersed with piercing dialogues, you have a winner... I can't help relate certain characters to those in the news - Arundhati Roy, the Maoists, the mining giants, the inhuman state with hints at Salwa Judum - to name a few. Hats off to the main cast - Dilnaz Irani (the passionate activist), Tariq Vasudeva (the indifferent CEO), Shruti Shridharan (the secretary busy taking meeting minutes), Harssh Singh (the executor of plans, Roy) for an intellectually stimulating play. Only one regret - the cast members could have introduced themselves on stage :)
As Arundhati Roy says in her essay in outlook, perhaps we should start thinking more about the question - "Can we please leave the bauxite in the mountain?"
Meanwhile, as Arundhati Nag remarked in the end, we should feel proud that the future of Indian theater lies in the hands of able young men!