Friday, August 11, 2006

IT-BHU Theatre - The 'Net Gain' Story

(Here's the Chronicle Newsletter article in its unabridged form. Another related article, 'Back Flash - A Theatre Recount' is a few posts below this one. )

Once upon a time, there was a…uhmm…err…wait, this is not how this story should start. This story has no ‘once upon a time’, because this is a story in making.

The story, like all good stories, starts in a picturesque location (Banaras Hindu University, that is), moves on to some more picturesque locations inside the University (G-11, BBC, Swatantrata Bhavan, VT Vishraamshaala, Rampur Lawns, and DG Corner too), involves some of the craziest yet sensitive artistic talent to stage one act after another of riveting drama, and one fine day, the day that comes after 4 years of roller-coaster ride, seems to be close to its ending. New characters, waiting on the sidelines, raise their hands in anticipation of taking the centrestage, and old-characters, having toiled for 4-years, raise their hands in anticipation of catching some last fire flies of this glittering arena.

But then, the beauty of the story is – it never ends. It always seems like ‘about to’, but it never does. And in this age of One-click Pizza and 2-click Air-tickets (second click is for the return journey!), it never will.

So much for the introduction, welcome to the real thing! The online version of IT-BHU Theatre Community ( is one place where the arc lights never lose their shine, nor do they require any funds to remain alive and kicking. The group, founded by a bunch of IT-BHU Theatre Enthusiasts in Circa 2004, had a few objectives to fulfill and a few more to float. The initial idea was simple: To have an online discussion board where alumni and current students can share their views on any kind of theatre being done any where in the world, and in the longer run, to transfer those discussions into substantial (tangible or intangible) inputs for theatre at ITBHU.

Over the span of last 2 years, the group has had Theatre stories from Varanasi to Delhi to Mumbai to LA to Chile, and then some more. Theatre and book reviews, performance uploads, IT-BHU Theatre news, fund raising for Theatre events at IT-BHU (Abhivyakti – The Theatre Festival has been a trendsetter of sorts with 3 big budget and highly appreciated plays staged in last 2 years) , and ‘personal milestones’ announcement of the members are some of the activities the group has been a part of.

But then, like every layered human-drama, the biggest advantages of the group are the ones which are toughest to describe. For most of the alumni on the group, it’s a feeling of being ‘born-again’, or an ‘after-life’, the sense that all is not over. The interaction is still there, the connection is not lost, and in fact, it’s being strengthened because of the great medium internet is. So, the batch of 2007 still knows something about the kind of theatre the batch of 2002 did, and vice versa. In a way, the G-11 stage has suddenly got boundary less, a virtual, worldwide extension has been granted and the only ticket inside is your will and love for theatre.

The community has (only) 29 members (alas!) and the small number could be owed to the fact that internet in hostels is a recent development and hence, this academic year should see the numbers soar, pardon the pun, dramatically. But yes, 29 Active members do count for a lot and the role played by the group in re-bridging the emotional gap can not be undermined.

So, all of you, who have ever been a part of IT-BHU Theatre (or even want to be now), here’s a one-time, one-click chance. Just fire a mail to and be a ‘new character’ in this story, which never ends.

(For IT-BHU Theatre Community)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Two monks and a bear

Jokes, of all things narrative, have a strange way of turning on their heads and taking gloomy proportions as the scenario and times change. The one I am talking about here is my old favorite that goes like: Once two monks were being chased by a bear; and one monk, running short of breath, says to his mate – “Hey, no use running, we can’t outrun the bear!” and the other replies, “I know dear, I am just trying to outrun you.”

In this changed world scenario, many experts have started believing that terrorism is turning out to be the bear in that joke, something that can’t be outrun and can be only avoided at somebody else’s (purely incidental) peril. The argument runs much deeper and with lots of facts and figures which show the spread of some type of ‘evil’ (will come back to this word) forces in almost all parts of the ‘civilized world’ (another phrase that needs a revisit, globally).

If you are not reading the newspaper or seeing the TV news, here’s a simple check to see the spread of terror around the world. Just go to and enter ‘terror’ in the search options. The very first page has news items from Afghanistan (“38 Talibanis Killed as 4 Al-Qaida suspects nabbed”), Israel (“56 Civilians killed in Lebanon bombing”), Mumbai (“No clues yet for 7/11 Bombings”), and Kashmir (“14-year olds recruited in terror outfits”). Okay, did you see an Asian Bias here? Then look again, it’s NATO and America (same thing, cynics will say) in Afghanistan, a pending UN intervention and passive American encouragement in Israel, a possible global terror network (somebody like Al-Qaeda or LeT) in Mumbai and Kashmir; and did we mention Iraq yet?

