Setting the stage for Hindi

Amrita Prasad
Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Shalaka Ranadive, festival director of Dastak, a Hindi Theatre Festival being held in Singapore, talks about the concept, the popularity of Hindi plays and the much-talked about #MeToo campaign

With a mission to take Hindi theatre on the global stage, Shalaka Ranadive, who has more than two decades of experience in theatre, TV and films, will be kicking off the third edition of Dastak — Singapore’s first and only Hindi Theatre Festival. To be held between November 15-18 at Blackbox, Goodman Arts Centre, 90 Goodman Road, Singapore, the festival is supported by National Arts Council Singapore, along with Krescendo Communications as a strategic alliance partner. 

The festival has been ideated by WeCanDoIt Productions founded by Ranadive that works towards encouraging local creative talents (actors, directors, playwrights, students and adults, music composers, set designers, sound and light designers) who are passionate about performing arts.  

Dastak aims to offer local audiences a variety and make the Singapore theatre landscape as diverse as its social fabric. Dastak, which means a knock on the social door, celebrates its success by discovering new local artists in performing arts, who can attract global attention to Singapore’s growing theatre industry. 

“Although the festival’s aim is to showcase talent through Hindi theatre, it is not just limited to Hindi-speaking audiences. We want to make it more inclusive and break the barriers of language, so apart from involving non-Indian artists whenever a Hindi play is staged at the festival, we ensure that the plays have subtitles,” says festival director Ranadive adding that she wants to bring the festival to India. Dastak has been a part of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai, in the past.  

The festival will witness over 70 members of cast and crew, almost all of them local talents — from established names to fresh entrants, and will also feature illustrious local, non-Hindi speaking theatre directors. 

There will be a total of six shows, two matinee shows on November 17-18 and four evening shows on all four days. All the plays will be staged back to back on all days. The audience after the show will get to vote for the best play. On the last day, post the audience poll, the best actor, director and best play for 2018 will be announced. Since the festival showcases 10 unique stories in the form of short plays that have been directed by 10 different directors, the phonetic interpretation of the festival is a count from 1 to 10 (das tak).  

Talking about the participants and selecting various theatre groups for the festival, Ranadive says that every year, they select a theatre group from India to perform. This year, Ank Theatre Group will be staging Ek Din Bank Mein — One Day at the Bank. Ank has been regularly performing in Mumbai and has completed 42 years of theatre activity in Hindi with 83 quality  plays and  more than 7,000  successful  shows all over the  country as  well as overseas, making it one of the largest performing teams in Hindi in the  country. Ank was created by stalwart theatre actor Dinesh Thakur, who himself had notched up nearly five decades of experience in theatre. 

“The play is an adaptation of an Anton Chekhov’s short story; Dinesh Thakur himself had adapted it. It is a comical and satirical take on sexual embarrassment and the #MeToo campaign. In the present time, the #MeToo campaign happening in India is creating ripples and I think it was apt for this play to come to Singapore at this time and draw everyone’s attention to the whole issue through theatre. It talks about how exploitation of women can happen in different ways. I think it is a fantastic idea! People want to know what is happening in India, so a play coming from India with that kind of message, makes it more impactful. Ek Din Bank Mein takes the campaign to a newer paradigm that is beyond sexual harassment. It is a take on any kind of exploitation that has a repercussion on the system. ‘Someone, somewhere will have to pay’ is the underlying message/ theme of the entire play,” she explains. 

When asked about her thoughts on the #MeToo campaign happening in India, Ranadive says that this movement was bound to happen  and she is happy that it is finally happening. “The movement  has really caught on and is very timely. My only concern is that I hope it stays with the motive of actually bringing out this whole issue of sexual harassment and I also hope it is not blown out of proportion. We should not lose the motive along the way and if we go strong with this motive, the momentum is only going to grow and more #MeToo stories will come out. We have the power of social media to express our opinion, but we shouldn’t get carried away,” she concludes.

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