Sayan Chaudhuri: I Want To Write Plays That Are Politically And Socially Relevant

Sayan Chaudhuri: I Want To Write Plays That Are Politically And Socially Relevant

Writer-director Sayan Chaudhuri talks about his experimental play Jaat Utpaat

Narendra KusnurUpdated: Sunday, March 31, 2024, 12:45 AM IST
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Sayan |

As a teenager in Kolkata, Sayan Chaudhuri had grown up on a diet of arts and culture. He first tried his hand at painting, before the world of theatre fascinated him. He wanted to be an actor, but after a successful skit, turned to writing.

After his graduation in Bengaluru, Chaudhuri moved to Mumbai. “On paper, it was to do my masters at Mithibai College, but the larger idea was to explore the theatre potential the city has to offer,” he says. He thus formed CourtJester Collective, whose first production Jaat UtPaat will be premiered at the Veda Black Box at Versova, Andheri, on March 31.

Jaat Utpaat is an experimental play set in an Indian village, where an inter-caste love triangle gets entangled in what is shown as the “last letter written by God”. Though he hasn’t mentioned it specifically, the dialects hint that it is from the interiors of Uttar Pradesh. It is based on three characters – a lower-caste girl played by Ruhi Alve, a lower-caste boy enacted by Chaudhuri himself, and an upper-caste girl portrayed by Mayuri Ravindra. “As tensions rise and beliefs clash, the three characters find themselves at the centre of a community divided by tradition and desire,” says Chaudhuri.

Mayuri Ravindra

Mayuri Ravindra |

A strong believer of innovative and unconventional storytelling, Chaudhuri has incorporated elements of metatheatre in this production. He explains, “Metatheatre uses ways to break the barrier between the actor and the audience. One of the devices involves direct address to the audience. Hence, this play consists of three mono-acts, with the individual actors building up the narrative. I also leave it to the audience to draw its own conclusions.”

Jaat UtPaat is Chaudhuri’s second play as a writer-director His first one Kirdaar was a folk musical which followed similar principles. Co-directed by Japjit Singh Malhotra, it was produced by Bengaluru-based Orpheus Productions, a student-led theatre group. Chaudhuri says, “Kirdaar was set in the Bengal of the late 1950s or early 1960s. It is the story of an effeminate male, and the issues he faces, mainly from the backlash of his father, a zamindar. It received a great response, was staged in many cities, and even received accolades at IIT Mumbai’s Mood Indigo.”

Chaudhury’s approach to theatre stems from his early exposure, and he cites Bengali theatre and film legend Utpal Dutt as one of his biggest influences. He says, “I want to write plays that are politically and socially relevant. I started studying folk theatre and the Bengali form of Jatra. Habib Tanvir’s Agra Bazar and Charandas Chor played a huge role in shaping my thinking, and so did the work of Girish Karnad.”

Ruhi Alve

Ruhi Alve |

His other influences were the Bengali revolutionary Titumir, Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello and the treatise Poetics by Greek philosopher Aristotle, which “proposed the three-act structure”. Says Chaudhuri, “I want to use all these traditional methods, specially the folk culture of Indian theatre, and yet convey stories that are aimed at the contemporary audience. I formed CourtJester Collective as I wanted to write on themes I believed in.”

For the premiere of Jaat UtPaat, Chaudhury wanted to use a Black Box venue, eliminating the traditional barrier between performers and spectators. “That’s why I chose Veda Black Box. The idea is to use the space in a way that 100 people can fit in, and make the experience more intimate and immersive, using the features of metatheatre.”

The performers Ruhi Alve and Mayuri Ravindra were chosen after some 80 to 90 auditions. Alve has been involved in Marathi experimental theatre, and is excited about the concept of Jaat UtPaat because it promises a new experience. Ravindra has been an actor and Kathak dancer, having performed in Pune, Mumbai and Kolhapur. “When I heard the idea of the play from Sayan, I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of it,” she says.

Chaudhuri is of the belief that theatre is propaganda. He elaborates, “It puts the theatre-maker’s view forward and lets the audience decide whether they want to accept It or not. Even if they reject the outcome, they are moved to think about it.” That should provide plenty to talk about.

(Jaat UtPaat will be staged at Veda Black Box, Versova, Andheri on March 31 at 6 pm and 8.30 pm)

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