The questions to be asked here are – Is the world really becoming unsafe or is it just a (as human historians say) ‘Passing phase’? Which brings us to the definition of a much-used phrase now-a-days, ‘evil forces’. In retrospect, World War II was a pretty straightforward affair, with a clear distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Everybody knew who started the war, who is taking it forward, who is killing more innocent people and who is trying to stop it. But today, the order is much more complex, ‘Islamic Terrorism’ (a phrase rued by all the moderates world-around, with good reason) is evil for its victims, but US-Israel-India are equally evil for ‘Islamic Re-assertion’, believe they. The follies are not un-balanced (for every 9/11, there is an Iraq, and for every Gujarat, there is a 7/11), the provocation is not one-sided; and call it the basic principal of equality of life, the harm done to both the sides is not disparate either.

And it is this ‘I didn’t start the fire’ attitude that makes one believe that terrorism is here to stay. Add to that, the flattening of the world (Thomas Friedman’s insightful theory), and the domino-effect is ensuring that no incident is ‘stand-alone’ in this independent media world, meaning not only the pile adds up after every ‘attack’ (from either side) but also provides the much-needed provocative material for the ‘victim-side’ for a counter-attack.

And if it all sounds too gloomy, doomsday-scenario like, then trust me, we all are a part of this. Last year’s Best film at Academy Awards, ‘Crash’ points towards the changing human behavior amidst an atmosphere of insecurity and terror, and a chill ran through my bones on seeing how we all are turning into agents of hate. The opening lines of the film, “We are always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss (human) touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something” are more than I need to explain here.

But then, worry not, because we still have one shelter. And it’s the age-old subject of Philosophy. Philosophy, by its virtue of being interpretive as well as freely-available, is the first recourse after any tragedy, and in this all-inclusive, all-explosive season, it has once again come to the rescue. Legendary Indian playwright Vijay Tendulkar, in a recent interview ( summed up the debate by saying – “We will have to learn to live with (terror). We have to take a fresh look at life and death, as all other nations will have to. No one can be sure they will see tomorrow.” A similar sentiment was echoed by former Police Chief of Punjab, KPS Gill, when he said – “Naxalites are not on-the-fringes entities anymore and you have to come to terms with that.” And I am sure (though not hoping for), in the days to come, the constant calls for better intelligence and state-alertness will be replaced by this esoteric call for new meanings of life and death.

And here’s another old joke that might round-up our story:

Once a man crash-landed on an island and was surrounded by the blood-thirsty natives armed with poison-arrows. He said to himself – ‘I am screwed’ and a voice from the skies said – ‘No my son. Don’t say that, just pick the big-stone lying in front of you and can you see the big-bellied King of natives right in front?’ Man said ‘Hmm..yes.’, and the voice of sky rose passionately, ‘then just hit that stone hard on his head, and he will be dead!’ The man did so, and the voice said resignedly – ‘Now…my son, you are screwed.’

And no need to say, the joke is on us.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

To the revolution...

(Here's a poem I wrote, on India's 57th Republic Day, on 26th January 2006, trying to capture and criticize the new world order of terror and war; a scenario our generation was hitherto unaware of.)

Hey…did you kill me…

in the name of the revolution?

Did you tell me,

The name of the revolution..?

I was a boy, growing up easy,

It was a world, simple and rosy…

"Rosy?", you said, "rosy my foot,"

"Nothing's rosy anymore, life's a brute"

Yeah, life's a brute, 'cos I was dead,

in the name of the revolution.

But….did you tell me,

The name of the revolution..?

And did you tell them,

I am a martyr…?

Did you tell them,

What's a martyr?

Did you tell them,

How I am one?

Did you tell them,

Their own son….

…picked up the gun, and killed two,

In the name of the revolution..?

And did they ask,

The name of the revolution?

To heaven, I would go…

I heard it once,

Yeah, I could hear,

Amid the firing guns,

That heaven is for those,

Who have the gun,

(And a 'resolution')

Then why did I feel,

Five bullets inside my head,

'To hell with the revolution?'

And please,
What's the name of the revolution?

Friday, March 17, 2006

A word cloud for my blog. (Get it at

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Back Flash - A Theatre Recount

(I spent four unforgettable eventful years at IT-BHU, and here's a brief recount of what the Theatre community and trends of the times did to me...)

