Hate is not the answer

Ambika Shaligram
Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Theatre artists Shrirang Godbole and Vibhawari Deshpande share with us details about a poster and short films competition. The theme is ‘Towards Peace’

Almost five years later, the Authors Project, which was initiated by Shrirang Godbole, Vibhawari Deshpande, Maharashtra Cultural Centre, Pune, and their German counterpart, Lutz Hubner, comes to fruition this June-July. The Indian and German teams began brainstorming on the subject of ‘radicalisation of youth’ and the resultant work is two theatrical productions — Y, which was staged in Pune, Delhi and Dusseldorf in 2017-18, and Paradies (by Junges Schauspielhaus, Dusseldorf, Germany). As a part of the project, the MCC has invited entries for a poster and short film competition, with the theme ‘Towards Peace’. The competition has been organised by MCC in association with Max Mueller Bhavan, Pune and Bengaluru. 

The prize winning entries in both the segments will be screened at a festival, along with the staging of Y and Paradies. This will be followed by a conference on the subject of ‘radicalisation’. 

We chat up Shrirang and Vibhawari about radicalisation and what kind of response they are expecting for the competition.

Focus on us
“There is a strong sense of polarised and radical thinking, but not enough people are acknowledging it. Globally, there is a shift to right or extreme right of centre. This (the competition) comes as a nudge to people to give it a thought, ponder if this is happening,” says Vibhawari. 
In polarising situations, we are quick to blame others. The problem always lies with the ‘other’, and we are quick to absolve ourselves of any wrongdoing. “The fact, however, is that the seeds of radicalisation are sown in everyone’s mind, one way or the other. A silent support to violence is also a kind of radicalisation,” adds playwright Shrirang. 

In their play, Y, the duo have shown a Hindu youth being radicalised. “If we had chosen to show a Muslim boy as a fanatic, then the people of other faith would have quickly remarked ‘The problem is not ours’,” he points out.

Vibhawari adds, “We shouldn’t think the problem is in Kashmir or elsewhere in the world. It’s time for us to introspect what is happening in our lives, in our minds. If the filmmakers or creative people are able to reflect on what is happening around them, in their milieu, in familiar spaces, then I think we have won.”

What to look for
When asked what sort of response they were expecting for the competition, Vibhawari says, “On a broader outline, our panel of judges would look for originality, and how the filmmakers use the medium visually.”

Shrirang, who has directed a new play Idiots, adds, “I am expecting a lot of response from the youth. I would want the participants to examine their process, what happens in their head, the mindset, the external factors and how they will represent the subject. How they look at power and world would also be interesting for us to know. Also, the layout of posters, the story hidden in the imagery will matter.”

German-Indian collaboration 
Both Y and Paradies have a similar structure and core. So when both the plays were staged in Dusseldorf, they fetched a positive response. Describing their experience in Germany as ‘gripping’, Shrirang says, “Their play has a German Muslim protagonist. We had a lot of youngsters, comprising Germans and Turks, Muslims and non-Muslims, and Indians, watching the plays. After the show we had a discussion. We don’t get that kind of mixed audience in Pune.”

Vibhawari, who has written plays for children and young adults, says, “My first reaction was, ‘Oh sh*t! What have they done! It’s so interesting’. They have an arena like structure on the stage, there is a mirrorball, and people mill around on all four sides, standing, sitting and chilling. It’s one step ahead of intimate theatre performances that we have here in Pune. I think people here should watch this play for out-of-the-box treatment of the subject.”

“With Y,” she says, adding, “we hope to reach out to more people. So far, we haven’t got an anti response to the play. We hope to visit more colleges with the play because that’s the time when they are exposed to influences.”

The plays will be staged first in Bengaluru and then in Pune. A Kannada play is also a part of the project, but it hasn’t happened so far. 

ST Reader Service
To participate in Towards Peace posters and short films competition, write to mcckala@gmail.com  Last date for receiving entries is June 20.

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