When Jehan Manekshaw and Tasneem Fatehi established The Drama School, Mumbai nine months ago, they didn’t know that they will deliver a fruit so sweet for the theatre scene in the city.
The task was so unbelievable that even today when the students present their first plays, it is difficult for Jehan to absorb it all. “Gosh, I actually have been in the theatre for the last two days watching the plays come to life, sets, props and costumes, and I don’t think it has quite sunk in that we have two shows that are about to go up,” Jehan says.
The students of the school, under the guidance of two international theatre directors — Daniel Goldman and Benjamin Samuels, created two new plays supported by the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh. Tartuffe is about a sadhu, who is an imposter and a hypocrite. He ingratiates himself into the household of the wealthy Orgon and his mother Madame Pernelle, using his charm, wit and pious behaviour to quickly become an integral part of the household. He is so venerated by them, that he is eventually promised the hand of Orgon’s daughter in marriage.
“Throughout history, there have always been conmen who hide behind the veneer of religion to gain power, exhort money and enjoy sex. Moliere’s brilliantly funny satire has a religious hypocrite firmly in its sights but it’s a play that is about much more than one man. The hypocrite in us all is his true subject,” says David.
“The Curious Climb of Cutter Chee tells the story of the entirely avoidable ascension of a small time gangster in a big city, to becoming a commanding dictatorial force who controls the city and begins to spread his empire to the world beyond,” says Ben. Its a story of ascension of a buffoon-like clown of a man to a terrifying don of dons. A rise to the top through tactics of bullying, coercion, manipulation all of which could easily be stopped, but never are due to the self-interest and self-preservation instincts of those in power.
“We’ve told a new story, of a Mumbai gangster, through the highly stylised settings inspired by Bollywood gangster films of the 1970’s. It’s an entertaining journey around the story of the rise to power of those in our own times,” explains Ben.
Inspired by the story of Arturo Ui, Brecht’s original play was set as a parable that closely mapped the rise of Hitler in a post-war depression ridden economy and was an argument to show how preventable, the rise of fascism and a man like Hitler could of been.
Daniel says the students have been super to work with. “The rehearsal space was great and the support I’ve had from Theatre Professionals has been wonderful, I’m having a great time with my group and we’re hopefully making a cracking show.” Ben adds, “They are committed, dedicated, and hard-working. They are a pleasure to work with, brimming with ideas and creativity. They are also clearly comfortable with the process of creating new theatre from scratch-devising is in their bones.”
The theatre scene in India is diferent from the UK. “What little we know is from working with Jehan over the last five years from time to time here in India. It’s definitely vibrant, and has a lot going on,” says Daniel adding, however, that making work here seems to have its own particular challenges though he agrees that creating work in the UK is not a cakewalk. “Jehan worked very hard at this, and I’m here to support him in that effort in whatever way I can,” he says.
When & Where
Jan 3 and 5 at Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh from 8 pm onwards
The Curious Climb of Cutter Chee Jan 4 and 5 at Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh from 8 pm onwards.