January 11 2001. Chem Audi. IT-Open Skit Competition. Chattaak’, sounded Pranay Arya’s heavyset palm on the round, big face of Nishant Verma, and the whole of Chem Audi erupted in applause and laughter. Pranay boomed, ‘Kameeni…aaj phir se gaajar ka halwa nahin banaaya??’ and Nishant Verma, playing his wife, hiding in that dramatically funny pallu, said – ‘Maaf kar dijiye…’

I know, I should’ve started from the start, but this slap, of all obscene things we have done on stage, stays in my memory for two reasons. One, it was a 2nd year guy slapping a 3rd year guy, playing his wife and the slap was so tight that Nishant could barely control his tears to perform the funny scene brewing on stage. The second reason, which is actually the reason why I am writing this article, is that the slap embodied what IT theatre stands for. It stands for originality, equality and spontaneity. Big words, all, and they will self-explain themselves once the story gets going. Hopefully. So, here is my journey in the magical world of IT-BHU theatre, and to give it a clichéd Hindi film tagline, let’s just say - a journey that changed my life.

August 1999 Limbdi Hostel - Curtain Opens

The usual rush of seniors had come into the hostel and all the fachhas were being fetched out of the rooms for another one of those darned ‘announcements’. But hey, this one was new! I had heard a lot about underground rock groups and all, and here they were talking about an Underground Pondy Skit Competition. No profs, no gals, just a ‘boy’s thing’. So, here you go. IT-BHU, the seat of education on the banks of Ganges, was hosting a ‘Chee-Chee Skit Competition’ to welcome the fachhas into the Theatre club! Our branch didn’t participate, because we were ‘good boys’, and the Mech guys, staying next door won it. They were happy, and we…well, we were morally one up.

P. S. – The Pondy thing got abolished next year onwards…thanks to us ‘Good Boys’! Now, we had a Fresher’s Skit Competition, where girls, profs and morals all participated.

September 1999 Limbdi Hostel – Act 1

Not participating in the first one, we had no option but to face the wrath of the organizer, Theatre Club Secy. Abhijeet Mukherjee. His assistant was a guy called Lalu (nicknamed, I am sure, probably because he mimicked Lalu well) and he also challenged us to participate in the upcoming IT Open Expressions competition. This time, fired by the scolding, our branch took the plunge and struck gold. The event was held at BBC, under the lights, with no proper stage, and a boundary made of chappals. (One of my branch-mates lost his chappals in the event aftermath, and never returned to theatre. Thankfully.) Audience count was somewhere between 100 and 200, depending on who was performing. I knew, this was not the best way to hold such events, but the better part was – the quality of performances.

P.S. – I performed two more times at the BBC, once for Annual Mono-act and again for next year’s expressions. That was the last time, when a Theatre event (other than Nukkad Naatak) was held there.

February 2000 Chem Department 1st Floor – Under the blue skies

The big names of IT Theatre, Abhishek Chandra and Vivek Roy were performing in Sparsh (The Annual Cult-fest, now Kashiyatra) Mono-acting Competition and I, more out of ambition rather than talent, registered myself for the same. A slightly chilly February morning, another stalwart Animesh Hazra as the host and my only foolish admirer, Sanchit Agarwal (batch-mate) by my side, I entered another kind of open-air venue. Again, no stage, no audience-seating arrangements and this time, no audience even! But seeing Chandra and Roy perform, it seemed they didn’t care. Their show was breathtaking, mind boggling and had they performed before me, I would never have performed. Another reality of IT-Theatre of the times hit me. Amazing talent, but where’s the junta?

P.S. – We never performed again on that cold, uneven floor of Chem. Deptt. and that was surely a sign of good times ahead.

January 2001 Various Hostels – The Rising

Suddenly, the winds had changed the direction, and as we entered the second sem of our second year, a huge crop of theatre enthusiasts (actually, rival groups) turned ripe. The rival groups, *cough* *cough* were led by Vivek Roy (3rd Tronics) and his chemical boys on one side and Pradeep Singh (4th Meta) and an assorted cast on the other. The poaching for girl actors had already begun in the first semester and verbal volleys (in the most civilized manners) had been exchanged. I, primarily being a writer (and a non-aligned dumber), chose to work with all the groups available. The stage was set for the annual IT-Open Skit Competition, and a phenomenal number of teams (12, for the record) turned up for the participation. I anchored the evening (and it was some evening, with Chem. Audi bubbling with junta) and in the end, Vivek Roy and Sidhharth Dubey’s ‘Aaj ki Taaza Khabar’ uprooted Pradeep, Pranay, Animesh and Nishant’s slap-stick ‘Sazaa-e-Maut’ stood second. (The slap in Sazaa-e-Maut was not planned as lethal as it turned out to be, and that got one of the biggest applause we had ever seen) It was a memorable day for me as (Modesty steps aside!) I was involved in the scripts of the top 4 skits in the event. The Theatre secy. for the year, Abhishek Chandra, an excellent actor himself, was too busy in organization to perform. But the big plus was, his efforts were showing results, and with the above mentioned rivalry coming to the front, theatre in IT was in for some upswing tide.

