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The hidden cost of the financial boom

Thursday, 13 May 2010 - 10:59am IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: dna

The play Dancing on Glass takes a contrarian view of Bangalore’s BPO boom, said to have ushered an era of prosperity.

Megha works nights at a call centre. Shankar is a software engineer. And in the techno-junkie,chilled-out, laidback, fast-expanding party zone, life is really crazy for the cyber-coolie.”

This is how writer-producer Ram Ganesh Kamatham describes his play Dancing on Glass, which will be shown in the city this weekend. According to Kamatham, there is always a flip side to progress, and Bangalore, IT city and outsourcing hub, has seen both bleak and brilliant moments. Dancing on Glass attempts to capture the mood during the days of the BPO boom and respond to it.

Says Kamatham, “Though the play was written a few years ago during the thick of the BPO buzz, it remains relevant. People will always enjoy the human side of the story. Though everyone talks of the progress during those times, I felt compelled to offer an alternate view point.”

Dancing on Glass revolves around two protagonists, Megha and Shankar (played by Abhishek Majumdar and Meghana Mundkur) who have come to work in Bangalore. Shankar is a small-town boy and Megha’s boyfriend Pradeep is his flat mate. Tragedy strikes when Pradeep meets with an accident one night when his bike crashes into a lorry and dies.

The play revolves around the after-effects of this tragedy.
Megha and Shankar react very differently to the news of Pradeep’s demise. Megha goes into denial while Shankar is unable to deal with it emotionally. But as the play progresses, they learn how to negotiate the void together.

“There is always a sense of alienation in their lives,” says Kamatham. “Though they work with people, they have to interface with them through technology and a virtual world. The lack of real contact or real relationships is a huge challenge for them.”

Kamatham says Dancing on Glass is a play spurred by his love for Bangalore. “This city is our home but it has changed so much,” he says. “I wanted to show the other side of the changes without being nostalgic or disparaging. It was an attempt at looking at the multiple dynamics of the people in the city.”

The play has seen many changes over the years as Kamatham has constantly reworked the text and revisited the production. “The BPO industry is seen as a representative of growth but it is the quality of the growth that we have to look at,” he adds. “What are the social, ecological, historical, emotional and cultural costs of economic growth?”

As for the title Dancing on Glass, Kamatham says that the imagery was meant to capture the frailty of the human condition. “Glass is a motif that runs through the play,” he says.

Kamatham and his team founded the Actors' Ensemble India Forum (AEIF), which is a theatre laboratory that produces contemporary work for the urban stage. AEIF is now taking a trilogy of plays on Bangalore on a three city tour of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.

According to Kamatham, theatre will always be popular in the country. “It is not an old fuddy duddy art form as people seem to think,” he says. “The live element in any play makes it wonderful. Each show is different and each audience is different. Even if you were to watch a play several times, each show would be different, whereas a movie experience will always be the same.”
The play will be shown at Ranga Shankara from May 14-16.

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