P.S. – My non-alignment ended with this event, and I became a full-time member of Pradeep gang, which was poised to become ‘GAP’ (Grover-Arya-Pathak) the following year. Hardly innovative, I know.

October 2001 M. Sengupta Auditorium (erstwhile G-11) – The Realization

The great rivalry continued into the next year, my third at IT-BHU. Annual IT-Open Skit was around the corner, and once again, poaching was on big time. Our team had lots of fresh blood in Sushant (1st Cera), Kesarwani (2nd Meta) and Ajay Saxena (2nd CSc). Roy and group had a gem in Amitanshu (3rd Trical), who could write and compose music, and act like pros too. And then, they had the writing-acting talents of Siddhu and Roy himself. Some other good teams, like the 1st year Chem group and 1st Meta guys were also in the reckoning. Our experimental take on Human Bombs, ‘Antaragni’ was well received by a house-full junta but Roy’s ‘Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Humara’, with its patriotic flavor was invincible. We stood second, but the biggest positive for us was – we were no more the underdogs.

P.S. – That day, the applause was loudest, and sweetest. I still don’t know why.

March 2002 G-11 – Play it on

The decision was taken soon after that skit – we were going to make a grand play on a scale IT had never seen before. Lots of team meetings followed and seniors like Nishant Verma, enthusiasts like Keerty (2nd CSc), Jyoti (2nd Civil), Raman (2nd Civil) and musicians like Amitanshu were roped in. We wrote it together - the story of a school kid, who is about to die of cancer and wants to do one final project that would change the lives of many around him and on the streets. It was called ‘Kunal’, and the guy who played ‘Kunal’ deserves a special mention. Mayank Mittal (4th Chem) was the most deceptive actors you would ever see, ‘cos he could surprise you with his range, spontaneity and intelligence. A few wet eyes in the audience, at the end of it, were our reward and acknowledgement.

P.S. – It was after making ‘Kunal’, the idea struck me. “Why not do it for the rest of your life?”

April 2002 FOPA Auditorium – A step ahead

That’s what they say in Sport, stay a step ahead of your opposition. And though, it can’t be proved entirely, Vivek Roy’s grand production ‘Ghat ki Tulsi’ (story of 4 prostitutes inside a brothel) had that element of stubborn counter-attack, which is hard to find without an intended ‘target’ group like ours. The ambition, performances (esp. 3rd Tronics girl Anita Reddy’s), and the following praise were sky-high and IT Theatre had taken a big leap forward.

P.S. – Since it was performed outside IT-BHU, at FOPA audi, the publicity for the event was highly targeted and innovative. It used paintings, portraits, poems and even installments to drive home the point.

Session 2002-2003 Various Places – The Sleepy Grand Finale

Coming into the 4th year, everybody suddenly became more responsible which, in the hindsight, was a bad thing to do. Animesh Pathak took over as Gymkhana Gen. Secy and cleaned up the poli-mess it was in. Pranay Arya steadied the Kashiyatra boat just before its sinking and made sure that event was held in all its dignity. And myself, *sigh* got involved with the University Youth Fest team, in the process, getting a huge opportunity to work with wonderful new talents like Sushant, Subhash, Ruchika, Mahak, and Surbhi. And yes, our production group G.A.P. was abolished. Roy left the campus and his protégé, Sidhhu, with some great help from Harpreet, Anita Reddy and a host of newcomers like Ritu Bajpai and Sumit Saxena produced another stunner in ‘Hello Zindagi’, this time performing at Nagari Natak Mandli in the town. So, in our own ways – the batons had been passed.


Looking back is never easy, because the rear-view mirror is foggy with emotional prejudices at times, and I hope, I have not crossed the line anywhere. Faces, names, places, events, even missing chappals, all were part of the IT-Theatre I knew. The theatre, which started at BBC, under flood-lights, and finished at National Youth Fests and Nagari Natak Mandlis. It transformed us, and for our own good, we transformed it. And amidst all these rivalries, paybacks and (occasional) politics, only static was the originality of thought and execution. I hear some good things about the current lot, Abhivyakti, and now Kshitiz are huge leaps forward, and I can’t help but finish with these lines by Sahir Ludhianvi: Kal aur aayenge, naghmon ki khilti kaliyaan chun-ne waale…Mujhse behtar kahne waale, tumse behtar sun-ne waale…!